Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear” as Want to Read:
The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  1,485 Ratings  ·  135 Reviews
The Courage to Write is an invaluable book and essential reading for anyone who wishes to learn how to write well.

Katherine Anne Porter called courage "the first essential" for a writer. "I have to talk myself into bravery with every sentence," agreed Cynthia Ozick, "sometimes every syllable." E. B. White said he admired anyone who "has the guts to write anything at all."A
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 1st 2003 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1995)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Courage to Write, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Courage to Write

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Sep 09, 2013 Fabian rated it it was amazing
"Not writing constitutes the ultimate triumph of fear."

This book is remarkable & indispensable! Indeed, much courage (or, the "capacity to move in spite of despair") is needed to even begin to commit words to a page--and to send it out, and to handle criticism, and for the writer to be away from life by outright ignoring it when "in the zone." Virginia Woolf puts it beautifully: everyone in the know covets "th[at] exalted sense of being above time and death which comes from the writing mood
Aug 30, 2010 justscribbling rated it it was amazing
This started as an easy read, with me nodding along, and going "huh, that's /exactly/ it", then it started to poke into my head and began to dig deep whispering hard questions that I'm still trying to come to grips with, and before I knew it, I'd finished the book-- the second "writing" book I've ever managed to finish so far, and I have shelves full of 'em.

Anyone who has struggled to write, wondered why they subject themselves to the madness, and yet kept coming back as if unable to stop needs
Sep 19, 2013 Jamie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a gift, and a well-meaning one, but I’m just so allergic to any kind of pandering self-help. I skimmed through it pretty quickly, and feel free to dismiss my review based on that, but there wasn’t much here that seemed valuable, like it couldn’t be tagged with a slick-talking “for the low, low price of $29.95, you too can achieve everything you ever dreamed!”

I think if you’re scared of writing, you’re still writing. I think if you’re scared of writing and you’re reading this book, you’r
May 31, 2016 Ju$tin rated it it was amazing

real col book if your an asspiriting writer liek me
Feb 27, 2009 Djrmel rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
This is the book to turn to when that little voice inside your head begins to whisper (and then shout if you let it get away with it) "You? A writer?? Who do you think you're kidding??!?!?". This is the book you read when you hear that same vice as you sit down in front of a key board or pick up a pen asking, "What will my family think if they read this?", followed quickly by "What if no one but my family ever reads this?". And lastly, this is the book to read when you think that if what you are ...more
Lynda Felder
Apr 16, 2012 Lynda Felder rated it it was amazing
According to Ralph Keyes, if you aren’t scared to write, if you aren’t facing demons when you face the blank page (and some call this writer’s block), then you may be:

* kidding yourself
* writing banal, inane, trivial stuff
* not writing at all

E.B. White worried over every word. Margaret Atwood said that you need a kind of physical nerve to write, “the kind you need to walk a log across a river.” Donald Murray talked about his writing students who had nothing to say on the page, because they felt
Ellen Keim
Jun 06, 2012 Ellen Keim rated it liked it
This book is more inspiration than instruction. It doesn't really tell you how to face your fears and get the courage to write. It's more of a validation of the feelings that almost all writers have when faced with the prospect of writing. It took me a while to read it because I kept getting sidetracked by other books I wanted to read more. In the end I was glad I read it because it helped me to understand where my fears come from and that I am not alone.
Jul 17, 2016 Xainab rated it really liked it
"Literature: proclaiming in front of everyone what one is careful to conceal from one's own immediate circle." - Jean Rostand

"Oftentimes, it is our own private thoughts, the parts we hide of ourselves that tend to be the most universal." - Eric Charles

This book is not going to teach you how to write. However, it can certainly give you the will to write things which you've always felt, but have never vocalized or admitted even to yourself.
Apr 22, 2012 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-info, fear
Keyes writes on how writers can successfully face their fears just like every writer faces. The book is divided into two sections: 1) elements of courage and 2) coming to terms with fear. It is comforting to know that many well known writers struggle with the same issues, and overcame the challenge. Great little book packed with wisdom.
May 02, 2017 Celtria rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Some reviewers have referred to The Courage to Write as a self-help book, it isn't, at least not in the usual sense of the phrase: no x week plan, no steps to follow, no formulae. If you're looking for that type of book, this will disappoint: "Since fears are so singular among writers, it's hard to suggest specific antidotes suited to them all."

