I’ve struggled with the thought of being brave related to writing. I see the term thrown around a lot, but I’ve felt weird embracing it as part of the character of being a writer. As a former reporter, I wrote thousands of stories, talked to people from all walks of life and I felt compelled to do as honest a job as I could no matter who the subject was. I didn’t think of that as being particularly brave, just doing my job.
But as I write on down a new road, I realize what I’m doing today does take some bravery and I can ultimately thank Alexi Pappas. She’s a runner I like and she has a new book out titled Bravey. If you are a runner on instagram or a writer or a reader, you’ve probably seen an ad or reference to the book. It’s one of those that I have on my short list to read thought my short list isn’t so short these days. But she’s lived an interesting and brave life in many ways and the press for the book and the interviews I’ve seen have made me rethink the relationship between being brave and writing.
I realize I have at times missed chances to be brave with my writing and sometimes in my writing over the years.
For example. For a time I lived in Utah and enjoyed a social life that brought me in contact with a group of young budding artists. I remember one of them had an idea of starting a graphic novel publication business. He and his friends were nuts about comics and they knew I liked to write poetry and stories of all types. I even had been working on an epic fantasy piece and had discussed it with them.
Well, I got a message from him one day on my answering machine. He said they were moving forward with the publishing business and “we need your stories, Rob. Get back to me.”
I heard his enthusiasm over the phone but I lied to myself at this point. I said I didn’t want to do comic books when what I really meant was I was afraid to put the whole story out there and let people see it. I wasn’t brave that day.
It also took me years to finally get brave with my personal writing as well. You see, I was always afraid to admit things about myself. Like that bit about lying to myself about not offering up some of my stories to those guys. I even wrote the lie first as a missed opportunity when I started writing this before going back and correcting it.
Anyway, fear and the inability to face our truth is what has held me back as a writer. Though I’m writing fiction these days almost exclusively, there is a piece of me in every story and I have to be honest about that. And each story I write I get better at it.
Finally, something I think Pappas addresses is the expectations and the limitations the world tries to place on us. See Pappas is a world class runner, but she is also a world class writer and movie maker and she has pursued excellence in all of these areas despite people telling her to specialize or challenging her right to do more than one thing.
I look at my writing and I admit I’ve been scared at times. I want to write contemporary fiction for adults, fantasy and science fiction for all ages and maybe even sprinkle in some verse and some scripts. But I’m told you shouldn’t do that because you’ll disappoint readers. But as I think about it, why would that disappoint readers.
If you like what I write in one area, it doesn’t mean you’ll like what I write in another genre and that’s okay. It is all my writing and I hope to share it with anyone who will enjoy it.
One of the writers I most respect is Ursula Le’Guin. She certainly didn’t let people tell her what genre she could or could not write in. What a body of work. Brave, indeed and if you wanted to read some of her thoughts on a wide variety of subjects, check out her recently re-issued work No Time to Spare.
So I have been afraid and still am. But I’m confronting my fears and getting honest with myself and with you the reader. Yes, I’m learning to be brave.
Keep writing, keep running.