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The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear
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The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  943 ratings  ·  114 reviews
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."An author who has taught writing for more than thirty years, Ralph Keyes assures readers that anxiety is felt by wr ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 1st 2003 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1995)
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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
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
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
Lynda Felder
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
Jesse Frankel
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
"Not writing constitutes the ultimate triumph of fear." This book is remarkably 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"!!!! ...more
Renee Alberts
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
Beth Vogt
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
Randall Drum
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
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
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
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
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.)
Leslie Reese
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
Katie  Kurtz
Great book to jumpstart your writing ambitions! Keyes includes a lot of examples from other writers - known and not so well known - that illustrate just how much muster it takes to stare at a blank page and make something happen.

I've been circling around committing to my own writing and after I finished reading this, I rented my own office space the next day. I plan to buy this and The Writer's Book of Hope to keep on my desk - it gives you the kind of inspirational/motivational pushes that are
Ellen Keim
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.
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."
Abner Rosenweig
If you are looking for courage to write, Keyes' book can help.

It feels a bit watered down in places, however this is because the author attempts to identify the whole gamut of fears writers might confront. Many of the fears covered in the beginning simply didn't apply to me; at least, not consciously. As I progressed, however, I ran across many familiar fears and was reminded about what good writing is in the process.

It turns out that, not only are good writing and fear related, they are symbi
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.
Hillary DePiano
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.
Jonathan Scruggs
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".
Crystal Lynn Kamm
This books is a pretty good motivator for all the aspects of a writer's life that can be so discouraging at times!
This is a great touchstone book for me...reminding me that no, I'm not as crazy as I sometimes think...
My absolute favorite writing book!!!
Overall, this was a very good book. I loved all the quotes from famous writers regarding their writing habits. I felt that this was the most helpful part of the book. Their stories were encouraging, inspiring, and quite often entertaining. It reminded me that no writers write the same - and that's okay.

The first few chapters initially increased my fear because he talked about fears I hadn't even thought of! He does get past that, though the advice to find your courage seemed more subtle than I w
Robert Healy III
This book taught me things about the process writers go through in getting their work out in a tangible form; things that I may have took for granted, originally thought about differently, or didn't even know about at all. I would dare to say that this book even taught me things I didn't know about myself! I could easily relate to all of the fears, worries, and stresses the author mentioned, for I too have experienced these fears that writers face -- fears that most readers would never even thin ...more
While Keys injects a bit of his personal bias as to what constitutes good writing (he's very much of the "transparent" school, and doesn't seem to have much tolerance for postmodern weirdness and experimentation), his overall message is so helpful to the aspiring writer that I'll give the man a pass on the aforementioned editorializing. The Courage To Write discusses something that goes largely, bafflingly undiscussed in the writing community: that writer's block is, more often than not, a produ ...more
Saurabh Sharma
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
Certainly a subject worth writing about, but I'm not sure this book did a particularly good job of creating a meaningful message to take away. After chapter upon chapter of depressing anecdotes about how all writers are faced with fears--some neurotic, some legit--the basic idea seemed to be, Writing Is Scary, But Do It Anyway. Which...I'm guessing most readers of this book will already know.

It was also a bit disturbing to see the tendency toward romanticizing artists who are depressed, angry, u
Although I disagreed with many things the author had to say, I was also motivated, assisted, and intrigued by many parts of this book. The quotations and stories about how many famous writers deal and dealt with anxiety are interesting and in many cases surprising and revealing. The book is easy to read though lacking in complexity in some places (ex. saying that the use of less than simple vocabulary is a way authors try to hide what they really want to say due to fear). Reading this book was a ...more
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  • Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within
  • Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
  • Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams
  • Making a Literary Life
  • The Writer's Idea Book
  • The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life
  • Becoming a Writer
  • A Writer's Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life
  • The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
  • Take Joy: A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft
  • Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer's Life
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
  • Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life
  • The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction
  • Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language & Style
  • The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life
  • The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art
  • 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...
Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms I Love it When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech Wit and Wisdom: A Book of Quotations The Writer's Book of Hope: Getting from Frustration to Publication Is there life after high school?

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“Fear is felt by writers at every level. Anxiety accompanies the first word they put on paper and the last.” 15 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)” 10 likes
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