Being Brave as Writers

Wonderfully talented and friendly Laura Stanfill is my guest blogger today. She is the editor of the soon-to-be-released Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life.

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Writing takes a certain amount of bravery.

Even if nobody knows you write, even if you never leave your house proclaiming “Behold, I am a writer!” to your friends and neighbors, the very act takes courage.

As writers, we must ignore other priorities in order to spend time trying to fill the blank page with our own imaginings, observations and how certain words can rub against each other in interesting ways.

Note I said “try.” Some writing sessions are slow, bogged-down, heavy-hearted slogs that, by the end, make you wish you had tackled the laundry instead of your novel. That’s where the bravery comes in again. It takes a lot of effort to get back to the page after a session like that.

There’s also another kind of bravery associated with fiction: being able to live vicariously through your characters. We may not come up with the perfect zinger when someone is rude, but we can create people who have the last word, who say what we wish we said. Our characters can challenge the status quo. Rise above their circumstances. Make choices we would be too afraid to make in real life.

Author Kristen Forbes discusses this topic in her essay, “Brave on the Page.” Her piece lent my collection of author interviews and essays its title, Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life.

Brave on the Page

The book will be released on October 8, and as of yesterday, has become available through your local Espresso Book Machine or online.

Espresso Book Machine

As the editor, I waffled over titles for a while until I realized I should ask my critique group for help. They, unanimously, chose Brave on the Page from my list of possibilities.

It amazed me, after choosing the title, to discover that the word “brave” appeared nine times in the book, including in the foreword I had already written. “Fear” appears four times; “afraid,” fourteen times. “Shame,” seven times, all in Yuvi Zalkow’s interview about A Brilliant Novel in the Works, which features a writer-protagonist named Yuvi who’s afraid of writing a novel.

Because writing takes a certain amount of bravery.

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Laura Stanfill—novelist, freelance editor, award-winning journalist and Vassar grad—loves to promote other writers.

Laura Stanfill, editor of Brave on the Page

She is the founder of Forest Avenue Press, an independent publishing company based in Portland, Oregon, and the editor of the new writing book Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life.






UPDATE : Check out Laura’s book release announcement for prizes and fun!

0 thoughts on “Being Brave as Writers”

    • Hi, Dorothy! Thanks for commenting. Yes, the book is available in London at Newsstand UK in Canterbury or you can order online through the link above. If you live in or near the Newsstand location, I recommend going to see a book get printed. It’s so fun to watch!

      Also, I’m announcing this on my blog on Monday, but anyone who sends me a picture of Brave on the Page at their local Espresso machine will win a several-page critique from me!

  1. Wow, I just saw your reply to Dorothy there Laura – I had no idea that Newsstand UK place in Canterbury even existed, and it turns out I work about 5 minutes away from it! I must go and visit it, what fun!

    • Oh fun! It looked huge from the website. Watching a book get printed is so much fun. There are 7 or 8 million books in their catalogue so you can find hard-to-get books, out-of-print books and the like in addition to titles that small presses and self-publishers are loading onto the machine.

  2. It is tough to get back to the page after a bad writing session. But persistence and, as you point out, bravery, are essential for successful writers. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway. ; )

  3. That bravery kicks in from the first word we write and never dissipates, including after the project is completed or published. 🙂

  4. Laura said it perfectly. Writing is what I love to do…but it has also cast me into a sea of fear. Will anyone LIKE what I write? Will I ever get it perfect? (I don’t think so–not if I keep rereading it). Love your post…and your title is awesome. When I write, I pick up my sword and go to battle.

  5. Even if we’re the shy, retiring type or introvert, you’re absolutely right—writing takes bravery, whether we keep our words to ourselves or take that bold step of seeking an audience.

    And heck—living vicariously through some of our fictional characters can be loads of fun. 🙂

    • Hey JM, I love living vicariously through my characters, which is fun and problematic. They’re the reasons I dread returning to reality sometimes. 🙂

      Bravery does take its shape in all forms, no matter what our ultimate goal is. I think we have to be brave for ourselves just as much as we have to be brave for the public eye.

      • I love the extension of the bravery conversation to include whether or not to seek an audience, jm. I wonder if writing brave characters helps the writer see the world in a new way.

  6. It’s so true that fear of failure can really stagnate writing. Sometimes I’d give up for a while because of that or because I’d think no one’s going to want to read it. Then I’d try to convince myself that the failure isn’t in writing and getting rejected, the failure is in not writing at all. That helped with the bravery part since I’m not really a very brave person. 🙂

      • I agree with Kate, Sheila! Your thoughts on failure meaning not writing are spot-on. I’ve thought a lot about this lately, especially putting together this book, because I invited big-name writers and the unpublished all to participate in this collection. I think a writer is legitimately a writer if he or she spends time seriously with their work on an ongoing basis. Whether or not it gets seen by anyone.

