How Brave a Writer Are You?

How Brave a Writer Are You?

Bravery has been a recent theme in my household. The Lion King’s June influence in our family has had the meaning of bravery driven home countless times by wise Mufasa (and in several mediums as well). Insightful contemplation on my part also pulled bravery up to be examined – I’m glad to report I pass the test with flying colors. And a few nights ago, my wee one and I had an evening porch discussion about why watching a horror movie didn’t really demonstrate bravery.

Then Ali Hale (whom I like very much; did you know?) comes along with this post on bravery, and how being a writer is a perfectly good measure of it. Mountains, valleys, demons and swords abound. It was the perfect wrap for my bravely-themed week. Enjoy!

Has anyone recently told you how brave you are?

Probably not. The writing life doesn’t come off as requiring courage. In a normal day’s work, the worst danger you’re likely to face is a paper cut.

But if you’re a writer – if you’re taking ideas out of your head and turning them into words – then you’re sure as hell brave. Don’t forget that. Never let anyone convince you that what you do is easy or not a real job or even safe.

Here’s why:

Climbing Mountains

Every piece you write – whether a blog post, a short story, an ebook, or a technical manual – is a mountain.

Every single time you start your piece, you’re at ground level, gazing up at the words yet to be written. You might feel daunted. You probably feel excited. There’s a journey ahead, a challenge, and you’re up for it.

And you start climbing. You write a hundred words, five hundred, a thousand. You pause to catch your breath. The mountain ahead looks as big as ever. You glance back at how far you’ve come. You’re barely off the ground.

But you carry on.

You write more and more and more. It takes longer than expected. It’s harder than you thought it would be. You think about quitting.

But you carry on.

Eventually you come to the end of your first draft. You’re exhausted but elated, because there were times when you never thought you’d make it.

You pat yourself on the back and pour yourself a glass of wine. And then you look up. Up, and up, and up. There’s still a hell of a lot of mountain to climb.

But you carry on.

You have what it takes. Many people don’t. They might talk about writing or hang around writers or read about writing or think about writing. They might even start on stories or blogs or books.

But they never finish anything.

You do. You climb mountains. And you get to see the view from the top.

Traversing Valleys

The writing journey isn’t all mountains. There are valleys too.

When you feel like all the words have been wrung out of you, you’re in a valley. When you try to write but everything turns to ashes, you’re in a valley. Valleys are full of shadows. There’s nothing heroic-looking about stumbling through a valley.

At least people can see you climbing up on the mountain. They might not understand why you’re there. They might tell you to quit, or tell you that you’re on the wrong mountain, or tell you that your climbing technique looks weird. But they can see you’re doing something.

From outside, the valley doesn’t look too deep. Most people can’t see the shadows. They can’t see the demons that you struggle with. They can’t see how much bravery it takes to face down your self-doubt.

They don’t understand why saying, “I am a writer,” is so difficult and so scary and so liberating all at once.

Down in the valley, you feel more alone than you did on the mountain. You think you shouldn’t be in the valley at all. You think you’re a failure. You’re below ground level now.

You’re afraid you’ll never climb another mountain again. You’re afraid those mountains you climbed before were flukes.

But you carry on.

The valley is so dark that you can’t see the end of it. You feel like the rest of your life will be spent here. You’re not writing. You’re stumbling over obstacles: childcare duties, commitments to family and friends, health problems, work.

But you carry on.

One day, you write something. A single blog post. A snippet of dialogue for a short story. A character sketch for your novel. An outline for your next book. You hate it. You throw it away or hide it.

But you carry on.

The demons close in. They tell you all the old lies. You’re being selfish. Who cares what you write? You’ll never be any good. You’ll never finish anything.

You fight your way past. It’s hard, and bloody, and no one sees how much it takes out of you.

But you carry on.

The clouds start to lift. You see daylight ahead. And you see the next mountain.

Travelling Alone

Of course, you have companions. Maybe you attend a writing group every week. Maybe you take part in online forums or swap your work with friends by email.

This is your base camp. You share stories with these people. You realize that everyone’s mountain is steeper and harder than they imagined it would be. You hear about other journeys through the long and lonely valley.

You’re inspired and encouraged and invigorated by your fellow writers. They reassure you. They give you the weapons you need to fight those demons in the valley. Writing matters. Writing can change the world. I’m happiest when I write.

Your friends are brave and strong and they care about you.

But they can’t climb mountains for you. They can’t walk through the valley for you.

When you’re writing, you’re in a room on your own, climbing and climbing and climbing. You carry the inspiration and encouragement that your friends gave you back in base camp. You’ll stop along the way to watch their progress on their mountains – and to share your progress with them.

But, ultimately, it’s your bravery which counts.

Bravery is carrying on when you’re tempted to quit. Bravery is climbing a mountain when the world says you’re crazy. Bravery is taking the thoughts that you’re scared to show to anyone and putting them into words.

No matter how hard it is, no matter how scared you are, no matter how much mountain you have to climb or how deep your valley goes, you can always take one more step forwards.

Climbing a mountain? Stuck in a valley? The rest of the world might not be able to see what you’re going through, but we can – and we’re here to help. Drop us a comment below.

Read more about Ali Hale’s dragon-slaying prowess and valley-crossing bravery at her site, Aliventures. You’ll soon be swinging blades along with her.

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Agent X is the name many mysterious and intriguing people take on when they guest post at our site. Their mission is to slip in like a thief in the night, leave you with entertaining, valuable and useful content, and slip away again - without getting caught.