The Courage to Write…or Not

~ By Marilyn Brant

This article originally appeared here

Not to state the obvious or anything, but writing takes courage.

Sure, there are all the usual reasons:

*Because we get scores of rejections on the way to publication — from agents, from editors, from just about anyone who so much as glances at the manuscript.

*Because there’s always the potential for negative reactions once we’ve got a book for sale — from readers, from reviewers, from that lady who shows up at your library program just to inform you that “sex in books is sinful.” (Yeah, that did really happen.)

*Because we routinely put ourselves and our emotions out there, which is necessary to write authentic characters, but it also can make us feel vulnerable.

*Because we rarely, if ever, know what our income will be when we begin a project. In traditional publishing, we have to wonder, “Will I sell enough copies to earn royalties beyond my advance (if there even is an advance)?” And in indie publishing, we have to wonder, “Will I sell enough copies to offset what I’ve invested in this?

*Because we need to be our own boss every day and get our work done — not only skillfully but also on time.

Courage is required for all of the above. Just about everyone who’s ever set pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard) already knows this stuff, though.

But writing takes additional courage because, at one stage or another, and sometimes with stunning frequency in the same day, we find ourselves asking questions like these: “What am I contributing to the world with these stories? Are they something of value to others?”

woman 's face Some days, the answer may be a swift and gratifying YES!!! Those are the days when we remember that beautiful email from a reader who told us that our books made her laugh in the hospital waiting room…or the day we got that surprise Facebook message from someone who said our stories brought tears to her eyes. (It’s easy to feel a YES on those days.)

Other days…well, those are the ones that require the courage, aren’t they? The ones where we’re thinking, “Eh. I don’t know if anyone really cares. Maybe just a handful of people…but is that enough? Is it worth it?”

There’s a reason why everyone does not, in fact, write and publish a book, despite announcing to their friends and family that they want to. I think those “Eh” days are a big part of that. I don’t blame anyone for backing away, though, if they can. Constantly having to confront the perceived value of our work is exhausting. In fact, just asking the question “Is it worth it?” — especially once we know the sheer toil involved in crafting and publishing a novel — requires guts because what do we do on those days when the answer feels like a resounding NO? How do we push through that feeling until we can again remember all the reasons we believe it isworth it? Or how do we harness the nerve to step away and go in a different direction if, after all, it’s really not as worth it to us anymore?

I suspect that’s why so many authors from the past have gone on record saying, “Hey, if you can walk away from writing…if you can do anything else…you should do it.” Because it takes courage (and wisdom and a deep self-knowledge) to leave. And it takes courage (and persistence and a series of leaps of faith) to stay.

Marilyn Brant is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy & mystery. She was named the Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She loves all things Jane Austen, has a passion for Sherlock Holmes, is a travel addict and a music junkie, and lives on chocolate and gelato. Her new “Mirabelle Harbor” series just launched this summer, and THE ONE THAT I WANT (on sale for 25% off on Kindle right now!) is her most recent contemporary romance/romantic women’s fiction release. Visit her for news & more.

6 thoughts on “The Courage to Write…or Not”

  1. It means a lot to me as I’ve had several people tell me I should write a book. More like an autobiography than Fiction. However, I don’t believe people could possibly believe my life story so I’d have to make it into a book of fiction. That said I still don’t think I have the energy. I’m just grateful you write so I can at least read to escape. Thanks again for being such a great author!!!

    1. Kim,
      I’m only seeing your reply now (2 years later!), but just in case you come across my response, I wanted to say thank you 😉 . Your sweet comment really brightened my day. And I hope that if you feel the pull to write a book someday — whether it’s fiction or memoir — that you will. Hugs & best wishes!!

  2. Yes! Thank you! After a few ‘eh’ days, it’s refreshing to hear someone else spell it out. It’s very tough to stay focused and upbeat, especially if you’re sitting by yourself and pondering too much. Thanks for a great article!

    1. My pleasure, Jill! I’ve been having an “eh” week myself 🙂 .
      There’s nothing like chatting with other writers, who share our understanding of these internal struggles… Keeps all of us from feeling alone!

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