“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts….Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.” Sir Winston Churchill
“The secret to happiness is freedom, and the secret to freedom is courage.” Thucydides
“No matter how tough it gets or how frightened you may be, hold tight to the determination at your core. Believe in yourself.” Katherine Graham to Thom Racina, a budding novelist.
Courage. What a precious gift! The word itself comes from the word for “heart”—and my handy New Century Dictionary defines it as: “Heart; mind; disposition; also, the quality of the mind that enables one to encounter difficulties and danger with firmness or without fear; valor; bravery.”
Courage. A weighty word, isn’t it? It almost seems too big, too grand, to apply to the writing life. And yet, in our heart of hearts, we all know that it takes courage to write. It takes heart and firmness of mind to do what we do and to face the difficulties we face.
“Creativity takes courage,” Henri Matisse once said. He’s right!
Yes, it takes heart and firmness of mind to venture into our own thoughts and share them. It takes heart and firmness of mind to envision new worlds so clearly that others can see and inhabit or even escape into them. It takes courage to send work out into the world and to know that others have the power to accept or reject it.
Courage? How do we cultivate it? How do we nourish in ourselves this “first of human qualities,” as Churchill put it? I think Katherine Graham’s advice holds the answer: We need to “hold tight to the determination” at our core and believe in ourselves.
Just recently, I received a “pass” from a major agent I queried about my children’s novel. She said my voice was “Incredible” and she loved my young heroine’s spirit, and the relationships at the heart of my story. But for a variety of reasons, she couldn’t take it on. A big rejection.
I still have other agents reading my full manuscript, which makes me hopeful. For now, I’m in the “Land of Possibilities,” as a dear friend describes the state when you are in a anticipatory kind of limbo. It’s pleasant there—and I’m tempted to just coast. But I need to move forward. So I’m going to contact those remaining agents, even though I may be courting more rejection. I need to know whether they have an interest in my story or not.
Doing this takes some courage—it’s easier to sit and wait. But I believe in my story and I need to find an agent who believes in it, too.
How do we cultivate courage? For me, it’s about believing in ourselves and taking actions based on that belief. How about you? How do you manage to gather the courage to take major steps in your writing? I’d love to hear what works for you as we all write on!
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