If you’ve been an author for more than five minutes, you know it takes an insane amount of courage. .
1) Writing what you really want to write takes courage
We all have insecurities. We all feel stupid sometimes. What lives inside our heads is rarely something we want to share with the world. Yet . . . if we’re being the best author possible, our opinions, emotions, and skewed view of the world should be spewed on a blank canvas. It takes courage to let our innermost thoughts fly onto that paper. We all want to pretend we’re better than we are, more mature, less petty, but realistically, we are who we are. We think what we think. The truth hurts.
But the best authors have courage to put it on paper anyway.
2) Letting someone read your book takes courage
I never really planned to write a book. I had a story stuck in my head and decided to write it down so I wouldn’t forget. Little did I know how much I would LOVE writing. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. But that didn’t mean I wanted anyone to read it.
You see, I was doing what I mentioned in #1. It was freeing! It was a blast! But once I realized it was turning into a full-scale novel, I knew I should probably tell my husband what I was up to for hours upon hours. Chances were, he might want to READ it, too.
It took me two weeks to get up the courage to tell him. Two weeks! We’d been blissfully married for 13 years and I was still terrified. I’ll never forget his reaction when I finally got up the nerve to tell him.
“You? You’re writing a book? As in a book book? Wait…you?”
Like I said, this whole writing thing came out of nowhere. Then he said what I kinda hoped he wouldn’t.
“Can I read it?”
To his credit, he reacted well after reading it, otherwise I would have never had the courage to give it to the next person. Or the next.
(He’s still my first reader on everything, and I ADORE him for it!)
But still . . . each time I hand my baby over to the next person, I sweat bullets, wring my hands, and pace the floor. (A little melodramatic, but you get the point.)
I’m tellin’ ya, being an author is tough.
3) Asking for honest feedback takes even more courage
After I got over the initial shock of letting people read my innermost thoughts, I realized if I was ever going to do something with this Sadie story, I’d need some honest feedback.
I vacillated between two feelings:
A) I’d written the most amazing book ever known to man. Producers in Hollywood were going to fight over who got to make my novel into a blockbuster movie.
B) I’d written the biggest piece of junk ever known to man. Anyone who read it would turn their heads in shame and never speak to me again.
Yeah, I have issues.
The first few people who read my manuscript were people who loved me more than I deserve. Simply because of who they were, I feared they’d swing towards the A side of things. “The novel is perfect!” “Unflawed! “Hollywood here you come!” (No one said any of that to me, but I worried they were being too nice.)
Once again, I went back to that inner pool of courage to see if I could scrape up anymore. I did and immediately started asking people for honest feedback.
Turns out, my novel was somewhere in between A and B. Call it A ½.
That’s where most authors fall, right? The more honest feedback I received, the more I could see where my book leaned towards the B spectrum. So I would take the suggestions and fix it. Still, those B insecurities hung tight and caused me to cringe every time I gave it to a new person.
But . . . enough people seemed to like my story, so I decided to go to the next step.
4) Sending your book to a professional is freaky and takes A LOT of courage
Whether you send your book to an agent, editor, or directly to a publisher, it’s extremely hard to push that SEND button.
Is it good enough? Polished enough? Funny enough? Edgy enough? Should I have added a vampire?
Even though I knew my awesome beta readers were giving me their honest feedback, it wasn’t until I sent it to a professional publisher that I felt like I could be truly crushed. Professionals get paid to sell books. They don’t have time to entertain a lousy author, no matter how nice, sweet, or perfect their mom thinks they are.
To me, this step was the ultimate test of courage. If there was a part of the book the publisher wanted cut, I’d have to listen. If they wanted a vampire, I’d have to listen.
Turns out, they wanted my book to be the best it could be. Turns out, I really loved this part of the process. But, man, it took a lot of courage.
Five years later and one published book under my belt, I still struggle with sending my books to professionals. I don’t know why. It’s not like they’re scary people. In my experience, they’re extremely nice people who love books as much as I do. In fact, they’re on the author’s side. Yet I still hold my breath every time I push that SEND button.
I have issues.
Once I had a contract and a book that both I and my publisher loved, I realized the next scary step.
“Oh my gosh! People are actually going to read my book!”
(Seeing the pattern here? I’m a huge chicken. )
5) Knowing people will spend money to read your innermost thoughts takes courage
I want people to like me. Call me crazy.
I received the first copies of Sadie a few weeks before it hit the stores. Talk about nerves. I was super excited, but I was also second-guessing every step of the process. I’d been on goodreads enough to know that readers can be brutal, even more than beta readers or publishers. I wanted readers to feel like they’d spent good money on my book. I wanted them to get the entertainment they paid for.
I’m happy to say that some readers love my book! Some even adore it! Yay!!! But some . . . eh . . .
Which leads me to the next point.
6) Reading bad reviews takes so much courage it hurts
I know many authors who don’t read their bad reviews. But I do.
I decided in the beginning that I wanted to be the best author I could be. I wanted to get closer to A than B, which means finding out where I can improve, right? But it took/takes courage to open those bad reviews and see what complete strangers don’t like. Usually, I wait until I’m in a great mood with a handful of chocolate to do this. Then I tell myself:
- My book is not for everyone
- Some readers are just in a bad mood–all the time!
- I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and people don’t have to always love me. :)
Then I read and do what I’ve done from the beginning: find the courage to take what I’ve learned and run with it.
7) Deciding to do it all over again takes courage
What fun would it be to write one book and never write again? Once you’ve been through the grueling process of becoming a published author, it takes courage to turn around and do it all over again. Some authors never do, and I can see why. But . . . I’m not one of them.
Seems crazy, doesn’t it? This whole author thing. But we write because we love it. We write because we can’t — or don’t want to — stop. Maybe the steps will get easier. Maybe. Then again, maybe not. But the best of us will do it anyway.
In the meantime, our courage muscles are getting a huge workout.
PS) For all you authors out there, THANK YOU for having the courage to see it through, to not quit when you’re down or feel like you are your only fan, because as much as I love to write, I also LOVE to read, and without you sticking it out, I wouldn’t be able to.
PPS) It’s all worth it. Being on this side of a published novel, I can tell you it’s totally worth it! The first time you get a fan letter in the mail, the first time you have a reviewer love your characters as much as you do, makes it all worth it. So stick it out. Keep going. Hit that SEND button and don’t quit because you’ll be glad you had the courage to keep going. (This advice is for me as much as anyone. I’m at step #4 again. Yikes!)
Where do you find the courage to keep going? Any tricks you’ve learned? Share below.