Facing Trouble with Courage

Photo/TaraRoss“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).

Have you faced trouble in your journey as a writer? Have you been tempted to give up on your writing dreams or career because of failure, rejection, humiliation, shame, or judgment?

Fear of judgment, criticism, or shame? When I struggled with some critical comments and judgment years ago, I expressed my frustration to my husband, Dan. I winced at his abrupt and honest response, “Karen, not everyone is going to like you.”

Photo/TaraRossDan’s statement shocked me, as he reminded me that not everyone likes me or agrees with my opinions. And I’ve revisited that story many times, when I try to encourage other writers.

I still grieve over rejection or criticism, and I prefer to walk away from all confrontations. But I’ve learned a lot from my failures—in relationships and writing.

Photo/TaraRossFear of writing process? In his book On Writing, author Stephen King says, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

Even well-known writers must face rejections and criticism. The writing process demands prewriting, drafting, revising, and proofreading before any publication. You may become offended or embarrassed when someone offers constructive criticism. Some writers even give up rather than face more editing, critical remarks, or rejection letters.

Fear of rejection and failure? Do you see rejection as failure? Failure often points us toward changes in our direction and priorities. C. S. Lewis explained, “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”

Author J. K. Rowling agrees with the advantages of failure.

Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.

Thomas A. Edison advised, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Tempted to give up? I’ve been tempted to give up more times than I’d like to admit. Have you given up on something because of a failure?

Matthew 26 describes a time when the disciples faced failure. They fell asleep while Jesus prayed, after He asked them to stay on the lookout for danger or trouble in the Garden of Gethsemane. They must have grieved over their lost opportunity and broken promise. But Jesus responded, “Get up! Let’s get going!” (Matt. 26:46 MSG)

There will be experiences like this in each of our lives … times of despair caused by real events in our lives, and we will be unable to lift ourselves out of them. The disciples … had done a downright unthinkable thing … gone to sleep instead of watching with Jesus. But our Lord came to them taking the spiritual initiative against their despair and said, in effect, “Get up, and do the next thing.” If we are inspired by God, what is the next thing? It is to trust Him absolutely and to pray on the basis of His redemption.

Never let the sense of past failure defeat your next step. (Oswald Chambers)

Embracing vulnerability. Finding the courage to risk failure requires us to be vulnerable.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken ….”

Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, “spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.” She suggests, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” Brown concludes, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

Choosing to become vulnerable could be one of the most courageous things we can do as a writer. Writing about our opinions, our faith, and our relationships takes courage.

What lessons have you learned about vulnerability?

Video/TED (Brené Brown: “The Power of Vulnerability”)

A Writer’s Life: The Pit of Despair

Whenever I watch The Princess Bride, I skip the Pit of Despair segments. Popcorn, anyone? Maybe rewind to the Fire Swamp?

Sure, the Albino with the needs-to-cough-up-a-hairball voice is a bit of comedic relief before discovering our hero Westley is in the Pit of Despair. His future? Torture — attached to a life-sucking machine. His only escape? Death.

Am I the only one who skips these scenes?

As writers, there are days we are trapped in our personal Pit of Despair, without even a somewhat friendly Albino nearby. Life — our passion — is being sucked out of us, bit by bit.

What does Westley’s trip to the Pit teach us? Consider two truths:

  1. Truth # 1: Enemies get you into the Pit.
  2.  Truth # 2: Friends get you out of the Pit.

What about those enemies?
Inconceivable, isn’t it, how both success and failure dump us in the Pit.

When you succeed as a writer — land an agent, sign a contract — you think: Other people have expectations for me. What if I fail? Overloading yourself with the real or imaginary expectations of others tumble you into the Pit faster than the Dread Pirate Roberts can scale the Cliffs of Insanity.

And then there’s the slippery slope of failure: never attaining your goals, never quite grasping whatever spells “victory” for you. The root problem is the same: expectations. Fear you won’t meet others’ expectations or disappointment in yourself for not fulfilling your own. The bigger question? How do you navigate both success and failure?

At last! It’s time for the friends.
Westley didn’t rescue himself. The heroes? Fezzik and Inigo, who found a “mostly dead” Westley in the Pit. But that didn’t stop his friends from hauling his body out to go looking for a miracle.

When you can’t see the faintest hope of a miracle for the forest of despair surrounding your writing dreams, who searches for you? When you no longer believe in yourself, in your story, who believes in it for you? And — perhaps even more importantly — who do you go looking for when they’ve been dragged off into the Pit of Despair?

We’ve peered over the Cliffs of Insanity, survived the Fire Swamp, and now find ourselves at the Pit of Despair. Which have you found to be the greater enemy: success or failure? How have friends rescued you? Like Miracle Max, I believe it takes a miracle sometimes for changes to happen … so if you have any of those to share, please do!

For Fun: The Princess Bride 25th Anniversary cast reunion

Post Author: Beth K. Vogt

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an air force physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. She’s discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” She writes contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily ever after than the fairy tales tell us.