When I decided to pursue writing as a career, I anticipated a lot of different reactions. I expected people to tell me that I was crazy and irresponsible, or that I was spoiled, or that I was naïve. What I didn’t expect to hear, and what most people told me, was that I was brave. Brave. People still tell me that I’m brave. They tell me I made a bold choice, and that it takes courage to pursue this dream of mine. The truth, I think, is more relatable, more grounded in real life, and so very human.
The day I decided to leave my full-time job, I didn’t do it because I was brave. I did it because I was afraid that I’d be stuck doing something I didn’t love until I either retired or died. Then, when I handed in my resignation and started saying my goodbyes, I was afraid that I’d made a terrible mistake. The first Monday I ever spent just writing, I was afraid that I’d never make any money again, and Graham and I would end up destitute and it would be all my fault.
And I’m still scared, because the thing that frightens me most in this world, the one thing that gives me nightmares, the one fear I can’t conquer, is just this:
The blank page. The beginning. The start of the marathon. The mountain to climb, and my own personal Everest. I’m scared of a lot of things – heights, elevators, airplanes, snakes, ladybugs – but nothing scares me as much as the blank page. It’s a world of possibilities, and the responsibility to explore it and fill it up with words that sing is exhilarating and paralyzing all at the same time.
I’m scared of the blank page because words are powerful, and stories are important, and storytellers are the guardians of our history and our humanity, and I’m just a girl from a small town in Virginia sitting at my desk in my pajamas trying to write words that matter.
I’m not brave, but I don’t have to be. I just have to write. I have to get the words out of me and into the world, whether anyone reads them or not. I have to, because if I don’t, they’ll just build up in my head and the weight of them, the pressure of all of them floating around in there, jammed together in a Times New Roman mosh pit, will drive me crazy. I have to, because I love stringing words together to make something that didn’t exist before. It’s the closest to magic that I’ll ever get.
Bravery is overrated, and sometimes you just have to embrace the fear and let it motivate you to take the actions you need to take. I’m not brave, but I am writing, and that’s enough.