An Exercise in Courage
Over the last few days, I’ve been processing a number of proposals and query letters for Howard Publishing fiction. While I’m actively looking for excellent fiction, I don’t gain any pleasure from telling writers “thanks but no thanks” when it comes to their manuscript. If I had my preference, I’d rather handle my unsolicited manuscripts like many of other publishers—silence or no response. Instead, I’ve taken a proactive stance and at least let the author have a response. Admittedly the response is a form letter because there just simply aren’t enough hours in the day to give specific reasons—no matter how much I would like to do so. (At times, I do send a note of encouragement to the writer—like one today from a 16–year-old missionary kid in Guatemala who sent in a query for his novel. I was amazed because when I was 16, I never thought about such things.) From my view, as I faithfully respond to these authors with their dreams and expectations, my response is an exercise in courage. Now if you are on the receiving end of these rejection letters, you may not view it in that manner but there are only so few spots and so many submissions.
I love what Senator John McCain wrote in the September 2004 issue of Fast Company about courage, “Courage is like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the stronger it gets. I sometimes worry that our collective courage is growing weaker from disuse. We don't demand it from our leaders, and our leaders don't demand it from us. The courage deficit is both our problem and our fault.” Follow the link and you can read the entire article.
How are you exercising your courage muscle? Are you continuing to knock on doors of opportunity through sending book proposals and query letters—even in the face of rejection? Writers need to be persistent. Are you exercising courage by understanding your own need to grow and learn as a writer, then taking proactive steps to increase your excellence in your craft? As Keith H. Hammonds wrote in the December 2005 issue of Fast Company, “Because ultimately, courage is risky. Courage raises the stakes—and too, the possibility of failure. Courage doesn’t guarantee a 10% return…Which is to say, courage isn’t everything. But it remains, we believe, the most important thing—in business and in the daily happenings of humankind.”
OK, back to Senator McCain’s article, he also says, “We’re all afraid of something. The one fear we must all guard against is the fear of ourselves. Don’t let the sensation of fear convince you that you’re too weak to have courage. Fear is the opportunity for courage, not proof of cowardice. No one is born a coward. We were meant to love. And we were meant to have the courage for it.”
I don’t know what you are facing in your writing life or your personal life. Just make sure you are taking time to exercise your courage muscle. I agree with Senator McCain that the more you exercise courage, then your courage muscle grows stronger.