I am afraid of being brave. Bravery is scary stuff. Brave people do things like free fall from cliffs into deep blue, bottomless lagoons. Or embark on solo treks around the world to climb snowy mountains and eat raw squid. Or take on impossible social causes, taking names and righting wrongs. Or write.
Brave people write.
Well, I guess not all brave people write. But all writers are brave people. They stare down the abyss of the blank page. They plunge head first into that sea of glowing white. They swim through a murky ocean of thoughts and swirling waves of emotions. And they emerge, suck in a deep breath, and exhale a story, a poem, an essay, a truth. Their truth.
Meanwhile, I hold my breath.
I swim those murky depths, my eyes closed to the sting of the water, bumping into jagged rocks, brushing past scaly creatures. I emerge, gasping for air and kicking wildly toward shore, hoping no one notices my splashing, inelegant strokes. A fish out of water.
I am in awe of writers.
Faced with the blank page and a heart and mind full of thoughts, emotions, fears, joys, and sorrows, they write a word. Then another. And another. Until, they have a sentence. And that sentence says what they wanted to convey. Someone reads those words, and they conjure up thoughts, emotions, fears, joys, sorrows. Someone else reads those words and sees herself or who she wants to be, could be, should be, aspires to be, or never in a million years would want to be. And it all started with a writer having the courage to put a word on a blank page.
Brave people write.
They claim their truth and put it out there for the world to see. And judge. And criticize. Truth-telling is just down-right scary. Truth, the telling of it, requires vulnerability. And vulnerability, as Brené Brown would attest, requires courage. Vulnerability exposes us to criticism, ridicule, challenges. To write, you must be brave. And being brave is hard. Yet, writers do it every day.
Why? Why do they do it? Why are they willing to burst out from the depths and into the light, exposing themselves? Why do they dare to exhale?
Perhaps it is so they will not drown.
They plunge into the depths with their eyes wide open, avoiding the jagged rocks and dodging the scaly creatures. Or perhaps they wear goggles. Protected from the blinding sting of the water, they can see clearly that the jagged rocks are actually a colorful coral reef and the scaly creatures, a beautiful school of fish. Or maybe they come face-to-face with a shark or a moray eel or the poisonous tentacles of a jellyfish, and frantically, try to swim the other way. But they took the plunge.
When we dive into the murky waters of our life experience, there are scary things all around. Maybe we escape harm. Or maybe we lose a limb. Maybe the shark is a job loss, depression, an abusive relationship, a family secret, an a-ha moment, a life-changing event, or day-to-day drudgery. But while darting away from the shark, we might pass that coral reef and find some beauty, delight, peace, or wisdom before emerging. The point is, a writer emerges. And lives to write about it.
I suppose there are safe ways to write. By just skimming the surface, the beauty of the water and its refreshing spray, the wind and sun on your face all offer ample fodder for pleasant prose. By keeping one’s head above water, some of the scary stuff can be avoided, but some of the best stuff stays submerged with it.
Bravery accesses the best stuff.
Yes, I am afraid of being brave. But I think maybe I am more afraid of being safe.
Time to put my goggles on and dive deep.