  7. Brave on the Page–I really love that title. It is inspiring and makes me feel motivated about writing. Thanks! 🙂

  8. What a wonderful post! I love the Behold part, I’m going to use that at home. 🙂 Yes, you really do need to be brave when writing, after all, you’re opening your brain to the world. My mantra is dare to write, before it’s too late. The collection of interviews and essays sounds intriguing and different. 🙂

    • I love the image of you proclaiming “Behold!” around your house, Justin. That makes me smile. I love your dare to write mantra too. If not now, when? I’ve met so many people who talk about writing their novels “someday,” and I always tell them to go ahead and start, put something down on paper and see where it goes. It takes bravery and commitment to write, but those things can be earned along the way, with each session with the blank page. And a bad writing day can be replaced, soon enough, with a good writing day. Which is where some of my bravery comes from–optimism about the next session, or the next revision, or the next critique group meeting.

  9. This sounds fantastic. I love the concept and am looking forward to reading the book 😀

    This is fabulous – “We may not come up with the perfect zinger when someone is rude, but we can create people who have the last word, who say what we wish we said.”

    Brilliant 🙂

    • Oh thanks, Dianne! So often I put an unresolved or uncomfortable moment on the page–never the way it happened, but fictionalized, and having the last word is a fun way to capitalize on our authorial selves!

  10. This is a great post, and Brave ont he Page (perfect title!) sounds like a brave piece of writing that will inspire writers to tap into their own courage when it comes to putting pen to paper. I look forward to reading it.

  11. Sometimes writing from a character’s point of view can be like standing in the town square with all your clothes in the arms of a rapidly departing thief! The ability to speak on behalf of someone in a way you may never do yourself does take a certain amount of bravery. Especially for an introverted writer.

  12. Agreed. Writing is an act of bravery, and Laura’s points are very well stated…but sometimes, if I’m at it too long, it puts me to sleep. So, I guess it’s not a brave enough action (for me) to generate the adrenaline I need to keep me awake. Maybe I need to keep a dagger at my side while at the keyboard…

  13. The scariest thing I ever did was asking people to read my work. And it got even worse when I sent in and then received no feedback. Horrible when you are first starting out. Things are a bit better now for that, thank goodness

    • I’m glad things are better now, Jennifer! It’s so terrifying to send work to someone. And even worse is when they don’t acknowledge it. I have had that happen, too. But that’s why we all need supportive fellow writers on our side to act as cheerleaders and to be beta readers!

    • Thanks, Kourtney! I’m so inspired and delighted by what these 42 writers say about the craft and how they approach it.

      If you end up getting a copy and taking a picture of yourself with it, you’ll automatically win a three-page critique from me! And I’m giving away two novels over on my blog, and you can enter by commenting by Friday.

  14. Great title! I so agree that the very proclamation, “I am a writer” takes a whole lot of bravery…indeed, so many of the arts require a certain unique courage that is vastly under estimated. Good luck with the book…sounds like a wonderful read!

    • Thank you! So true about the arts in general. I even sneaked a visual artist into the book because of how fearlessly he approaches the blank canvas and how he uses painting as narrative storytelling.

  15. It really takes bravery to get a book written and published. Thumbs up to you! Greatness is acquired in the process of achieving results. A book is a great product; good evidence of result!

  16. Great post, Laura,

    There are times when writing is like walking through treacle. Confidence is the biggie, I think. In my office there’s a phrase on A3 written in Red marker pen – ‘Write with confidence and authority and tell the story.”

    Easy to say and so very hard to do.

    • I love that saying, CC. Often when I fall in love with a book it’s because of the authority that begins on page 1. The trick, perhaps, is sustaining that confidence in one’s writing so the authority continues all the way through!

  17. What a lovely article and a great connection to the writing scene in Oregon! Now more than a passing interest! Looks as though the State has a very strong writers and authors presence. Regards to all, Paul

    • Thanks, Paul! I do believe there are great writing communities everywhere, but we’re particularly lucky here in Oregon. My list of Oregon authors who I’d like to meet and/or interview just keeps growing longer!

      • Today is our last day in Payson, AZ., before moving to a new home just outside Merlin, near Grants Pass, OR. So at some point would love to know what writing groups there might be in the GP area. I can be emailed via my Blog Learning from Dogs, learningfromdogs (at) gmail (dot) com if you have any advice. Thanks. Paul

        • Good luck on the move, Paul! I’m afraid Grants Pass is quite far away from my usual stomping grounds, and I don’t know any writers there. You can probably check the local library, bookstore or coffee shop(s) for flyers about when writing groups meet. I organized my own group at the local bookstore in my neighborhood when I first moved to Oregon, and that allowed me to meet all kinds of writers.

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