One of the books that affected me greatly as a teenager was Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.
You know the story. Anne Frank was a 13-year old Jewish girl living in Frankfurt, Germany when she received a diary for her birthday. Her family fled Nazi Germany to live in Amsterdam, where they remained in hiding for two years before they were discovered. Sadly, Anne died in a concentration camp at age 15.
In her diary, Anne wrote: "I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more."
Anne Frank's diary became her confidante, her safe harbor where she could vent, relieve stress, and better understand herself and her world. Had she survived the Holocaust, she might have become the journalist she aspired to be or an activist, a social worker or maybe all three. We will never know, of course.
But in penning her experiences (and her father having the insight to publish her memoir), Anne gave the world a literary treasure, a truthful account that not only reveals a horrific era in history, but offers valuable life lessons in compassion, forgiveness, and hope.
Find your courage to be authentic
Like writing good stories, courage is an ability that all writers must develop. It takes courage to study the world and write what you see and hear. It takes courage to follow your heart and write your truth. You need courage every single time you pick up that pen or sit at that computer, braving the possibility of anger or retaliation for whatever you wish to express. These are the risks we must accept if our intention is to write to be read.
I felt I was taking a huge risk while writing Mad About Hue: A Memoir in Living Color. I had no genie-in-a-bottle nor mentor to guide me through my memories of pain, doubt, anger, shame or frustrations. I just winged it, and at times it was scary, as if I was performing open heart surgery on myself. Yet I soldiered on because I had made a personal commitment to my readers to be authentic.
I'm inspired by the courage of Anne Frank and I've wondered how I would fare if I, too, had to endure the worst of human nature. Fortunately, I am not threatened by bombs and brutality as I write, but that doesn't mean I've never felt fear. We all have. The challenge is finding ways to rise above it. In my book, Write Awake: A Conscious Path to Creativity and Change, I give examples of how writers might release their fears and find their courage:
Write a list of all your fears.
Review the list and next to each fear, write about the experiences which created that fear.
Think of the scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where the students addressed their fears through the shapeshifting boggart. Then review each fear from your list and associate it with something ridiculous that makes you chuckle. For instance, would you still have a fear of flying if that jumbo jet was actually a sleigh full of toys with jolly ol’ Saint Nick as your pilot?
Once you are overcome with silliness, write a positive statement that would help you detox each fear and then practice saying these affirmations at least twice a day. Write something like: "I have no fear of failure because I know I am talented and can always try again" OR "I have no fear of being attacked because I am always protected and in a state of Love." Then practice saying these affirmations at least twice a day.
What is happening in your world? Are there changes you would like to see? Do you have the courage to write about it?
Having courage means boldly going through every obstacle. It means having the courage to face atrocities while believing there is hope beyond the darkness. The more we practice courage, the more it is mastered!
Write and complete this sentence: As a writer, I can use my fears to ...