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The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,551 Ratings  ·  143 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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Fabian
Sep 09, 2013 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
...more
justscribbling
Aug 30, 2010 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
...more
Jamie
Sep 19, 2013 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
...more
Djrmel
Feb 27, 2009 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
Ju$tin
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
4.5

real col book if your an asspiriting writer liek me
gaudeo
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although a bit out of date, this book is still highly relevant. And it focuses less on the particulars of writing than on the courage to write at all--this writer's greatest bane. Chapter 9 is especially inspiring. Recommended for all writers and writers in training.
Lynda Felder
Apr 16, 2012 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
...more
Ellen Keim
Jun 06, 2012 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.
Xainab
Jul 17, 2016 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.
Jery Schober
Jan 15, 2015 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
...more
Carol
Apr 22, 2012 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.
Kecia
Aug 27, 2007 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...
Celtria
May 02, 2017 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
...more
Shira
Feb 10, 2017 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
...more
Renee Alberts
Oct 23, 2008 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 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
...more
Randall Drum
Mar 15, 2011 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
...more
Tom Franklin
Aug 19, 2012 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
...more
Beth Vogt
Mar 30, 2014 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
...more
Gloria
Jan 04, 2011 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.)
...more
Mary
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
...more
Leslie Reese
Mar 01, 2014 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
...more
Nina Dreyer
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An essential read for any writer who's ever struggled with gnawing self-doubt or looming performance anxiety, which, I suppose, is most of us. This book is not so much a gritty, hands-on 'how to avoid passive voice' sort of writing manual, and more of a guide to overcoming common writerly anxieties, and at that, it excels. This book will invaluable for anyone 'presuming to put words on papers for others to read,' from novelists to journalists to essayists to those facing the agonies of thesis wr ...more
Jeff
Dec 01, 2014 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 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.
Pam
Sep 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
My absolute favorite writing book!!!
Crystal Lynn Kamm
Mar 04, 2014 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 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.
Paula
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
As I try to encourage more and more teachers to write (and consider themselves writers) I understand this is not easy. The Courage to Write was insightful in exposing the fears, anxieties, and sense of inadequacy that many successful writers have felt. Keyes is careful to discern the difference between courage and fearlessness: coaxing writers to work thru those fears by writing. This book will inspire me during those times of doubt and lack of motivation. If you are looking for more nuts and bo ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #53 The Courage To Write: How Writers Transcend Fear 1 1 Jul 23, 2017 05:40AM  
  • 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: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers
  • 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
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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
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“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)” 10 likes
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