The post I wrote last week on courage and good writing seemed to strike a chord with lots of people. In it, I repeated the question that Carol Harper, one of the Mayborn workshop participants, asked me: does courage equal good writing?
I wrote that courage doesn’t necessarily equal good writing, yet courage is a necessary precursor to all good writing, because it flat out takes courage to sit down and put words on paper, knowing that you will eventually be judged on what you have written.
My bud Renny from Norway, asked the question, how do you find the courage then?
It’s a damn good question. I’m not sure I have the answer. However, I will write what little I do know about continually finding the courage to express oneself.
For starters, I think it is important to remember that the risk of not expressing yourself far greater than the risk of expressing what is within. In other words, if you have a novel or a screenplay or a literary non-fiction work smoldering within, and you don’t let it out, you create bad juju. You’ll get resentful and bitter and angry, and if you don’t turn that resentment and bitterness and anger against others, you’ll turn it against yourself. Either way, its not pretty.
So now that we’ve established that writing (or creating any work of art) is better than not writing, what’s the best way to conquer those fears, screw up your courage, and get to it?
Oh, God, I hate to be the one to tell you this…but the best way is to just do it. I know, I know, it sounds trite and facile and all that. But it is true. The best way to get the courage to write is to write one word, and then another, and then another. Until you have a whole page, and then another page, and then a chapter, and then a book. It’s the snowball theory. Once you get it rolling, it picks up a lot of snow as it goes along.
Courage is cumulative. It is generally made up of many small acts. The feats of bravery that get all the glory are the big bold actions. But just as important to me is the kind of courage that involves listening to the still, small voice and doing its bidding. The kind that involves rising every morning to face down the demons of your past traumas and transmute them on the page.
And the best–and only–way I know how to gain that kind of courage is to find it one small step at a time. You can do it. I know you can.