This week has been one of the more intense ones in my life. Mainly because it involved the welfare of my children and the Mama Bear instinct is a fearsome thing. I won’t go into the specifics, but in the kids' best interest, I decided to do something radical. Buck tradition, defy an institution, do something that a lot of people will think is crazy. But my love for them made me brave. Brave enough to say, “Nope, not gonna do things your way any more. You had your chance and you blew it.”
The subtext here is that I probably wouldn’t have been brave enough to do something similar for myself. That got me to thinking about courage with writing.
How many of us are constrained by systems, beliefs, fears, institutions, etc. when we sit down to our manuscript? Most of the time, I don’t even think adherence to “the way things are done” is a conscious choice. It’s just what we fall into. But aren’t the really amazing writers the ones who look past the social norms, boundaries, and structures that constrain? Consider Shakespeare and his audacious habit of inventing new words when he couldn’t find one that worked, or the Bronte sisters who shocked the readers with their gothic heros and “unfeminine” heroines, or George MacDonald and his bizarre, phantasmagorical stories that inspired C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.
How did these brave souls see their invisible literary prisons so clearly? And how did they consistently break out of them? For me, it’s all too easy to fall back into the norm even if I do briefly wrestle free because of old habit patterns. And sometimes I just get scared. What will my critique group, friends and family think if I write this crazy thing? What if it’s too weird, too outside the box? What if people don’t understand it?
|Be brave, writer!|
I think I (and many writers I know) could use a big dose of Mama Bear love. The kind of love that says, “Interesting thought, you deserve to be written because you are real and true. It’s okay if you shock people. There’s too much boring out there already.” This kind of love and respect for writing can infuse us with the strength to put ourselves out there, even with all our fears of rejection, ridicule or obscurity.
These fears are valid, but the courageous push through and the world is better for it. We owe it to ourselves and our readers to let the love of our craft embolden us whenever we write.