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”)

Print on Demand: Edison Style

Thomas Edison Typewriter

Edison’s Keyboard

Steam swooshed onto the platform as the metallic black-horse eased to a stop in Detroit. 

The clunky train rocked The Grand Trunk Western Railway passengers in their seats. Cargo slid in the holding bays.

A twelve year old boy steadied himself against precious equipment, secured in the baggage department. Coins jingled in his near-full pockets. The odor of hot ink and ironed paper mixed with burnt coal.

And the train wasn’t the only thing rocking. The innovative boy smiled while he tallied sales of The Grand Trunk Herald. Demand for his real-time newspaper was on the rise.

Thomas Edison birthed a fresh era of news publishing in 1862. He sold the voice of his original publication by the copy, or for a mere eight cents per month, by subscription.

In the volcanic and news-hungry climate of Civil War America, Edison hit on a popular niche. For the first time ever, passengers could devour the contents of a paper written on a moving train. A pre-pubescent Thomas couldn’t know he would soon change the culture of a publishing world.

Recently, I visited Thomas Edison’s Winter Home in Fort Myers, Florida. It was there I learned the factual details of my embellished account above. But it made me think about the culture of American publishing during that time of war, financial upheaval, and emotional decision-making. Not so different from today.

Edison & Ford Winter Estates

Edison Winter Estates Entrance Sign

So it makes me wonder, if we were to rewind time, how would people in Edison’s time react to things we take for granted today? Could the folks living in that era have imagined CNN, the Internet, texting, social media, online videos, and other forms of immediacy news?

But I also reflect on those businesses who felt threatened by the young, creative upstart. They probably didn’t appreciate what they viewed as infringement on their market. Did they make changes in their own processes, as a result of the Edison transformation?

And how does all of this affect us as professionals, and the aspiring, in a writing world today?

What does the future hold for those of us impassioned to share a message through words? I believe young Edison provides a stellar example of how to face adversity. Thomas didn’t bemoan the times.

He exemplified a brilliant mind who took action where others surely complained. He paid attention when people expressed frustration. He heard those who wished to know what was going on in the war and in other parts of the country.

He turned ordinary news into newsprint customers couldn’t wait to buy.

Thomas Edison refused to let a depressive environment get him down. In today’s volatile publishing market, it’s a lesson we can learn.

No one knows exactly what tomorrow’s finished books will look like. Print on demand is making waves. But Edison’s style reminds us to keep our ears, minds, and eyes open. After all, what we do today may impact people one hundred years in the future.

Like passengers in Edison’s era, we may be readers, writers, editors, or publishers. But we all ride toward the same end. The enjoyment of great books. We can bemoan rocking motions, temporary stops, and a change in the news, but we can’t prevent innovation.

We have a single choice if our destination is writing for publication–climb on, and try to enjoy the ride.

Can you hear the whistle? The train is preparing to leave the station. All aboard!

What innovative ways might our books reach readers’ hands in the future? Those of us who author, how can we help publishers invent new ways to sell our books?