If you haven't, please do check out the post I did over at the Literary Lab today. It was entitled, "Write like a Sword-Wielding Martial Artist," The topic was writing bravely, and we had an amazingly open conversation about our fears in the comments thread, too.
I got a couple of private responses, as well, and one of those addressed something I'd actually like to go ahead and answer tonight. Think of this as a companion post to this morning's. The comment I got from my friend had a lot of window dressing on it, but boiled down to this (apologies to my friend for the coarse paraphrase):
"It's all well and good to be brave, but I can't bear to have the publishing industry break my heart again. I care too much, and it just cuts too deeply."
Later on, when we were practicing the defensive application of some foundation movements, he had us work in pairs. As half of us took blows to the face he said, "You know to avoid getting punched in the face? Don't put your face where his fist is heading."
What I said to my friend was significantly less pithy, but perhaps got to the same point: There's a difference between being brave and being reckless. If you're an athlete with a lot of concussions, and it's at that point where they're getting worse and more frequent, it's not brave to submit yourself to situations that make another one likely. It's just reckless.
Likewise, if you're a writer whose spirit is crushed by rejection, it's not necessarily brave to submit yourself to that. It might just be reckless. Especially if you are writing mainly for the sheer pleasure of doing so, and do not have a strong drive to be published.
I went on to suggest that people treat ailments of the body very differently than ailments of the spirit. We think the quarterback and the fighter who get concussions every outing are stupid if they don't retire. But so often we think a person who opts to not pursue public acclaim for their creativity is weak. In the way way, many of us are smart enough to protect our bodies when we're physically injured, but feel ashamed if we try to take care of our spirits in the same way.
That's not brave; it's reckless.
Bravery should always be exercised within boundaries of what you want to accomplish and what is a price that you are willing to pay.
I absolutely believe that bravery in writing is essential for the development of your writing. Here's a quick hit-list, though, of what that does not mean:
- That any given fear of mine has any particular relevance to any one else.
- That anything that seems ill-advised is something which must be conquered.
- That every writer needs to fully develop their writing.
- That each of us is equipped right now to face confront every fear or obstacle.
- That bravery in publishing has anything to do with bravery in writing.
Yes, I want every writer I know to be brave in their writing, because I want them all to be the best writers they can possibly be. But I know that this is a lifelong process that takes steps. We all have things we need to protect, and it's just as bad to brutally expose our vulnerabilities to wound after wound as it is to bottle up our writing. And heaven forbid I ever equate bravery in writing with any part of the submission, querying, or publication process. They are completely different.
So, dear writers, you need to look at yourself. Know your goals. Know the prices you're willing to pay. Know what your fears are. And then look at your writing and be brave, but not don't treat your own spirit with careless disregard.
Soundtrack for writing this post provided by S. H. E. (Taiwan) and Chen Guo.