Dani Shapiro
June 10, 2010

On Courage

I’ve been thinking lately that courage has nothing to do with the absence of fear, but rather, with being willing to walk into the fear and straight through it to the other side.  With feeling the fear and not letting it stop you.  I’ve been on the road (again) this week, and I’ve had my moments.  I did a big radio show, appearing on a panel with some very smart people who I suspected might be smarter than me.  I appeared on TV, which always gets me agitated.  All through this, I found myself thinking about the difference between fear and excitement.  It’s a fine line: the pounding heart, the sweating palms, the buzzing head.  As I walked from the green room into the recording studio, I though to myself: cool–look at what you get to do!  As I waited in the wings of the TV show, about to go on the air, I reminded myself that I was excited.  Not terrified.  And do you know what?  It sort of worked.

But when it come to writing, I think courage expresses itself differently.  What does it mean to find a voice?  To experiment wildly?  To be willing to fail?  Without the willingness to fall flat on our faces, we cannot create anything of value.  Without the gnawing, roiling, back-up-against-the-wall feeling of not-knowing, we can’t begin to hope to know.  It’s so easy to forget this.  To think that somehow, that the road to a powerful piece of work can ever be a smooth one.  Seven books, and I still have to remind myself of this.  In meditation, and in life, we are always beginning again.  We also begin again every time we set pen to paper.  What we did yesterday, or last month, or last year–that does little to bolster us.  We have to once again buck up our courage, face our fear, and walk–perhaps even with some small degree of excitement–into the abyss.