David Wiley: 30 Seconds of Courage
The writing part of being a writer can be the easiest part, in spite of all of the stories of writer’s block and terrible first drafts and unfinished projects that fall to the wayside. There is a whole lot more involved than just writing things down and telling the stories you want to tell: you have to revise and edit (several times, usually!), search for the right markets/agents/publishers, build a fan base, promote your work, interact on social media, and so much more. But one of the most important things, and sometimes one of the most difficult, is sending off your precious work to a market, agent, or publisher. But it is also the most important, as no one will be magically reading what you have saved on your hard drive or in your notebook at home. So today I’m going to discuss what 30 seconds of courage can do to help you send your writing off to be seen by the public eyes.
Not every story has a heroic character who is always bold and brave and making the right decisions. Many of the heroes from the stories we love are people who, when faced with a critical moment, make a decision that alters their lives and leads them along the path of a hero. It can be in the small things, such as when Neville Longbottom stands up to Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they are sneaking off yet again in the night in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It took courage to stand up to his own housemates and refuse to let them pass him by. It was such a small moment, a little decision, but that moment sent him upon the path that eventually led to him wielding a sword and killing Nagini in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. A similar moment also occurs in the first book when Harry and Ron decide to stand up to a troll to save the unlikable Hermione Granger. Without those 30 seconds of courage, that trio would have never bonded and formed that friendship.
You can see the same moments defining characters in another of my favorite series. Bilbo Baggins has many moments where he uses 30 seconds of courage to press onward, yet one of those prompted a favorite quote of mine in The Hobbit. Bilbo and company are finally in Erebor, the Lonely Mountain, and the dwarves send Bilbo off to do what he was brought for: burglary. He is the first to go deep within the mountain, to where Smaug dwells, and he has a brief scene in the corridors of the mountain. He pauses before going on, alone and afraid, and he can hear the dragon sleeping ahead. With his 30 seconds of courage he decides to go on and Tolkien deems it the bravest things Bilbo ever did.
Not to be outdone, Frodo had his share of courageous moments. One of the first he made willingly, rather than as a participant being swept up in events, came during his time at Rivendell. The One Ring is being discussed and everyone is arguing about what should be done with the ring, and who should take on the burden of the suicide mission of carrying it into Mordor and casting it into the fiery pits of Mount Doom. Frodo uses his 30 seconds of courage to declare that he will take up the ring and carry it to Mordor, even though he does not know the way.
So how can these moments help us, as writers? We know that rejection is one of the aspects of writing. Yet that does not mean we are eager to send our writing out to get those rejections. I have struggled with this many times, the fear of sending a story off to get a rejection. Because that is what I expect, every time, is a rejection. No matter how many times I revise the story, it is not perfect enough in my eyes to gain acceptance. And a story will never be absolutely perfect. I can still read those stories I published and see things I could change, if I had the chance.
But I know I need those 30 seconds of courage to hit submit on an email or submission. There are publications I have dreamed of getting into for years (TOR) but I know they will never read my writing if it remains in my hard drive and never gets sent out (although if TOR does happen to be accessing my hard drive, I would like for them to know they would make my year by publishing even a short story of mine). I still get far more rejections than acceptances for my fiction, but the thrill of seeing my writing in print, being read by others, is the greatest payoff a writer can ask for. I write my stories to have people read them, not to collect dust on my hard drive. So use your own 30 seconds of courage and submit a story today. Send it off to your dream publication, or find a smaller one that interests you. And send it off! You may not get an acceptance right away, but at least you’ll be doing something with that story you’ve been hanging onto and revising for ages.