Long ago, someone gave me a birthday card that said “Fearless.” For many years, I tacked it on my bulletin board above my desk. Even now, it’s one of the few cards I’ve ever saved. I kept it because while a part of me resonated with the idea that I might be fearless, the rest of me just yearned to be—because I knew I wasn’t. I knew I had to learn to overcome fear as a writer or a person.
I look back on my life and realize that my fears, although often suppressed, were always present. Someone once asked me in an interview what I thought made me productive and focused, and I knew the answer was that I was running, always running, from the fears that I wouldn’t measure up.
So in some ways, it’s a humorous irony that I became a writer. Being a writer means putting yourself constantly into the storming heart of the most frightening parts of existence.
Eventually, we must put everything out there be judged—from our punctuation skills to our very sanity. The ego is constantly battered, because of course we never measure up. The best thing we’ve ever written isn’t perfect. It’s full of holes for someone to point out. Even more poignant, if we’re really honest, is the truth that we don’t even need someone to point out the holes. We know them all. We know some scenes are boring. We know our characters are occasionally representatives of ourselves at our most whiny and unlikable. We know our logic and even our philosophy is sometimes without defense.
If we publish, we know we may lose more than money. We may lose face. Even if we’re lucky, we know we’ll get negative reviews—sometimes evisceratingly bad reviews. We know people are likely to ignore us as the utterly ignorable little people we are. And if they do notice, we know some of them will take it upon themselves to call into question our very humanity.
The stories and the characters that are so precious to us—and so symbolic of the precious inside parts of our own experiences—will be logically and sometimes brutally torn apart by others. And more often than not, when we read their words, the part of us that bleeds the worst is the part that knows there’s truth in what is being said.
Sometimes we want to give up. Sometimes we do. Sometimes publishing one more book, even one more post—putting one more piece of ourselves out there to be judged—seems too hard. Sometimes just the writing itself is too hard—the discipline of putting one word after another, the rawness of facing our own inadequacies on every page.
But we keep writing.
The fact that we often cannot help but keep writing does not lessen the truth that in continuing to write, we are engaging in a tremendous act of courage. Do not underestimate this. Ever.