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The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear

4.6 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805074673
ISBN-10: 0805074678
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Keyes (Nice Guys Finish Seventh) here suggests that writerly anxiety is an inevitable and necessary part of the writing process. Drawing on his own experience and that of others (often from Paris Review or PW interviews), he explores the varieties of anxieties, for example, "page fright"; the pitfalls of putting family and friends into print; and the tension between fear of self-exposure and thirst for attention. In the book's second half, he explores both harnessing and "finessing" fear, arguing that "inner conviction" is more important than technique. He surveys authors' tics and tricks to get started and the question of circulating works-in-progress. Many writing problems "are really courage problems," Keyes concludes, after suggesting that too many good writers give up too soon. While this book lacks the scope and the personal voice of, say, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, its psychological acuity should still help lonely scribblers.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Keyes, a widely experienced writer and teacher of writing himself, confronts the major component of fear in every writer's life as most writing courses never do. He shows that while the writer's anxieties-of unearthing unsavory truths about oneself, of exposing oneself to ridicule, of hurting trusting friends-cannot be overcome, they can be harnessed and used to develop serious, powerful writing. Neither preachy nor judgmental, but written by one writer speaking to others, Keyes uses a wealth of contemporary writers from Margaret Atwood to E.B. White as examples, first to identify writers' most common fears, then to discuss how writers have successfully grappled with them. Strong on theory and written with rare directness and wit, his small book is above all practical. Highly recommended for anyone who writes, wants to write, or is taking a writing course.
Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805074678
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805074673
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #564,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Helene Hoffman on February 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is a remarkable tool for any writer. You want to write but: have no time, are too scared, think you are no good . . . whatever the reason, this book answers it, in such an understanding and powerful way, that you think you have no choice but to put pen to paper at last! It is truly unique. The author also dispells a lot of myths about writing (how difficult it is; you have to suffer, etc.), and, most importantly, deals with each and every fear a human being could possible have which prevents him or her from creating. He states emphatically that all writing takes courage, sometimes tremendous courage, but that overcoming the fears, and finally doing the writing is well worth it. By the way, this book is definitely not just for writers; I gave it as a gift to an artist friend, and she found it to be so encouraging that she entered a work in a contest because of it. In addition, I also loved the section in the book where he explains that we naturally write about that which we have never "resolved" in our past; I had never seen this written about before, and it blew me away. The subject matter I write about definitely falls into this category. Do yourself a favor and read this book.
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Format: Paperback
If there is one book that I would give a beginning writer--and wish I'd found much earlier--it is The Courage to Write. It would be suitable for writers of any level, in truth, for it is written so well, with such attentiveness to the writer's anxieties and struggles. The final chapter, focusing as it does on determination and will to write, versus brilliance without substance, is alone worth the price of the book.
To be sure, the book does not dwell much on accumulated rejection slips that so often add further anxiety--that make one wonder if selling insurance wouldn't be better after all. In such a case, I would recommend reading the first and last chapters deeply and take their messages once more to heart: do you have the will and determination? do you have the courage (i.e. are you getting rejection slips because you are still skating on the surface of things, being glib, hiding behind a technique or style)?
The chapter on foggy, impenetrable, jargon-laden writing is also invaluable. I see no crime in being clear; it is a substantial relief to read that I am not alone in this matter. The gift of this book to the college freshman in a composition course would be money well-spent.
Perhaps of greatest benefit is that this book makes the reader/writer understand that he or she is highly typical in the fears, delay-tactics, rites and totems that are employed in the hopes of approaching, even taming, the empty page. Not everyone has access to writing courses or groups; some are impassioned and have the will and determination, but decide they'd rather not cloister themselves off in an M.F.A. program. A few good books will do as companionable guides in the hard but wholly rewarding work of writing. This book should be first among those chosen as such a companion.
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Format: Paperback
You are not alone. The author tells us that the difference between a person who wants to write and a person who actually writes is the willingness to face fear- and write anyway. In a warm writing style, Mr. Keyes teaches how to capitalize on anxiety instead of giving in to it. Fear takes many forms- fear of...rejection, criticism, ridicule, looking silly, failure, success. Writing is a lonely endeavor.The author includes remarks from accomplished writers and lets us know that fear, in all its forms, is common. My first book is scheduled for release next year and I am terrified nobody will buy it. After reading this book, I know I am not alone. Only 1% of the people who want to write ever write. If you want to be in this 1%, I recommend reading The Courage to Write.
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Format: Paperback
This book is like having a kind and sensitive therapist at the writing desk with you. It's clear, to the point and written in a relaxed, conversational style. Keyes defines the complex fears and anxieties that keep writers from facing the challenge of the blank page and offers insight into moving past fear into joyful written expression! I especially liked all the ancedotes he includes about authors like Hemingway, Faulkner, Proust and Fitzgerald. Anyone who agonizes over what he/she writes will appreciate this book. It is not, however, a "how-to" writing book in the traditional sense. The focus of the book remains on techniques that enhance creativity and flow, not on developing story ideas, characterizations, plots, settings, voice, theme, etc. There are plenty of other books on that. What Keyes offers is an encouraging dialog to keep you committed and help you through your sleepless nights. I rate this one right up there with "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg.
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Format: Paperback
I initially started reading this book thinking I would get practical advice on how not to be afraid to write and send my work in for publication. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the fear is normal, and to be embraced and used, not squashed and hidden away. I have a fresh perspective on writing. I also enjoyed the anecdotes about famous writers and their quirks. The only downside of reading this book is it left me thinking I'm not neurotic enough to be a great writer!
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