The Question of Courage

courageA couple of weeks ago I talked about my father and the role he played, in a rather perverse way, in encouraging my unlikely career as a writer. I asked my readers, “What gives you the courage, the drive, the against-all-odds determination to seek out a working writer’s fraught existence? And what keeps you struggling with it, day after sometimes discouraging day?”

Here are some more responses to my question:

Janet Fox said this:

I have such a similar story, in a way. My mother was a frustrated writer. She wrote children’s stories at a time I was off doing everything else but writing. She died suddenly, and I found a batch of her unpublished work among her papers, and that’s what started me on my path today.

So now I write for my mother—not because she discouraged me, but because she never saw her work in print. Every success I have, I think, “You’d love this, Mom. You’d be happy.”

I don’t want to die without having made every effort to write the best possible stories. For my readers, of course, but also for my mom.

So once again the motivator lies in a relationship with a parent. It would be interesting to know whether, if I were talking to people who write for adults, the motivation underlying their careers would, so reliably, go back to the primal parent/child relationship.

Carol Brendler took the conversation in a different and interesting direction. This is what she said:

I have never thought about the courage it takes to become a writer. I know all about persistence, but have never considered how brave it is of me to try this work. Wow. Where did it come from, this courage? From a deep-seated need to prove to an indifferent world that I do indeed have something worthwhile to contribute to it (beside producing one very smart and handsome child)? Is it a play for attention? Or is it simply that I have no marketable skills or aptitude for anything other than playing with words and telling tales? None of these seem courageous. Let me think about this some more, because I’d really like to think that I might be courageous.

After reading Carol’s comment, I had to stop to ask myself why I used the word courage? I decided that the word came out of precisely the kinds of questions she poses: Can I stand in the face of an indifferent world? If I do, will anyone ever notice? Can I accept the fact that playing with words and story is my sole talent and take ownership of that talent, no regrets allowed? No one gets past those kinds of questions without courage.

Sandra Warren, whom I quoted last week, also took on the question of “courage.” This is what she said:

Our writing isn’t what takes courage. It’s the believing that it’s good enough for someone else to read; good enough to want to get it published; good enough for a publisher to want it; a belief strong enough to sustain us through the process–the rejection that surely comes–to stick to it, persist and not quit; that’s the part that takes COURAGE.

Where my courage comes from I’m not sure. All I know is that deep down I have this strong belief that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

And that’s exactly what I’m talking about, the courage that keeps us at a task—often for years—because we believe in what we’re doing and choose to go on believing even when the world has yet to support us in our conviction.

I especially like that Sandra ends with “All I know is that deep down I have this strong belief that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

What better place to end this discussion?

6 thoughts on “The Question of Courage

  1. Karen

    Marion, thank you for this series. It’s turned out to be a terrific public service announcement for writers. I return to it repeatedly throughout the day–much more valuable than drowning my frustration in candy and chips.

    1. Marion Dane Bauer

      And so much less fattening!

      One of the hardest things about being a writer is that most of us work is such complete isolation. I’m glad if my words here help. We’re all dealing with the same frustrations and joys.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. It encourages me, too.

  2. Sandra Warren

    Funny, it wasn’t suppose to be this hard.

    Having the courage to believe in your work isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are many days when I just shut down for awhile, take a break, sometimes even question if I should be writing at all and then that old feeling I spoke of, deep down, rises up and puts me back on the road to publication.

    Having supportive family and friends and colleagues helps a ton. But even without that, you have to believe that this is what you need to do or you’ll give up too soon. With that belief, that courage, you will be able to share your creativity with the world.

    1. Marion Dane Bauer

      I agree with your every word, Sandra. Belief in yourself and your work is hard to come by before you start getting some affirmation from the publishing world out there, and even after that happens, there are time of doubt . . . many of them.

      That’s why it helps so much for writers to keep talking to one another. Thank you for being part of this conversation.


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