If you're a writer, you'll no doubt find yourself reflected in its honestly written pages as it holds "as 'twere the mirror up to nature" (Hamlet, Act3 S
Feb 10, 2017 ShiraHE rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Guilty as Charged...

This book was Horrifyingly accurate. The fear that stalks me all the time looks over my shoulder as I write this pitifully short review, twisting my stomach into a very tiring knot.

I must get to my revision, but I think I find it far easier and a little bit more interesting, or at least less stressful, to get back to my comparison of Victor Hugo's Notre dame de Paris in the French next to Nesrin Altınova's Turkish translation (at least I feel less guilty doing that than sim
Renee Alberts
Oct 23, 2008 Renee Alberts rated it really liked it
Keyes separates this highly approachable and entertaining book into two sections. The first, "The Elements of Courage," examines the many sources of fear for writers and ways fear can manifest itself in the writing process. Causes range from the well-known fears of revealing family secrets, receiving terrible reviews or accidentally publishing mistakes. Some of these fears and their expressions are more surprising, though. For instance, the constant procrastination so many writers experience mig ...more
J.S. Frankel
Aug 19, 2014 J.S. Frankel rated it liked it
To be honest, I'm not into self-help books as they often preach and preach badly. However, in all fairness, this was a very well written self-help book that dares writers to ask themselves why they want to write and how to surmount the fear of actually putting pen to paper.

The problem is often writers--and people in other professions as well--tend to overanalyze things, leading to a paralysis by analysis scenario which can often lead to failure. Whatever happened to just sitting down, butt in c
Randall Drum
Mar 15, 2011 Randall Drum rated it really liked it
Writers will read any number of books about the craft, whether part of a college program or on their own. There are so many books about writing (from nuts and bolts of language and structure to the emotional connections that we all struggle to make/maintain) that it is often difficult to find the right book for you and what you need.

I pay little attention to reviews of books about writing because we all get something different from them. I have read poor reviews about "The Courage to Write" and
Tom Franklin
Aug 19, 2012 Tom Franklin rated it really liked it
This is the second time I've read "The Courage to Write" and each time it has proven to be a balm to my torn writer's soul. Keyes provides plenty of examples of well-known writers who have experienced the same paralyzing fear of writing that I have -- a fear that, due to writings' solitary nature, is too easily personalized and not discussed. Knowing I am not alone with that fear is comforting.

The only catch with Keyes' book is there isn't a lot of advice about overcoming that fear. Keyes does d
Jery Schober
Jan 15, 2015 Jery Schober rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-advice
Immensely helpful, not about writing but how to BE a writer. Deals with every kind of fear a writer may have, and then some more. Helped me more than most books which deal with techniques, plot development and character building. This one deals with the heart of a writer.
It shows you where fear comes from, what to do to overcome it and why some fears are useful. It does not teach you how to write, but to write in spite of fear. To put your heart on the page requires courage. The more heart, the
Beth Vogt
Mar 30, 2014 Beth Vogt rated it really liked it
I read The Courage to Write at the recommendation of another author who taught at a local writer's group -- and I'm glad I did. I enjoyed how Keyes's included so many other writers' perspectives and their quotes. And I also appreciated the different ways he approached courage (and fear) in such topics as:
1. page fright
2. chief censor
3. honest fiction
4. give groups a chance
5. courage boosters

This book is a keeper, with many favorite quotes underlined. I'm not saying I agreed with everything Keye
Jan 04, 2011 Gloria rated it really liked it
Keyes had the audacity to put in print every single excuse I've come up with for not writing (and a few I'd not thought of.)
I don't remember when my joy of writing for the sheer pleasure of it was overshadowed by a number of fears and/or excuses. I just know that reading about well-known, established, and talented authors who struggle with the same thing was heartening. That "I'm not alone in this" thing. (Ironic, since writers tend to be solitary creatures by nature more often than not anyway.)
I found this book absolutely amazing. As a novice writer with a huge amount of fear of writing and yet an undeniable call to write, this book was serendity for me. I marked each page I found especially helpful and the book has stickers an at least half the book!

The author, Ralph Keyes, wrote in a straight forward way bringing in examples of famous writers who had experienced the same feelings and obstacles that I am facing. I will definitely keep this book next to my computer as I write and refe
Leslie Reese
Mar 01, 2014 Leslie Reese rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: about-writing
This book drove me nuts!
---In a good way.

