Sunday, July 19, 2009

Courage Is Doing What You're Afraid To Do

"We conquer, not in any brilliant fashion, we conquer by continuing." --- George Matheson

Last week, my first draft was ready to be finished. A scene or two—the Big Confrontation—and I'd be done. Easy! Whew! Couldn't wait to finish. Really. *cough*

On Monday, I sat at my computer, fingers at the ready and froze. Couldn't force myself to type a single word. My eyes scanned the outline, read through the previous days' writing and…nothing. After answering emails, visiting blogs, responding to comments, and a lengthy game of online spades, I gave up. That night, I confided to my husband my panic. He listened and advised me not to put too much stock in one day's procrastination, just pick it up again tomorrow.

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow." ~Mary Anne Radmacher

Tuesday morning, as I sipped my tea, my heart jumped once again at the thought of putting fingers to keyboard and wrapping up my first draft. ARGH! Then it struck me with the force of a wooden spoon knocking sense into my inner child. I was scared of screwing up.

"I have accepted fear as a part of life - specifically the fear of change.... I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back." ~Erica Jong

Yes, this was only my first draft but my panicky mind wasn't up for rationality. Once again, I let myself forget that these words aren't carved into stone. This isn't a sculpture made out of precious marble—one slip and my chisel knocks off the freaking nose! These are simply words. Flexible, interchangeable, and definitely erase-able words. Whew. I reminded myself, once again, that This Is Just My First Draft. Anything can be changed. The only imperative here is to keep moving forward, one word, one page, one draft at a time.

"The first draft is a skeleton--just bare bones. It's like the very first rehearsal of a play, where the director moves the actors around mechanically to get a feel of the action. Characters talk without expression. In the second draft, I know where my characters are going, just as the director knows where his actors will move on the stage. But it's still rough and a little painful to read. By the third draft, the whole thing is taking shape. I have enough glimmers from the second draft to know exactly what I want to say. There may be two or three more drafts after the third to polish it up. But the third is the one where it all comes together for me." -- by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

When I compose these essays, I love sprinkling quotes throughout. The reason is simple. Whenever we feel fear, or feel blocked, or feel lost, or feel like giving up, just knowing that countless others have crossed the river of doubt threatening to sweep us away is a blessed relief. We Are Not Alone. The fear of making mistakes has existed since cavemen actually did chip into stone.

As soon as the door opened, revealing the source of my fear, I buckled down and put my fingers to work. I told myself repeatedly that it could all be changed later if need be while hunkering down and typing with feverish urgency. Suddenly, the need to meet my goal—to finish the first draft that week—burned brightly enough to diminish the shadow of fear. The result? I finished the first draft. When I counted what had been completed that day, to my astonishment, I had eighteen freshly typed pages. My jaw nearly hit the floor. Eighteen freaking pages in one day. Wow.

Facing my fear down not only made it possible to meet my goal, the push resulted in such momentum I'd surpassed my own expectations. Just like a hero in any adventure story, my heart beat faster as I clutched that newly won victory to my soul and realized just what I was capable of accomplishing.

"Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway." ~John Wayne

"Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared." ~Edward Vernon Rickenbacker

There will be times when the fear takes hold and tempts you to run away. The surety of giving up will seem much safer than the unpredictability of striving to meet your goal. Perhaps others will judge your choices and fill you with doubt, feeding your insecurity with shadowy predictions based on questionable perspectives. Many a writer's courage has been diminished by the fear that their story, their style, or their genre is unmarketable or passé. Many a writer has quelled in fear that the dream held in a quivering heart is impossible to reach. The truth? There are huge success stories and grandiose flops. Not everyone will hit the bestseller list but those that do have these traits in common: perseverance, patience, enthusiasm and unbeatable courage. You must face that fear head on and move forward.

"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties." --- Bonnie Friedman

Every dream can be achieved. Whether it's inventing the light bulb (Edison), creating a unique 'themed' amusement park (Disney), creating the first sitcom featuring an interracial couple filmed in front of a live studio audience (Lucille Ball) or hitting that NY Times bestseller list, just like two of my personal heroes, Sherryl Woods and Allison Brennan.

"Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears."—Les Brown

Take a moment right now and think about it. This is your decision and your life. What do YOU want to do? Live your dream or live your fears? If you choose to live your dream, repeat after me: I choose to be a success! I choose to succeed! I choose to live my dream!

