“The best way out is always through.” ~ Robert Frost
Whether we write poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, being fearless is an important part of the equation. In reading books such as Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior, we begin to understand the importance of a sense of courage as a way to get our messages into the world at large. Having courage also involves a certain amount of transparency, which I believe walks the same path as courage.
Sometimes we want to sit down and craft a story that is burning at our psyche to write or explore, but just cannot find what it takes to get those words on the page. These might be the raw stories that reveal the deep and personal aspects of our lives. They might take more than putting sticky notes on our computers saying, “Be Courageous,” or “Have No Fear,” but that also might be all that we need to boost our confidence.
Developing courage often involves just coming face to face with our fears. In her book, Writing As A Sacred Path, Jill Jepson recounts a story shared by Buddhist nun and writer Pema Chodron about someone who had recurring nightmares about being chased by monsters. In her dream, she eventually stopped and faced those monsters and stared at them in the eye. As she did so, the monsters began to fade away and eventually disappeared entirely. Obviously this exercise is all about facing our demons and how it will serve us in the long run.
While such suggestion might sound overly simplistic, it does have its merits. Jepson also offers the following ideas: First, slow down your writing and stop where you are. Take some deep breaths and repeat to yourself that you are ready to meet fear head on. The acknowledgement alone will help you move through it, like Frost suggests in the quote above. Second, try to address your fear directly. This means having a dialogue with your fear and listen to what it says to you. When you ask your fear what it wants you are disempowering it and allowing it to weaken. Once the fear is weakened, it is easier to tell it to get lost so that you may move on.
In the end, it’s about positive thinking. Writing offers the opportunity to whisk away worries. Another suggestion is to journal about your fear—its origin and reason for being. Maybe try to write a poem about it. Hearing the voices of others who have experienced fear can help give voice to your own, and may also help you develop other coping strategies.
Sometimes, I find reading quotations by other writers to be quite helpful in dealing with certain emotions. Here are some famous quotations by other writers which might help you navigate through your own fear and give you courage to do whatever you need to do, whether it is has to do with writing or making a other changes in your life. Remember, in the end, we all want to be happy. The world tries to pull us in the other direction. It’s time to look all the negativity in the face and turn the other way—toward positive thinking.
Some inspiring quotations on courage:
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” ~ Mark Twain
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” ~ T.S. Eliot
“Courage is grace under pressure.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
“A great part of courage is the courage of having done the thing before.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.” ~ Aristotle
“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” ~Red Smith
“Fear is an emotion indispensable for survival.” ~ Hannah Arendt
“Courage is the power to be cheerful under circumstances we know to be desperate.” ~G.K. Chesterton
“What is to give light must endure burning.” ~Viktor Frankl
Without courage wisdom bears no fruit. ~Baltasar Gracian
“You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” ~Mary Tyler Moore