“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” ~G.K. Chesterton

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People have asked me what it takes to be a writer. I think they want me to qualify the act somehow, to say that if you’ve been published, you are a writer, or if you write a lot, then you are a writer. But I think that being a writer is relatively simple, on the surface. It requires only two things:

You must write.

You must be courageous.

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Good writing requires courage. The courage to start, when you can’t see very far down the path. The courage to continue, when putting one foot in front of the other means you will be telling people things you’ve told no living soul. The courage to open the doors of closets, very long kept locked. The courage to give the story its own space and freedom, to let go of the reigns and let it gallop aimlessly, where it will. And good writing requires the courage to finish: to call it quits when you realize there is nothing along that path, or when the story has been told.

And, most of all, writing requires the courage to start again, even when there is no evidence that another try will get you anywhere but where the previous attempts have gotten you: dead ends, or places of pain.

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And it’s not as if one day you finally receive the requisite amount of courage, and can, from then on, move forward unfettered. No, what I’ve discovered is that the more courage I have, the more I need.

I finally gained the courage to write about my past, and suddenly realized that even greater courage was needed to write about my present.

I finally gained the courage to push on to the middle, and then realized that my greatest fear was rooted in the completion of the work.

I know I am not as courageous as I should be. I hope I am courageous enough, for today.

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“The place where I had freedom most was when I painted. I was completely and utterly myself. It was more than a profession. It was even therapy, for there I just told it as it was. It takes a lot of courage in life, to tell it how it is.” Alice Neel

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Shawn Smucker has co-written “Twist of Faith” (the biography of Anne Beiler, founder of Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzels) and “Think No Evil” (the story of forgiveness found in the Amish Schoolhouse Shooting). His most recent book, “83 Lost Sheep,” explores how Christians can love a nation that has given up on church.
He blogs at www.shawnsmucker.com and lives in Paradise, Pennsylvania. The streets are not made of gold, but he does have a wonderful wife and four beautiful children.

Behold the Only Thing Greater than Yourself Sculpture“Behold The Only Thing Greater Than Yourself” from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Garden, Atlanta, GA (Sculpture by Patrick Morelli; Digital Photo by Patrick Alan Swigert)