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5 Apr
2016

Do You Have the Courage to Write Fiction?

courage, risk, balance, adventure, writing fictionReading Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, Big Magic, caused me to reflect on my internal journey to be willing to write the fictionalized story of my grandparents.

“Do you have the courage?  Do you have the courage to bring forth this work?  The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”

Quoted by Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Have you pretended that you weren’t afraid or used excuses to avoid being brave?  It took many years for me to find the courage to begin even the research required to write the story about my grandparents.  I would share some details and the family rumors about their lives with others, which would encourage me to write about it.  But I brushed the idea away.  I told myself that I had a career and other goals to pursue.  But as I read this quote in Gilbert’s book, I realized that I didn’t have the courage to take the risk of writing about this story. I was afraid to put it out in public.  It was safer to work with clients or to write about my consulting experience both of which denoted years, even decades of successful practice in the field of organization development.

Finally, I was ready to slow down my consulting practice and create the time to conduct the research to uncover all the details about my grandfather’s life.  So I set out as I have written in other blogs to confirm the whispered family secrets and to learn about his life before he met my grandmother.  Gilbert mentions that it is common among women to want to be one hundred percent prepared for taking on a new project or position.  I was no different.  I sought to have all the details and be thoroughly knowledgeable about the dates of birth, marriage, death, Civil War service, explanations about moves to far away states and many more details.   I figured when I had all this information; I could write about my grandparents’ lives as an expert.  Having all “your ducks in a row” does not require courage or bravery.   The facts and detailed information provide a clear cover.

Missing Information

Alas!  I could not find all the information to explain why my grandfather left a wife pregnant with their sixth child, why he is missing from all the public records for almost fourteen years or why he moved from Nebraska to Oklahoma and then to New Mexico.  I now wanted to share the story, but there was so much missing information from the account that I wasn’t sure what would complete the tale.

I could write the story as fiction based on the true story as I knew it.  Write fiction!  I had never done that; I had only written non-fiction–professional papers and books.  I would need to learn how to be creative.  I didn’t think of myself as creative. Gilbert argues that if we are alive, we are creative.  It was scary for me to think about writing fiction when I knew nothing about this genre.  But Gilbert suggests that courage and bravery mean doing something scary.  Did I have the courage to bring this story forth in fiction?

Courage to Write Fictionreview smartphone android

I began going to workshops, reading, signing up for blogs and going to a writer’s conference and meeting with other authors.  I joined a writers group.  I learned about the publishing industry and writing fiction.  I was excited about everything I learned.  As I networked and met new colleagues, I needed a new identity.  Gilbert declares that defining yourself as a creative person begins by identifying yourself.  I started to say “I am a writer.”  As I called myself a writer, I found the courage to bring forth the fictionalized story of my grandparents which I hope to publish this year.

Have you avoided bringing forth your work?  How did you overcome your fear?  Have you thought of yourself as creative?  Courageous?

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So, what do you think?

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