The Courage It Takes

Writing is not for the faint of heart.

When I started this whole writing thing, I was a child who thought it was great fun. One assignment from a teacher in the sixth grade opened the world of fiction to me and I played around with all the fantasy, making shallow stories that grazed through fluffy adventures without digging into the scary stuff.

Dragons were scary enough for my 12-year-old mind.

It is only now, sitting some thirty years later, that I have come to understand the perils of a writer’s life. Nevermind the hours of labor that go into every story, that is an expected price every author must pay for quality work. Nevermind the outlines that get trashed, or the characters who drive the story in an unexpected direction, or the false starts. Nevermind the criticism bound to find us, or the false praise we must learn to ignore. These are all part of the job.

The true peril of a writer’s life is exposing truth. We must be honest with ourselves about who we are, about the world we live in, and about humanity in general.

In the movie Shadows in the Sun, a young man is sent after an author who wrote one novel and then produced nothing more for many years. When confronted with why he had not written anything else, his response was something along the lines of; “I had nothing more to say.”

This has stuck with me.

I do understand that some novels are meant for fun. There is nothing inherently wrong with fluffy adventures. If I want to stay in the shallows and play there, I am welcome to do so. And so is everyone else, for that matter.

But I have found that each novel I have written has drifted further and further from those shallows. Maybe this is due to age, or maybe it’s a natural progression that every author encounters as they produce new novels. Either way, I have come to a novel that is drastically different from anything I have written before.

This past month I have retreated from this novel, because the coward in me doesn’t want to go through it. I am confronted with the choice to turn the novel toward the fluff, or to brace myself and continue on its current path.

Do I want the novel to say something?

Am I brave enough?

To my fellow authors who have been where I am sitting today, I salute you. And I hope you will meet me on the other side of this thing, because whether or not I am brave enough, it seems that I am diving in.

For those of you who are currently fighting with their novels, trying to decide if they too are brave enough to make this dive, I cannot make that choice for you. But remember that there is nothing wrong with playing in the shallows if that is what you enjoy most. When you’re ready, the depths will be waiting for you too.

One thought on “The Courage It Takes

  1. Hi AJ, An interesting post. It’s a real difficulty for a creative getting below the skin of entertainment to reveal the truths of our human condition. I hope it goes well for you. anne

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