Being Brave: A Challenge for Writers in Particular and Humans in General

403px-Womans-Holy-War

Cool image, no? Never mind that I cropped out the part about the Temperance League, since we all know how that turned out. I prefer to think of her as a crusader against all the bad stuff we say to ourselves.

I hate my nose. HATE IT.

Hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it.

Hate it.

I don’t like having my picture taken.

I feel uncomfortable in the presence of people who are pretty and confident.

I let it fuel all the other things I don’t like about myself until I’m one big ball of self-pity and guilt: about my weight, about not being a Pinterest-perfect mother, about not writing often enough, about the stupid crumbs on the floor and dishes in the sink. And let’s not even touch the whole issue of “my writing isn’t good enough.” Yeeesh.

Why not get the nose fixed and be done with it? Because my mother got hers fixed right out of high school, and she still hated herself. And we never got to have an authentic conversation about accepting what God gave you and moving on to more important things in life. Because my daughter has an Asian nose that’s not like other noses in her class and I want her to know that it doesn’t matter, that it’s part of who she is.

Except it does matter, because I let it matter, and I’ll never teach her otherwise, never teach her what it means to be brave and bold and fearless and look beyond self to those more important things if I can’t put this aside once and for all.

Here’s the crazy part: In my 20s I had a beautiful Chinese boss who was thin and glamorous, and one day she leaned across her desk and whispered to me that she liked my nose and had always thought hers was too flat. Did I suddenly wake up and realize how foolish I’d been? Did it shape my outlook for the better in any way? No, it did not. Because that was like 15 years ago, and nothing has changed.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve challenged myself to be braver and to KNOCK IT THE HELL OFF. It’s interfering with Stuff I Wanna Do, and I’m sick of it.

At last month’s retreat for our amazing EMLA writers and illustrators I was surrounded by high quality people, people who are changing the world for the better, who care about Issues, who are making a difference and can talk to people un-self-consciously and LIVE and WRITE and BREATHE like the well-adjusted, grateful, talented people that they are. Many of them—maybe even most of them—are introverts like me, but unless they’re all capable of faking it really well, they were able to put that aside and enjoy those moments together that are so rare and precious and valuable. Next year, I swear I’m not gonna let that slip through my fingers because of my own ridiculous issues.

I’m here to challenge you to be brave in whatever way stretches you, even just the smallest bit. It doesn’t have to mean climbing a scary tall mountain or baring your deepest insecurities on the troll-infested internet. It means identifying what scares you and taking the tiniest of steps out of your comfort zone and one step closer to whatever it is you’ve always longed for.

Living life “cramped and insane,” as Anne Lamott would say, sucks. Enough. What issue is weighing you down, keeping you from being the writer or adventurer or pet owner or open, joyful human being you’ve always wanted to be? Rip it out of you, throw it on the bonfire, and be done with it. Easier said than done, I know. But if I can click “Post” on this rambling example of over-sharing, then I know you have it in you, too.

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ChristineHayespic2 (534x800)Christine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out spring 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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38 Comments

Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Guilt, Writing and Life

38 responses to “Being Brave: A Challenge for Writers in Particular and Humans in General

  1. “Except it does matter, because I let it matter, and I’ll never teach her otherwise, never teach her what it means to be brave and bold and fearless and look beyond self to those more important things if I can’t put this aside once and for all.”

    Yes! 1000 times yes to this, and everything you’ve written here. Thanks for the challenge to be brave, and the reminder to not let our insecurities drive the bus.

    Like

    • Christine Hayes

      Yes. WE will drive the bus, thank you very much, and let those insecurities splatter on the windshield. 🙂 Thanks, Jenn.

      Like

  2. Beautifully, boldly, and bravely said. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  3. Lindsey Lane

    Chris, There is a bit of Sufi wisdom that I love. Before one speaks, one should ask themselves three questions: What is the truth? Can I say it with love? Is it necessary? They must be asked in this exact order because the last question will often lead to silence. So much of what is spoken is unnecessary and hurtful. That said, this post is a yes times three. Thank you for saying this necessary truth with love.

    Like

  4. Joshua McCune

    Brave, honest, beautiful…

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  5. Thank you, Chris, for jump starting this conversation about being a vulnerable, creative human being. We can all relate.

