One of the things that several of us 8L have said over the last months is that we won’t buy anymore craft books/take anymore craft classes until we have finished what we already have. In that vein, I did eeny-meeny on my craft bookshelf and chose The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes, almost at random (because I have too many to choose from). The very first chapter is called Elements of Courage. It made me feel strong just reading that. There are some funny sections throughout the book like Page Fright, That Naked Feeling, Counterphobia, and Draft Dodgers.
Obviously, as I just picked it up, I haven’t gotten very far. It will probably take me a while to get all the way through it because, well, life has to happen in and around the time I set aside for craft reading. But I found encourage in the opening section. Keyes writes that “when the Paris Review wanted to interview [E.B. White] for its Writers at Work series, White said he’d be better qualified for one on Writers Not at Work,” and he then told his friend James Thurber that he considered himself “the second most inactive writer living, and the third most discouraged.” I empathize with those sentiments and feel like the first most inactive writer in this moment although I have dusted off an old manuscript to see what I can do with it.
I skipped forward to the Page Fright section because I liked the name. “Page Fright: the fear of confronting the blank page.” Yup. I’ve got that. The fear that when I sit down with the blank page in front of me, nothing will come to mind. I’m not sure what is worse, though, nothing coming to mind or crappy, useless stuff coming to mind. I know the old ‘you can’t fix a blank page’ bit, but saying it doesn’t erase the anxiety of what I might put on it once I start.
Later, Keyes gets into fighting the fear and anxiety, starting with “not writing at all constitutes the ultimate triumph of fear. But he also cautions about false fear busters. Things like buying new gear, going to writers’ conferences (instead of writing), or walking the dog. These false fear busters are from his book. I can add, trolling for pictures that look like people/places/things in my story under the guise of doing a collage, going for a run to ‘jog’ my creative juices, and reading about craft instead of practicing it.
As E.B. White said, “I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.”
When was the last time you raided your craft shelf? What is next?