Well, y’all. I learned something new today.
I was going to open this post talking about the “dog days of summer,” and then I started wondering–what does that actually mean? I always associated it with that sense of summer lethargy where all you can really manage is repositioning yourself in front of the fan, but I wasn’t sure that was right. I also wondered if it had something to do with Sirius, the dog star–and apparently, it does!
(Here’s a gratuitous picture of my Sirius Black, who heartily approves of anything associated with dogs.)
But what I didn’t know is that there are actual days associated with this period. The Old Farmer’s Almanac says that the forty days beginning on July 3 are the dog days of summer–the hottest part of the year in most of the Northern Hemisphere.
The good news is that those 40 days ended on August 11, so we’re past the worst of it all–in theory. And I will say–we had a lovely morning a couple of days ago where it was a crisp 47 degrees when I got up, and I could feel a tiny hint of fallishness in the air. Kids are going back to school, the schedule is slowly getting back to normal, and I’m starting to think about knitting projects again. Fall is my favorite time of year, so this all bodes well for my general creativity.
Anyway, on to the real topic today–rule number five of my 10 Rules for 2023: Be Brave.*
Why I Wrote This Rule
I confess: I have real trouble being brave.
As much as I would like to believe that I’m a 100% girl boss with all the accompanying attitude and willingness to stick my neck out–I am most assuredly not. I think that a lot of how I really want to behave comes out through characters like Igraine and Mairead, because I am actually a lot more like Minerva. I am not brave by nature. I do not like confrontation or risk. I prefer to control the amount of attention I draw by limiting how much people see of me.
So back in December and January, as I started thinking about what I wanted 2023 to look like and where I wanted to go with my writing, I realized that I needed to start making braver decisions. I needed to be bolder. I needed to face my fears and overcome them. I needed to take calculated risks and see what came of them.
Have I done these things?
No. I have not.
The Struggle is Real
I have only really started to even think about this rule seriously in the last couple of weeks. I hit some setbacks early in the year, and then we got super busy with life and travel, and I used the setbacks and the busy-ness as excuses to not do a lot of the things I wanted to do this year. Yes, there are limits to time and space, physically and mentally, but I will own the fact that I spent a lot of time doing unimportant things.
So what is holding me back?
But I’m trying to narrow down what the fear actually is, and honestly? I don’t know.
When I think about marketing my business, I have the same hesitations and frustrations that I used to have, but I also know that I can overcome those ones. It’s just a law of averages–make enough calls, send enough e-mails, and someone will respond and hire me. Sure, rejection stinks, but I also managed it before and survived.
It’s a little trickier when it comes to my fiction, probably because that’s a little closer to my heart. And there is a part of me that still whispers that my work isn’t good enough to sell, that if it were, I’d have a mainstream publishing contract. But I also know that I have my loyal threes of fans to bolster me and recommend me, and that counts for so much more than I could ever express.
I know that it’s fear that’s holding me back from marketing my commercial writing and promoting my fiction. But I think that to be braver about the whole thing, I need to narrow down what that specific fear is and where it comes from.
Bravery vs. Courage
I think it helps to differentiate between “bravery” and “courage.” The word “bravery” probably comes from a 16th Century Italian word “braveria”; synonyms for “bravery” are words like boldness, daring, spunk, nerve, and audacity.
Courage, on the other hand, comes from a late 13th Century Middle English “corage,” which comes from the Old French word “cuer,” which comes from the Latin “cor,” which means “heart.” Synonyms include intrepidity, pluck, and spirit.
It seems to me that there’s grittiness to courage that there isn’t with bravery. Courage, maybe, is something deeper–something considered, something where one counts the cost and moves ahead anyway. Courage is able to distinguish between something important and worth the risk, like defending a deeply held belief even if it means losing important things, and something risky but unimportant or risky with a low possible return.
Bravery is more impulsive, maybe–something where fear doesn’t have time to kick in and warn you against an action, where instinct or impulse takes over. Bravery could also be a result of previous courage; a firefighter who rescues someone from a burning building has already done the mental calculus required to take the action and decided that the risk is worth the reward. In that decisive moment, instinct kicks in because the work is already embedded in the heart.
It’s important to note, too, that fear is a feature of humanity, not a bug. Fear kept us alive on the African savannah, where our lizard brains assumed that a rustle in the grass was a predator, not just the wind. Fear can still serve us socially; it might keep us between the navigational beacons of cultural norms because we would rather fit in than suffer the pain of shame or embarrassment. Fear of ending up destitute might keep us from gambling everything on a “sure thing.”
But none of those things are real risks for me in the realm of my work.
Promoting my business or my fiction is not going to put my life at risk, and the worst social sting I might suffer would be losing a few ties I’m not particularly committed to in the first place. I cash flow all the expenses of publishing, so the worst financial sting I might suffer from promoting fiction is buying a bunch of books no one wants.
If all of these things are true, I have no excuses for not being braver.
Results so Far
In short–there are none.
This is my challenge for the next four months: be brave, be courageous, step out boldly, do risky (but not stupid) things, and overcome fear.
I’m not exactly sure where to begin with that, but I think maybe it starts by continuing this post next week… Maybe another week will help me come up with a more concrete path forward.
*Yes, I know I skipped Rule #4: Be Kind. I’ll come back to that one. Rule #5 is what’s on my mind right now.