“You’re so brave.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that phrase. There’s nothing to do when someone says it besides smile, blush, and say an awkward, too-quiet: “Thanks.” Because I don’t feel all that brave. I live my life. That’s what I do. I live my life, letting the days pile up behind each other, just as everyone else does, and hopefully in those days I’ve done and said things that will make the world a bit better for everyone else.
I am someone who may not see himself as all that “brave”, but I do embrace my creativity. And for this creativity I have always needed an outlet. I found mine early. Writing.
In elementary school, a teacher told my dad, “Derek will be published someday.”
My dad, a writer himself, took this to heart and told me what the teacher had said. I never wrote because he wrote. I wrote because I had to. But the fact that he wrote also let us bond on that level.
For years, writing gave me reason. It was the thing that made all my struggles worthwhile. If I could eventually turn all of them into stories that let people see the world anew through my not-so-good eyes, then they wouldn’t really have been struggles after all, would they? Tests, maybe, but not struggles.
Many years passed. I was twenty-six by the time I began a novel I described as: “My story, fictionalized and embellished, but hopefully real.” I had never written a novel before, favoring short stories and poetry instead, and doubted if I could manage it.
Well, I did.
But after working as hard as I possibly could to turn it out, I let someone else decide it wasn’t any good before it had the chance to be anything. “Why are you writing?” this person said. “It’s not like it’s going to go anywhere. You should get a real job.” You’re not making any money from writing, so stop, they meant.
I let myself believe that this one measuring stick, cash, was a judge of talent. I sunk deep down into myself. And I stopped writing. Because what was the point, anyway?
It has taken me to this very day to drag myself up out of my scared-gopher hole. (Did you know us writers live in gopher holes?) To say to myself with conviction, “That person didn’t know what they were talking about!” (There are some people who get some kind of joy out of seeing others languish; I’ve never understood it, and I never will). But I did it. I’m writing again, working on a couple new pieces, and wishing my father, a fellow writer and one of the best people I know, luck at finding a publisher who believes in him the way all writers should believe in themselves. I wish that for him on this Father’s Day, his 33rd.
If you want to call me brave, that’s fine. But call me brave not for living my life, because we all do that. Call me brave because I recognized my talent and, when challenged–and through much reflection–I finally refused to let someone who didn’t see it convince me it wasn’t there to be seen.
For that, I’m brave.