Celebrate your bravery

[This blog post appeared on the LearnHowToWriteANovel.com website in September 2019].

I just wanted to take a moment and acknowledge your bravery. If you’re a writer, you are putting yourself out there, and it requires courage. So, kudos to you.

Even if you are still hoping to be published and just starting out, you’ve made a courageous decision. You’ve made a decision to put something you’ve created in front of people, and stand ready to accept anything that comes your way.

The reason I wanted to celebrate your bravery for a moment is because of three conversations I’ve had this week. I’m launching my second novel in December, and I’ve had a number of conversations about it. People have been very kind in their words, and encouraging in their promises to buy a pre-order copy.

But I also had three separate people spark up a conversation about the book they will write one day. I asked them all – as I always do – what’s holding you back? And their answer reveals something about those who do put their fingers on keys, or reach for a pen, and begin the writing journey.

“No-one will want to read what I write.” So their stories remain untold.

Why is writing brave? When I’ve spoken to other writers, they’ve talked about their journeys, and the courage they’ve needed to write what they do, how they do. And there are three things I’ve learned about bravery in writing.

  1. Rejection is your co-pilot

When you start out on the writing journey, you might make the same statement: no-one will want to read what I write. Or you wonder: who will? So starting to write requires significant courage to get over that hump.

But rejection also doesn’t go away. I speak to writers with many years’ experience and they talk about facing rejection. Each new novel might be launched to more interested people than a debut author’s would be, but there is still a risk of acceptance, or lack of it. They’re still risking reviews that are negative, or submitting their books to awards, and facing the possible rejection of not being a finalist.

So if you’re courageous at the start, you’re in a good place. You’ll need it later on as well.

  1. You’re working in a field that is so subjective

Some people will love your story, some won’t. Do you know what that’s called?

Normal.

People will endorse (or not) your story based on an opinion that isn’t correct, it’s simply theirs. Now that opinion also carries weight as our online world places great emphasis on people’s opinions, but it requires courage for an author to face them.

Let me share with you a story about my next novel – The Camera Never Lies. I got two reviews one after the other. One loved the writing and my turn of phrase. Another said it felt unfinished, like a draft. So I had to dive into my well of courage to put those into context (and not treat the five-star review as Gospel truth either, just quietly). I had to remind myself that reviews and opinions aren’t pronouncements of my talent (or lack thereof), so treating them as such is helpful.

  1. It feels like a job but can pay like a hobby.

My writing is my calling. Perhaps you view your writing in the same way. When I started this fiction writing journey four years ago, I had to summon the courage to set aside time that the world would tell me I should be pouring into my career, and redirect it to writing stories I felt I needed to tell. And it was hard. We didn’t go hungry, but we also didn’t travel first-class. Anywhere. Sometimes we didn’t travel at all.

Like many ministries or passions, writing can feel like a job but pay like a hobby. (Despite the thousands of people that seem to tell me writers are millionaires like JK Rowling. Perhaps it’s the similarity of my surname to hers …)

It requires courage to keep going. To put purpose over profit and calling over consumerism.

 

So if you’re a writer, and you’re still on the journey, I salute you. You have more than an imagination, or a great handle on language. You have courage to keep writing the stories we all need to hear.

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