Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Whoever told you that courage wasn’t necessary to write was either lying, or…well—no, they were simply lying. In an author’s life, just as in the life of any sentient being, he will come against a multitude of personal demons, none of which are merciful and all of which try his soul just as much as anything tangible would, provided he is any artist at all.
Every word we write, every world we craft, every essay we conjure the courage to post, everything that we allow to cross over from that tenuous, indescribable place and into the real world, leaves us vulnerable. It’s no secret that many authors have struggled against anxiety, depression, a plethora of unmentionables, and at times even madness itself. But why?
Because we see what others don’t. I’ve often read where one agent or another mentions in a flippant manner that authors shouldn’t take things quite so personally, and it makes me pause and wonder what exactly it is they think we do, when we come up with some of the things that make them sit back in wordless wonder? It isn’t personal in the same way that a teenage girl takes offense to not being able to sit at the popular table at lunch, or being picked last for dodge ball or glossed over for a promotion.
It’s personal in that we’re letting loose a little bit of our madness.
Anne Sexton, Edgar Allan Poe, Hemingway, Tolstoy, Vonnegut, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf…need I go on?
But writers today aren’t as gifted as those individuals, someone out there is thinking. I suppose you believe that all artists are fully appreciated in their lifetime then? Or are you assuming that only those listed were blessed enough for such rich recognition? No, in every generation, we’re told with equal fervor that we will never compare to the former. I suspect this has something to do with why writers, should they be any good, are such a brave and boistruous lot. We have to look inside of ourselves every time we begin a piece and ask of our soul, what are you willing to give up for this? Before the first sentence is even formed in our heads, we’ve entered into an unspoken agreement with the fibers of our being that we won’t let this one be the one that tears us apart. I’ll only share a faint glimpse of it, we promise.
We struggle, not against the common woes of what the world has labeled ‘writers’ block’ or fear of rejection, but with the perpetual attachment these creations by necessity, fight us to maintain. We are still connected, long after the ink has dried. It takes courage because we aren’t merely setting something free, we’re sending pieces of our very selves into the ether with no assurance that what becomes of them, won’t demand of us more than we’ve been willing to give. Those fragile threads, those ephemeral, maddening veins carry a writer’s blood and cannot be, by the writer—by us, seen as anything less than vital to our survival. So the simple phrase, don’t take it personally, isn’t just wrong—it’s said by someone who couldn’t conceive of such bonds. But, judging by their professional closeness to this art, we know that they want to more than they will ever admit.
It takes no small measure of courage to do what we must do, because inside somewhere, down below all the fears and misgivings, we know how the world will respond. We know there will be bad reviews, poor sales, sparsely populated signings, dry spells and rejections. We know, but there is life before our eyes that we cannot bear to keep from those who would call us mad. It is a driving passion to show you the unfathomable. After all, if you don’t like our story, perhaps it wasn’t meant for you. It was meant for someone, or if we’re very lucky a number of someones, who we may never know, who may find our work hidden, dusty and aged, among gadgets and things our minds can barely imagine now, but will seem commonplace to our reader—however distantly in the future they exist.