    Love!

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  6. kevanjatt

    This was right on the nose. And I’m not apologizing for that.
    I found myself saying, “Yep. Yep. Yep.” all the way through this. Great post, Christine.

    Like

  7. Marjorie Carlson Davis

    Very honest and meaningful, Christine.

    Like

  8. This is beautiful and honest — just like you! Thank you for sharing!

    Like

  9. Chris, thank you so much for being brave and putting this piece out there in the world. Being truly, deeply honest about these kinds of feelings helps give others the courage to find their own power and embrace it. “Because I’ve challenged myself to be braver and to KNOCK IT THE HELL OFF. It’s interfering with Stuff I Wanna Do, and I’m sick of it.” Yes, so much yes. It’s a battle I fight every day. (Fortunately, I can now picture myself riding an armored steed and wielding one heck of a battle-axe. Huzzah!)

    For the record, I’ve never once even noticed your nose (now that I have, it’s lovely!). I have thought, and with some jealousy, I’ll admit, how pretty your hair is, and how cool your glasses are, and how you always look so comfortable and relaxed when I feel so nervous and jittery. But mostly I’ve just thought about how nice it is to be with you, because you’re kind, and generous, and good. Please keep putting yourself out there. The world needs more you.

    Like

    • Christine Hayes

      When we let these things become so powerful in our lives, we start to forget that others are struggling too, and that what we’ve built up in our minds as glaring and horrific are sometimes not even visible to others. It’s crazy.

      Would you believe the glasses and long hair are meant to distract from the nose? Ha! But thank you, thank you times a million for your kind words. SMISHES YOU (I strive for calm on the outside, cyclone on the inside.) You have gorgeous hair and a beautiful, sunny smile! Oh, and you write kinda good too. 🙂

      Like

  10. Christine, thanks for this post. So honest, something so many of us can resonate with. I so enjoyed being with you at the retreat! I, too, never ever noticed your nose. Just how nice it was to share a plane ride with you and get to know you better.

    Like

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this, Chris. I don’t know why it’s so hard to teach our brains to make “brave” the default setting–it’s something I struggle with time and time again, even though I should know by now from experience that it’s the best and most rewarding path. This post is a great reminder to keep up with the struggle.

    Like

  12. Preach it, lady! Love this post!

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  13. Love this post, Christine!!!

    Like

  14. Rebecca Van Slyke

    Love this post. Love it, love it, love it, love it, love it!

    Like

    • Christine Hayes

      Thank you so much, Rebecca. Retreat next year? Where are you in the world, btw? Anywhere near the midwest? Would love to meet you in person, SOON!

      Like

  15. tamaraellissmith

    Sometimes I think that the point is not to NOT feel these things, but to learn what to do when we feel them…to learn to question them and walk them to the door…to share them and, in doing so, discovering that we are SO not alone. This process offers us the chance to truly connect with both ourselves and other people…to grow empathy and to nurture our capacity for courage. This post says that to me loud and clear. Thank you, Chris.

    Like

  16. Outstanding post, Chris!

    Brave . . . fake it til you make it.

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  17. I think that this, and you, are wonderful. I hope so much that we get to meet one day.

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  18. Wonderful post, Christine! If it helps, I don’t know a single writer that thinks of himself/herself as well-adjusted–I sure don’t, although I feel like less of a freakish outsider with our EMLA crew than with any other group.

    I love this Georgia O’Keeffe quote: “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” May we be as brave as she!

    Like

  19. Chris,
    This is an amazing post! You captured the feelings that so many of us struggle with and you did it with your talented writerly genius so that the words ring honest and address this issue in such a relateable way! Excellent! Just excellent!

    Like

  20. The Most Deeply Maladjusted Writer in the History of the World (a.k.a. me) couldn’t agree more, Christine. Those pesky feelings do get in the way, but if we can figure out how to have the feelings but go ahead and be brave anyway, well, that’s the thing, right? Writing books IS one way of doing that, but there are so many others too. Thanks for saying it.

    Like

  21. Beautiful and compelling post, Christine. Thank you for expressing so eloquently how we all feel – and why we write! 🙂

    Like

  22. Pingback: Cynsational Information & Giveaways | JanNews Blog

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