Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On Fear and Finding Courage

I’ve managed to talk myself out of a lot of things in the last 31 years.

Take figure skating, for instance. I grew up in Colorado Springs, home of the Olympic Training Center. When I was around age 4 or 5, my mom offered to get me skating lessons. I guess she figured I was in a perfect place for professional training, if I really loved it.

I refused because it sounded scary.

I didn’t attempt playing basketball in high school because I was afraid I wouldn’t be good or that I might get elbowed in the face. (Sorry, Mr. Young, you tried so hard to talk me into it!) I wouldn’t try roller coasters because of the height. Also, I didn't parasail when I vacationed in Cancun. Fly over the ocean held up by nothing but thin fabric and a couple of straps? Um, I’ll just lie on the beach and read. Thank you very much.

All of these wasted experiences because of fear.

There is one other thing I gave up a long time ago because of fear: writing.

When I was 13 years old, my best friend won a magazine contest by completing the end of a short story by our favorite author, Susan*. Not long after that, Susan came to speak at my middle school. She started asking if anyone in the class happened to know my friend because she hoped to deliver the prize to her personally while she was in town.

I came forward. And do you know what happened? My favorite author picked me up at my house that night and took my friend and me to dinner! Dream. Come. True.

Then, my friend and I became pen pals with Susan. We each wrote her letters, and Susan wrote us personal messages back.

A few months later Susan came back to town for a young writer’s conference. (Did I mention that Colorado Springs is also a mecca of Christian publishing?) For the truly ambitious (me!), they offered a way to turn in a short story ahead of time to be critiqued by a visiting author of our choice. Guess whom I chose.

Unfortunately, the critique session with Susan was devastating. She put her marks all over my story. It was bleeding. Bleeding with ink marks and comments that don’t make sense to me, even to this day.

To top it off, my friend submitted a story too. A few weeks later my fellow budding writer got another letter in the mail from Susan. I did not. In fact, the woman never wrote me again.

For the next few years, I only wrote in personal journals. Because the fear crept in. I believed I wasn’t good and never would be. I was too afraid to try again.

Here’s the thing: fear is exhausting. It makes us do crappy things, such as lying, hiding, being impatient, and feeling sorry for ourselves.

I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I know deep down that I am a writer. I’ve tried some very creative ways to get around this fact, mainly so I don’t have to deal with the possible hurt that comes with the writing life. In the end, it just leads back to my God-given path.

So, today, instead of fear, I’m choosing courage. Brené Brown tells us in her TED talk on vulnerability, as well as in her book The Gifts of Imperfection that the root of the word courage is cor, the Latin word for heart. (I'm really big into Latin these days, can you tell?) Originally courage meant “to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart."

That is what I want to do. It’s what I’ve longed to do. Tell my story with all my heart.

Writers are only human. (I suspect Susan simply may not have known the best ways to help young authors write. She was a new author at the time and had her own journey to take.) But that is exactly what makes us good. We are human. We have passion and heart and blood running through our veins. We have moments of defeat and victory, like everyone. And we want to share it with the world.

I know I do. No matter the cost.

*name changed for protection


Julianna Lawson said...

This is just beautiful. Thank you for your honesty, vulnerability and courage.

Becca said...

Thanks so much for reading along this week, Julianna.