My Narrative Writing class and I have been reading the book, The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes. Great book. We’ve just hit the first chapter, but it was eye opening to my students. It talks about writing being an act of courage. In one place he writes, “Working writers aren’t those who have eliminated their anxiety. They are the ones who keep scribbling while their heart races and their stomach churns, and who mail manuscripts with trembling fingers.”
Now my first reaction to this book, and the general reaction of my students, is that he is talking about the fear of failure. And that’s partially true. But on a deeper level, he is talking about delving into that dark closet in our psyche we keep closed and locked, filled with things that we are embarrassed about and frightened of must of all. Writing, above all, must be a personal enterprise.
And so I took a few minutes yesterday to ask my students to share what they were most afraid of. For me it’s (1) dark, close places; (2) the Devil; and (3) public humiliation. Others were afraid of heights, afraid of their own race, afraid of the dark. While those are not exactly the fears that Keyes was talking about, I believe, it was a first step. Our project in tomorrow’s class is to confront those fears and write about them. I told the class that the theme will be, Embrace the Fear.
I plan on writing with the class. And even though it would be easy to cop out and write about something like claustrophobia, which still keeps me relatively safe, I think I will try and sum the courage to write about something even more painful: public humiliation. That’s the plan at this point. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
I will let you know how it goes.