The Courage to Write – Using Anxiety

The Courage to Write - Using AnxietyI’ve been reading a book called The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes, and it’s helping me see my approach to writing in a new light.

I used to write with dreamy, innocent abandon. That was before I knew anything about craft. Then I started to read craft books. And query agents. And attend writers’ conferences. And try breaking into the world of publishing. Knowing what I know now, I couldn’t go back to naivety even if I wanted to. At first, the more I learned about writing the more nervous I became to do it. What if I do the wrong thing? Will other writers criticize me? What if I can’t tell my beloved stories in the fullness they require?

This constant questioning can lead to anxiety. I used to see anxiety as debilitating. But the book The Courage to Write talks about anxiety in a way that is changing my perspective. One section talks about “The Power of Positive Anxiety.” Keyes says that those who are frightened to write can oftentimes produce some of the best work—if they learn to “[lift] the lid of their defenses to let anxiety rise to the surface” and allow it to “fertilize their work” (Keyes 14).

We can’t help but feel fear or anxiety as we write. This is expected, normal. The goal, then, is to learn to channel the energy of that fear into our work. Keyes says it can even be “useful,” if we let it (15).

Keyes, Ralph. The Courage to Write. New York: Owl Books, 1995. Print.


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