THE COURAGE TO WRITE by Ralph Keyes

THE COURAGE TO WRITE

How Writers Transcend Fear
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An inflated expansion on an insightful comment from Tom Wolfe (``What's called writer's block is almost always ordinary fear''). Just in case aspiring writers need a few more reasons to descend into a total creative abyss, Keyes (Chancing It: The Meaning of Risk, 1985) suggests a host of terrors that await them. Don't think that problems end when you've gotten words on the page--that's just the beginning. Keyes himself ``slipped into a black trough of despair'' when he sent out his first manuscript, and to this day he finds checking galleys an ``excruciating'' process. The published book can be spoiled by ``goofs'': binding gaffes, overlooked factual errors in the text, typos, even (horrors!) an unflattering author photo on the cover. Writers who succeed in running this gauntlet may find themselves ostracized by their nearest and dearest: ``One reason so many good writers have such tattered personal lives is that they write as if they had no one to protect.'' The cumulative effect of all this seems roughly akin to reminding agoraphobics how many people are murdered in public places. Having pointed out how deep and dark the abyss really is, what sort of help does Keyes offer? Basically, he delivers the same sorts of ideas that crop up in writers' conversations and magazines on a regular basis: Find out what other writers do; develop little rituals that make you feel comfortable (e.g., write at the same time each day, dress in a certain way); meet peers at writers' groups and conferences; figure out what's bothering you and try to look it in the face. This book's most obvious use is as an elaborate detour: Reading it lets writer's-block victims spend hours avoiding their problem while convincing themselves they're grappling with it.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8050-3188-X
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995