If you’re someone who feels called to share your creative vision, in whatever media, you know that the act of putting it out there takes courage. Courage is akin to confidence, but it goes even further: courage is what it takes to show up even when you’re not feeling confident at all.
Courage takes conviction, dedication and a willingness to stand up and receive all the responses to your offering, including those rotten tomatoes otherwise known as negative reviews.
I find my courage when I believe in the value of what I’m offering, and believe in myself as the right messenger or vehicle for the work. It takes a lot of courage to write memoir and offer it to the public. Purposeful memoirists can take courage in knowing that we are baring our souls for a reason—to provide a beacon for others coming along the trail behind us, who may be facing similar circumstances and very much in need of the light we can provide.
The opposite of courage is, of course, fear. We live in a fearful, anxious time—a time when there is so much to worry about! From the sixth great extinction to gun violence, from Lyme disease to toxic contamination, from rising seas to rising debt and incompetent, corrupt politicians—we have a lot to legitimately fear.
And yet most of us still summon the courage get up every morning and do our best to make each day count. We may not be able to fix the huge challenges in front of us, but we can work with dedication and courage within our own personal sphere, and trust that the ripples from this good work will go out into the wider world and make a difference.
For me, there were many reasons why it took courage to publish my purposeful memoir, What I Forgot…and Why I Remembered. For years I struggled to understand what I might have to share that others would care about. I didn’t feel my story was interesting enough, or valuable enough. Or at least, that’s what I told myself—perhaps as a cover for simply lacking the courage to put my own story out there, on the line.
I was years into the writing process before I realized that it was the very ordinariness of my story that gave it meaning and value for others. My story, of how my socialization and education in the heart of the capitalist empire had alienated me from my childhood passion for the natural world, was a common one. What was unusual was that I’d managed to find my way back, to remember the mission I’d been given in the very first story I ever wrote, as an 8-year-old sitting with a notebook out in a tiny remnant of old-growth forest. It was a mission to sound the alarm about the destruction of the natural world, and gather others to help.
Once I remembered this story, I found my purpose in writing memoir; and from there the courage came easily, because I knew my offering was being made in the service of larger goals. My memoir was not just about me; it was not self-indulgent or “tooting my own horn.” I was the channel for an important message, and sharing my story was the best way I had, at the time, to express it.
In this month’s Alchemy session, we’ll take the time to catalogue your acts of courage, and the fears and obstacles that tend to hold you back. It often turns out that one act of courage leads to another.
For example, once I had taken the risk of publishing my story, the positive responses that began flowing in gave me the courage to keep going in this new path of purposeful memoir—sharing the elemental journey process with others through my workshops, online courses, coaching, blog and books. For me, as an introvert with a tendency to self-doubt and melancholy, every step of this journey has required courage.
But now I know that every moment of courage offers great rewards. I would not be surprised if this has been true in your life as well.