In my last post I talked about fear. On the other side of that is the elusive little quality of spirit we call courage. Courage can come in many different forms.
The pursuit of courage is part of why we watch movies, read books, and follow the tales of notable people. We want to see the courage they display and see how they become the type of people who can overcome the odds – make a difference.
In today’s society we don’t have many opportunities to slay literal dragons (in my mind, there were actually societies that had this opportunity), but we do get small opportunities to be courageous every day.
If you’re like me, you let many of these opportunities pass you by.
You may be crazy courageous, but can’t see that in yourself. Or, perhaps you stay hidden in the shadows, too afraid to act.
In my writing, I strive to create characters who are courageous and inspire readers. I don’t write action or adventure and so sometimes this isn’t easy. I wonder – do my characters have enough agency? Are they slaying their figurative dragons and doing it in a way that makes a reader want to continue turning pages?
When it comes down to it, I usually have to focus on a more subtle form of courage. I have to find an inner fear and give my character a moment of victory as she overcomes it. And as she triumphs through these small, almost unnoticeable moments of courage, she paves the way to make the choices that need to be made and internalizes the life lesson the will help her grow into a memorable character.
You see, sometimes courage is as simple as just showing up or, once you have, not running away with your imaginary tail between your legs.
Sometimes courage is nothing more than sticking it out through a brief moment that helps prepare you for the day a life changing moment comes your way.
I had one of those little moments myself last weekend. Despite my resistance, my excuses that there were better and more efficient ways to spend my time, I found myself in a room with about 120 strangers – most of whom were published and notable authors.
So there I am, standing in a corner, trying to not look like the proverbial wallflower as everyone around me talks and laughs and makes introductions. Finally, I decide – food. I can at least get some food and then maybe I won’t look so out of place.
I head to the table and within moments someone is talking to me. I’m pretty sure he’s mistaken me for someone else, but I roll with it and start chatting to this author whose book I liked enough to write a 30 page paper on six years previous. I use the fact that, although he doesn’t know me, I know him and we’ve emailed as my “in.”
This chat lasts for a few minutes and I feel pretty good that I’m actually ‘mingling’ until, of course, somebody else claims his attention. To avoid standing awkwardly I walk through the crowd, circling the room as I make my way through this endless cluster of literary heroes. (Apparently walking awkwardly is somehow less awkward than standing awkwardly.)
About three laps in, I decide I’ve had enough. I’m about two feet from the door when a little flicker of courage lights up.
I stop, turn around, and walk through the centre of the room – straight to that author, who introduces me to the person he’s talking to, who then invites me out to dinner with them. I go and spend the next several hours talking with a group of people I hope to one day be a part of.
I get some tips. I share some stories.
I see that they’re just people, just like me, and think -‘If they can do it, I can do it. I will do it.’
A poet who has been publishing for more years than I’ve probably been alive reminds me that sometimes we’ve got to make our own luck and gives me specific tasks she wants me to do on the road to making that luck. She even tells me to report back once I have completed those tasks.
And I admit it – her directions scare me.
But I was courageous. I conquered one moment of fear. I have it in me. It’s time I prepare for the next.
How have you shown courage lately, or how are you about to? Please share! Maybe your story will give me the courage to help me further mine!