I’ve been re-reading an important book in my life, The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes. The basic premise, of course, is that fear in all its infinite variety is part and parcel of writing, and that the act of writing is itself an act of courage. The corollary to this is that most writers do not suffer from writer’s block (sitting to write and having no words come), but from writing avoidance: wanting to write, but avoiding it because, ultimately, of fear.
As I’ve been working through this again, I’ve come to realize that it is true not only of writing. The same fears — of rejection, of failure, of loneliness, of misunderstanding — apply to speaking, and especially to speaking out on things we care about. We’d rather tell jokes to friends than speak truth to power and risk losing the friends.
One of the joys of both middle age and recovery is finding your voice. You come to realize that the risk of losing friends is less deadly than the risk of being silent. And, if you’re fortunate, you’ve developed some friendships that are based on mutual respect for each other’s differences rather than on shared sameness.
Doing this blog, doing my web site, and trying to write something every day, are all exercises in fear control. In Keyes’s eyes, all acts of courage. Speaking out, writing letters, contacting officials — also acts of courage. Not big courage, not hero courage, not anything needing a medal, but small acts of courage, nonetheless.
If all of us with normal lives, normal checkbooks, and normal health — in other words, all of us with power — would face our internal fears and write and speak our truth, we could relieve the larger fears, the big fears, of the powerless. Here’s to a tsunami of small acts of courage.
BTW — The book is available through Amazon here