By Ralph Keyes

Paperback, 230 pages, 1995.

Henry Holt & Co

Anyone who wants to write from the heart is afraid of exposing himself to rejection. So we come up with legitimate excuses to avoid writing.

“Not writing at all constitutes the ultimate triumph of fear. We seldom admit this, however even to ourselves. We just can’t seem to “get around to it.”

Veteran author and teacher, Keyes exposes our fears, explains why we’re afraid, and helps us confront and cope.

“Fear is a tough adversary. It takes more than mere skills or better tools to keep anxiety from running—or ruining—our show. Imagining that extra preparation makes for better writing is like assuming that the more books we read on weight loss, the thinner we’ll become.”

With his signature wit and cache of quotes, Keyes shows us that we are not alone. Students, professionals, and successful authors ALL grapple with fear. 

Turns out—what makes us afraid is also what makes us great writers.

“Good writing is honest, alive. The more honest and alive our writing, the more we show ourselves. The more we show ourselves, the greater danger we’re in. The greater danger we’re in, the more scared we are. Hence fear is a marker on the path toward good writing.”

Knowing that our pain feeds our creativity, we’ll gain self-acceptance and appreciate our colorful past. Stories are fueled by bad behavior.

Keyes’ book is itself an act of courage. He attacks academic obscurity, professional jargon, and lazy authors who don’t bother to clarify.

“Saying exactly what one means is hard work. Being vague is far easier.”

“A lot of what we take to be writing problems are really courage problems, problems about being honest, confronting others and confronting our selves.”