This post was going to be a plot summary, perhaps a tidbit of what it is that I'm writing. Instead, this post is going to be about bravery, and writing. You can thank my friend/landlady for that.
I was happily preparing dinner and having a conversation with my friend/landlady about my plans for the summer, and casually mentioned that I was working on a novel. Her reaction to this was not one that I was expecting. She told me she thought that writers were brave.
I found this idea odd. I normally associate bravery with firefighters running into burning buildings, kids standing up for a bullied peer, facing a terminal diagnosis with determination and the willingness to leave a legacy behind that will maybe stop future people from having that same terminal diagnosis. To me, bravery is action in situations where most people would rather runaway and hide, and I suppose, a state of mind.
I thought about it some more, and decided that yes, there were definitely brave writers out there. War correspondents, investigative journalists, people who actively seek out darkness to illuminate it, to drag it kicking and screaming into the light so that hopefully, something will be done about it. The writers who risk their lives and careers to find truth, and bring change.
I continued thinking about it, stretching the definition of bravery to small every day acts. Saying hello to a stranger. Asking a man taking pictures of underage girls on the bus whether or not he had permission to do so. Accepting the consequences of your own actions.
When I framed it that way, I began to understand. Writing, for anyone, is an act of love. I'm sure there are a lot more eloquent people out there who have talked about what writing is, using birth metaphors and everything else...but I firmly believe that anyone serious about what they are writing, is writing it out of love. Love of the story, love of the characters, love of the truth, love of the crafting of sentences, love of words, love of sounds and images and expression. Above all, love of self. Writing is the most personal expression of self there is, even if you're not talking about yourself. Because if you're writing a journal article, an essay, a novel, a poem, a song, and you need to write it so much that it hurts, it's because what you're writing about is important to you.
Taking this personal, private, thing that you have created and showcasing it, means that you are opening yourself, and what you think is important, up for critique, for ridicule, or worse, for indifference. Every time someone publishes a piece of their writing, they are risking the fact that people may not like what they wrote, or may not read what they wrote. That's kind of scary. So people shuffle their scribbles and stories and put them in a cabinet, in a folder on their computer, and let it sit there, because it's easy, and safe. To step beyond that comfort zone, that takes bravery.
I would like to think I have that bravery, that ability to offer up my stories, and myself to the world and listen to the answer, whether good or bad. I don't know yet, and I won't know for awhile, until I have finished editing and writing and start looking for an agent and publisher. For now, the courage to keep going is all I need.