I belong to an online writing community (www.authonomy.com) and in my “spare time” I peruse the forums. There’s plenty of discussions – some are silly, some are political, and sometimes there’s even some about writing. The other day someone started a thread called “The three things a writer needs.” There were a lot of opinions – craft, voice, point of view, an original idea, a fresh take on an old idea. It was a fun thread to read. Then someone posted “Courage”. I had an epiphany.
In two weeks, I’ll release my first book (Hopefully not my last, but topic for another post). I’m psyched. I’m excited. I’m positively terrified. You might be wondering – what’s so terrifying? Fear of failure? Fear of success? The reviews? No, it’s more basic than that. In two weeks, most people I know will be reading something I wrote. Sure, it’s been edited. They probably won’t find many (any?) typos. But the characterizations, the plot, the relationships, the interactions are borne from my mind for all my friends and family to question, judge, assign meaning to. Yeah, you need courage to do this. To bring your insides out, and put them on paper forever. It’s the naked in class dream, realized.
Here’s the thing: I didn’t write anything shocking. I have one semi-glazed over sex scene that gives me hives when I think about it. But I think about truly brave authors: Wally Lamb, Augusten Burroughs, even Gillian Flynn, who write with a boiled down raw emotion that is painful to read, and would be unimaginable to write. I think of She’s Come Undone or I Know This Much is True, and you can’t read either of these books without feeling like your heart has been ripped out. There are parts of both Running with Scissors and A Wolf at the Table that I read with one hand over my eyes. They are burned into my memory. There’s an audacity there I just do not have (yet). Even Jennifer Weiner, who is widely regarded as a chick-lit writer, has written scenes that I’ve had to pause to finish another time, possibly another day.