Struggling to actually sit down and write, even though it’s the dream of your heart? Think you’re alone in your resistance? Then The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear might just be the book for you. I picked it up at Nationals and have been enjoying it ever since.
Filled with quotations and biographical tidbits of literary geniuses, Part I makes the case that fear of writing is ubiquitous among authors. To some degree, it argues, it is even essential for greatness.
For apparently fear gives us an edge when it comes to the blank page. It allows us to write with more original detail, makes our voice ring out with authenticity, and can’t help but transfix the reader with a subtext of urgency.
Having made the case in Part I that I am personally on the cusp of literary acclaim, Part II follows with an explanation of how to keep the anxiety manageable and produce. (After all, it is all very well to possess neuroses, but give them too much power, and one will never actually apply butt to chair.)
And unlike the Julia Cameron books, where there is an implicit promise that one will rise to their potential if the proscribed path is followed, there is no singular strategy offered here. Rather, Keyes provides a laundry list of coping mechanisms, ranging from rituals, to totems, to the use of support groups and conferences. In short, if like me, you read this book hoping to find the one magic solution to your fears, you’ll be gravely disappointed.
In the end, though, that very vagueness may be an enormous gift. For if one can find their own particular formula to quiet the subconscious, this book enthusiastically gives permission to use it.
As for me, if you’ll excuse me, I need to wind this book review down. Standing on my head while typing has given me an excruciating headache. Besides, the kids in the park are starting to stare.