Next step, take action:

"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy." --Dale Carnegie

Remember always that what you believe in—your success or your failure—influences what you will create. People who succeed do so because they believe that they are already a success. As you sit down with fingers at the keyboard or curled around your favorite pen, repeat after me:

I am a success. A successful writer keeps writing until she reaches success. I am a successful writer and I will keep writing and reach my goal of success!

"Whatever a person's mind dwells on intensely and with firm resolve, that is exactly what he becomes." ~ Shankaracharya ~

Now you tell me… Have you had moments when blind panic seized you? How did you face your own fear? Did you ever think of giving up and if so, what drove you to keep writing?

Ready for a successful new week? Let's get writing!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between the Lines.


EA said...

Lovely and uplifting post, Chiron. You always know how to put things in perspective.

Glynis said...

Well done for climbing that mountain!
I wrote about my fear of writing my novel, on my author blog. A follower emailed me with such lovely encouraging words, much as you have posted here.
I will pop back after my holiday :)

Laurie Larsen said...

Very inspiring! Sometimes my heart beats in panic-mode when all I'm doing is sitting at the computer, waiting for the words to come. Only other writers can associate with that.

Chiron said...

Aw, Evie, thanks so much. Perspective is really necessary in this business!

Thanks always for stopping by...


Chiron said...

Hello Glynis!

Ah, yes, another mountain peak reached. *rubs hands together* Thanks, it feels great yet again!

I love your blog. Very motivating! You'll find a link here under Author Resources.

Thanks so much for the kind words! I appreciate you stopping by...

Chiron O'Keefe

Chiron said...

Hello Laurie!

It's true, isn't it? Only writers can understand. Seems so easy--simply putting words on a page. *laughs*

Although I play a mean rhythm guitar, playing lead is beyond me. Yet once I had aspirations so I asked a fellow musician to lend some wisdom. He patiently showed me a pattern of notes within a particular key. Once I had successfully mastered the notes, I looked up with a "What's next?"

He said, "Well, just play them but mix them up a bit."

Me (jaw drops): Huh???

Needless to say, I still haven't learned to play lead. *laughs*

However, I have learned to put down words and 'mix them up a bit'. *GRIN*

Chiron O'Keefe

Miss Mae said...

18 pages???!!! Man, some days I'm lucky to get eighteen WORDS!!! LOL

Mine isn't fear, mine is sitting here pondering if those are EXACTLY the words I really, really, REALLY want to use! LOL

Or is that the kind of fear you're talking about? *grin*

Great post, Chiron. You amaze me at how you come up with these insightful tidbits!

Celia Yeary said...

Chiron--well, sure I need courage. And as usual, you serve up great advice and encouragement.You know it, too, that it's difficult to keep going when long periods can go by without anyone "there" to encourage you. It's just me, my computer, and my thoughts.That's why I reply on yur weekly motivational posts. When will you do one about "settling on one WIP and finishing it, instead of piddling around with four different ones?" Sigh. Thank you, friend--Celia

Chiron said...

Hello Miss Mae!

18 pages???!!! Man, some days I'm lucky to get eighteen WORDS!!! LOL

*laughs* I hear you. Sometimes the fear of finding the exact right word freezes me up. D'oh! Othertimes it's the fork in the road--I could go this way or that! Which way?!? *gulp*

Being a writer truly requires a unique sort of bravery. It's one thing to jump out of an airplane, the derring-do is over quickly. However, OUR books will be out there for some time and that's scary stuff. We're ripping open our chests and revealing our beating hearts. Yikes!!

You, Miss Mae, are one of the braver ones. *wink*

Thanks for jumping in!


Chiron said...

Hey Celia!

Yes, writing can be such a lonely business. The isolation so many of us need to compose a decent sentence also means we shut ourselves away from the world. *sigh* I'm so glad the essays help keep you motivated!

Focus is a Big One for you, eh? Wishing you the right sort of 'pickiness' to select a WIP and get cracking. *grin* Happy writing, my dear!


jessica said...

i’m an associate of mary anne radmacher’s and saw you’ve enjoyed her quote, “courage doesn't always roar.” i know mary anne is so happy when people find inspiration from her words in the context of their daily lives. for more work from mary anne’s hand visit her website mary anne has written several books and shares her work in many forms including conferences and classes. If you’d like more information feel free to e-mail me at thanks for sharing her words!

Chiron said...

Hello Jessica!

Thanks so much for visiting The Write Soul. I made sure to link Mary Ann's name to her website. Hopefully, people who enjoyed the quote clicked on her name to find the source. I love her quote and was happy to share her uplifting words with my readers.

Again, thanks for visiting!

Chiron O'Keefe

Atul Magoon said...

great work...keep it up

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