I love that scene in the movie The Holiday where Iris is having dinner with her unlikely and charming friend, an old man named Arthur Abbott. They’re discussing gumption in leading ladies on film and he tells her to quit playing the ‘best friend role’ in her own life. She says, “You’re right. That was brilliant. I mean, you’re supposed to be the leading lady in your own life, for heaven’s sake!”
By the way, you should know that aside from burritos and GIFs of SNL-funny-ladies, movie quotes are basically my love language. As a self-confessed movie buff, I sometimes get a lot of flack for watching the same movies over and over. (I also get a lot of flack for using the word “flack”, but that’s a story for another day.)
I do realize that watching one film more than 5 times seems excessive and frivolous, but guys! Sometimes I actually learn things, okay? Plus, it’s like therapy, only better. I get to lie on a couch and sort out important life lessons but it only costs a fraction of the price and I don’t have to put on real pants. I think I’m onto something here.
So is Iris, by the way.
In the story of my own life, I may as well swing for the fences and shoot for the role of leading lady, right?
Arthur and Iris got me thinking- about stories, and how every good story requires adventure. And every great adventure requires some amount risk and courage.
Now, before we get too flowery and aspirational here, let me just pause.
I get it.
Living “an adventurous story” and being “a leading lady” who “takes risks” is all fine and good and nice to talk about on a Thursday morning. But it takes actual courage.
Courage is one of those words that are fun to say and hard to do.
And finding courage when you lack it can be even harder.
As I continue to pursue writing, I find myself saying “yes” to all kinds of new, scary, and difficult things. I find myself taking risks, even when I have no idea how it will end. Not because I’m some kind of a badass superhero, but because I’ve simply reached a point where I can no longer ignore the dream and the lure of it’s possibility.
Which is really not like me, by the way, and has led to some extremely anxious, sweaty-palm, nervous-stomach moments when I feel like I’ve suddenly misplaced my courage like it’s a lost set of keys.
Writing is a bit of a lonely endeavor. It requires a lot of time and space to think, to get inside your own head, and to wrestle the words onto the page. Sometimes it feels easy and fun but other times it feels like you’re clawing your way up a mountain.
And terribly unprepared.
With only, like, a couple of carabiners and some ill-fitting spandex shorts. Like Tom Cruise in that one Mission Impossible movie, but minus the multi-million dollar budget and fancy props.
Most days climbing the mountain looks a lot like sitting over here in my little corner of the Internet, hunched over my computer, typing and then back-spacing and deleting. Questioning, shrugging, and then re-writing. Sitting down with a cup of coffee or a glass of whiskey and trying to work my dream into real life. Publishing a post and then wishing I could take it back. Write it better. Be less exposed.
But then sometimes I’ll write a piece I’m really proud of. Every once in a while a writer gets the luxury of knowing in their gut that they wrote something important. Or well-timed. Or funny. But those times are rare.
Usually it’s a roll of the dice. I’m betting on myself and I’m upping the ante every time.
As they say: No guts, no glory, right?
But what do you do when you’re short on both guts and glory?
YOU FIND YOUR PEOPLE.
You find other people who are climbing the same mountain, because it gives you the courage you need to keep going.
Did you hear that part? It actually gives you courage.
In the last year I’ve participated in both the Clumsy Bloggers and the Hope*Writers online groups, and not only have I had access to countless helpful resources and tools, I’ve had access to community. I can essentially sit in a room with writers I respect and ask them questions, spill my guts, and connect with other people who share a similar dream. (Also, they let me post as many funny GIFs as I want. So, jackpot.)
Participating in these communities has been the single biggest source of courage for me lately.
And courage is invaluable, because sometimes while you’re climbing that mountain you start to get weary. You start to see mirages and hear things. You imagine it’s all the good writers, all the cool kids, up there at the top of the mountain having an exclusive and elite Real Writer’s Party. You hear their laughter, glasses clinking, and all their witty banter back and forth. You’re certain they’re all eating caviar and agreeing to write the foreward for each other’s books.
But here’s the thing: There is no Real Writers Party. Or if there is, then it’s not exclusive. Everyone’s invited.
As my friend Melissa says, “There are no cool kids.” Sure, they might be agreeing to write the foreward for each other’s books, but they’re definitely not eating caviar and they are the furthest thing from exclusive and elite.
If anything, I’ve found the writing community to be some of the warmest, kindest, and most generous souls I’ve encountered. I’ve found very real friendships in these communities; people that I talk to almost daily, people who I trust to read and edit my work, and people who spur me on to run in my own lane while I cheer them on in theirs.
Whatever dream you find yourself chasing, I encourage you to find your people. Find community. Because odds are, you’ll find courage there too.