Ralph Keyes unmasked/exposed my creative hubris, touching on writers’ fears, insecurities, and anxieties in 202 pages. A big woman version of myself laughed at me like she was Evillene in The Wiz. She mocked me for thinking so highly of myself and my talent and suggested that I employ my wild imagination toward actual written production rather than fantasizing scenarios in which my writerly brilliance cures cancer, feeds the hungry, and transforms grouchy
Dec 01, 2014 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Dare I say it? "An encouraging book." Plenty of why to, how to, and look who else has the same fears and doubts and challenges that you do, and you know what, they succeeded, so can you. It's not always the best writer's that make it, it's the most determined and persistent, those willing to soldier on, even in spite of the resistance and the discouragement and lack of faith that others may express about your dream of being "a Writer."
Hillary DePiano
May 28, 2012 Hillary DePiano rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. I thought it was going to be some hippy thing about how "brave" writers are for being special snowflakes but it's actually a psychological, scientific and historical perspective on why writers experience fear and how some combat it. Very matter of fact, interesting and easy reading.
Sep 05, 2008 Pam rated it it was amazing
My absolute favorite writing book!!!
Crystal Lynn Kamm
Mar 04, 2014 Crystal Lynn Kamm rated it really liked it
This books is a pretty good motivator for all the aspects of a writer's life that can be so discouraging at times!
Jonathan Scruggs
Sep 19, 2014 Jonathan Scruggs rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This one now belongs in my personal library of "most helpful books on writing I've ever read," along with White's "The Elements of Style" and Zinsser's "On Writing Well".
Emma Sea
originally read April 2, 2014. So forgettable I completely forgot I'd read it, bought it on kindle, re-read in Oct 2015, and would still only give it 2 stars.
Aug 27, 2007 Kecia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-on-writing
This is a great touchstone book for me...reminding me that no, I'm not as crazy as I sometimes think...
May 12, 2017 Shelby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. Pretty basic stuff, but presented well. I wish I had encountered this book earlier in my life -- it would have saved me a lot of time and angst.
Saurabh Sharma
Sep 23, 2013 Saurabh Sharma rated it really liked it
A wonderful book that describes the biggest block faced by writers- Fear. In this book, the author Ralph Keyes, talks about how fear in so many ways becomes the most significant stumbling block for all writers- aspiring or published. Among the most notable fears that paralyzes writers is the fear of exposing too much of themselves and their loved ones through their writings. The fear of revealing too much of their inner thoughts and personality and being judged by their readers often forces auth ...more
Feb 11, 2017 Kathleen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Read in 2015. A good dose of encouragement.

“It’s startling to discover how timid some very bold writers were in person. James Joyce, for example, spent his life terrorized by dogs, rats, and claps of thunder. Emily Dickinson rarely left her parents’ home. Proust sealed out the world beyond his study with cork-lined walls. How can such meek and mild authors dare to write at all, let alone well? In fact, the two may be connected. Their very timidity makes them write as if their lives depended on i
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within
  • Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams
  • Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
  • The Writer's Idea Book
  • A Writer's Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life
  • Making a Literary Life
  • Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer's Life
  • Becoming a Writer
  • Take Joy: A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft
  • The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life
  • Write Away : One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
  • The Complete Handbook Of Novel Writing: Everything You Need To Know About Creating & Selling Your Work (Writers Digest)
  • The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
  • One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer's Art and Craft
  • On Becoming a Novelist
  • Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language & Style
  • The Forest for the Trees
Ralph Keyes is an author, speaker and teacher. His 15 books deal with topics ranging from time pressure to human height. Keyes’s bestseller Is There Life After High School? was made into a Broadway musical that is still produced in this country and abroad. Since being published in 1995 his book The Courage to Write has become a standard work among aspiring writers in particular.

Keyes’s recent boo
More about Ralph Keyes...

Share This Book

“Fear is felt by writers at every level. Anxiety accompanies the first word they put on paper and the last.” 21 likes
“...wrote Lawrence Block. "Someone once told me that fear and courage are like lightning and thunder; they both start out at the same time, but the fear travels faster and arrives sooner. If we just wait a moment, the requisite courage will be along shortly." (quoted from Write for Your Live by Lawrence Block)” 9 likes
More quotes…