July Editorial: It's Not Easy
Brand new PHS editor Corrina Lawson makes her official debut with our editorial this month, reflecting on the subject of seeking, finding and (hopefully!) inspiring courage.
Confession: I don’t feel like I possess any courage as a writer.
I know, this month is the Pink Heart Society’s Courage month and this is my first article and that sounds contrary. But I feel inadequate to address courage as it applies to me.
I see courageous people around me every day. For instance, the people who run Pink Heart and shout to the world what romance is and why it matters. Given our patriarchal society, it takes courage to publicly stand for the romance genre.
But while I feel a lot of emotions about my writing life, courage isn’t one of them. I feel frustrated at sales, I’m annoyed that the pictures in my head don’t always match the words on the page, I discover joy at finally nailing that scene that I’ve been working on for so long, and I’m terrified about anything involving marketing.
My writing mentor, Jennifer Crusie, used to say Emily Dickinson had the right idea: keep writing, then stuff it in the shoebox and people can read it after you’re gone. That seems like a great option, sometimes.
I don’t believe my sitting down to write is courageous act. I feel like a fraud to claim courage on that basis because the truth is I need to write like I need to breathe. I must write to stay sane, to paraphrase Stephen King. And so when people ask me how do I manage to write through grief, or emergencies, or anxiety, all I can say is that writing is what I literally do to cope with all that. Making up a story in my head, even if I never write it down, calms me. I notice authors who write through life’s challenges when writing isn’t the place they go for solace. They’re using up their creative, life energy to produce art that enriches the lives of others, but it drains them. I’m in awe of the courage of those writers.
Perhaps my uneasy relationship with courage (or lack thereof) is why I’m in love with stories from my two favorite genres: romance and superheroes. Characters in a romance choose love, an act of immense courage in a capricious and sometimes uncaring world. The superhero story is founded on the belief people can make a better world, despite their own traumas and despite the tragedies around them.
I have absorbed courage from these stories all my life.
And when I started writing fiction, I turned to romance and superheroes.
My first published romance, Carnal Blessing, is an erotic romance novella surrounding a Viking fertility ritual in a tribe nearly destroyed by loss. The people in that tale must find the courage to go on after grief.
I combined romance and superheroes in my Phoenix Institute series, an idea inspired by the X-Men stories I read as a teen. My young hero and heroine find the courage to fight for what’s right, and to acknowledge how much they care about each other, even when they should become enemies instead. In retrospect, it’s as if by writing courage into their stories, I vicariously absorbed it.
The next story I tackled was a Sherlock Holmes-inspired steampunk, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, set in Victorian London where there is a discovery of magic fueled steam-powered inventions. The heroine, Joan Krieger, is driven to know the truth of the murders surrounding her family’s dressmaker shop. Joan has far more courage in confronting the truth of the mystery than I’ll ever possess.
As a writer, I suspect I unconsciously hoped the courage of the characters born in my imagination would inspire courage in their creator.
There are times I ask myself “What Would Joan Do?” and that lends me strength. Before I become a writer, I drew strength through stories. Such as reading about Batman rising above his parents’ murder to protect a whole city, or watching the hero of Linnea Sinclair’s Hope’s Folly take on an impossible mission, a true folly, and doing it despite the odds against him and his crew.
While I have no idea if other authors draw strength from their characters, I know other readers can vicariously absorb courage or we wouldn’t have the phrase “Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman/Wonder Woman.” And we wouldn’t have the wonderful cosplayers who are so inspired by certain characters they want to inhabit them for a little while.
My greatest wish as a writer is the hope my stories inspire courage in others, as stories helped me cope when I needed them. That would be a beautiful circle.
Is courage something you feel you feel is a necessity when writing, are still working on finding or have found inspirational in the actions of others? Let us know in the comments or by joining the conversation on this subject on our Social Media using #ItsNotEasy
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