One of the great things about having this blog is sharing ideas and tips for, and the miseries and joys of crafting novels. A few weeks back, Marsha Moyer mentioned a book that’s helping her work through her birthing pangs, Ralph Keyes’ THE COURAGE TO WRITE. (We feature Keyes’ book in Craft Corner under the title THE WRITER’S BOOK OF HOPE–recommended by our own Jack Slyde).
So because I don’t have enough self-help books on writing on my shelf, I went out and bought it. And I second Jack’s and Marsha’s recommendations.
The purpose of Keyes’ book is to help writers overcome their fears by relating stories of other writers–great writers too, biggies like Faulkner and E.B. White–how they crap their pants every time they sit before the starched blank of an unwritten story, and how they get beyond the fear to write anyway. Since writers are endlessly inventive, they also have figured out innumerable ways to keep themselves from writing (koff, blogging, koff). Some of their excuses are pretty good, too. But to overcome the inertia, they all have one thing in common: guts.
“As we’ve seen,” Keyes writes, “there’s no shortage of good reasons not to write. But many are simply disguises for timidity. There’s much to be said for not doing what we most want to do. If we fail at something we don’t care about, so what? Little was at stake.”
But folks who write know what’s at stake. Not looking back on a long life and muttering, “If only.”
Keyes doesn’t give a panacea for countering the fear. All he does is relate how others overcome it. And since there’s a scenario for every imaginable excuse, failure, etc., one is bound to relate to your situation. It’s comforting to know that E.B. White was so scared about what his editor would think of CHARLOTTE’S WEB that he ran to the mailbox, ripped it out, and sat on it for weeks.
At the end of the book, there is only one prescription for overcoming the fear: writing.
As we gird our loins and flex our fingers in anticipation of hurling into the NaNo breach, let’s remember to take our courage with us. It might be the only thing getting us to the computer by November 30th.