The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes

This book is best for intermediate writers. I usually put information about the target audience at the end of each review, but this time, it has to go up front. Beginning writers aren’t afraid. They have the brash confidence that comes from inexperience. They don’t know what they don’t know. (Not a bad place to be, by the way. Beginners tend to throw words on the page with delightful abandon.) For advanced writers, finishing, editing, and publishing their work gives them a more quiet confidence. But the vast road between those two points? That’s where fear lives.

Despite what Keyes claims, not all writers are terrified. If you’re writing daily, without undue stress, then by all means, carry on and don’t worry. However, if you’re scared to the point of paralysis, and think you’re alone, then this is the book for you.

Why is writing scary? It’s the emotion. A good book is an intensely emotional experience. In order to make our readers feel things, we have to feel them too. Few people want to face their own deepest fears and passions. Fewer still want to write them down for everyone to see.

THE COURAGE TO WRITE is divided into two sections. The first part describes fear in all its variations. The second part details methods for coming to terms with it. However, part two contained more validation of the fearful feelings than ways to cope. After the hundredth anecdote about a terrified writer, I started to lose patience. I know misery loves company and Keyes is trying to make anxious writers feel less alone, but the relentless dread of the page made me wonder why anyone was writing at all.

Then I got it. Anxiety about writing is not only common, but desirable. If you’re not at least a tiny bit scared, you’re not challenging yourself enough. Like a kid on a roller coaster, we must be a bit nervous, yet ultimately thrilled with our writing. Of course Keyes doesn’t teach writers how to squash fear. It can’t be done. It shouldn’t be done.

Keyes himself is an excellent writer. THE COURAGE TO WRITE is a smooth read, full of wit and compassion. I’m glad he found his own courage to write.


THE COURAGE TO WRITE can be found here.


rating: 4 stars


This book is best for: intermediate writers


I recommend this book

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