The Lion of Oz and the Courage to Write

The Courageous Lion

Writers are notoriously self-conscious creatures.

We doubt the flow and the cadence of our words. We question the validity of our thoughts. We are eternally plagued by the self-sabotaging belief that nothing we write will ever be good enough.

How could we possibly measure up to the sheer genius of those who stoked the flames of our passion and inspired us to write in the first place?

What if we pour our hearts into our prose, only to have it relentlessly dismembered by critics and trolls?

What if we lay our souls bare and no one notices or cares…

Scarier yet, what if they do?

The King of Beasts

When we read L. Frank Baum’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it’s difficult to imagine it as anything less than the masterpiece we’re familiar with today. Certainly he never doubted that his writing would become a cultural mainstay and touch the lives of millions, right? I mean, great writers are supposed to know they’re great. Why would anyone with such a knack for storytelling ever hesitate to share their gift?

“It’s a mystery,” replied the Lion. “I suppose I was born that way. All the other animals in the forest naturally expect me to be brave, for the Lion is everywhere thought to be the King of Beasts.”

But it’s completely normal for a writer to be filled with apprehension at the thought of publishing their work, and that’s not always a bad thing:

  • It forces us to critically re-examine our words.
  • It can save us from embarrassing errors.
  • It allows us to fine-tune our thoughts.
  • It allows us to redraft our sentences and paragraphs to ensure that they convey our ideas effectively.

But the overly critical writer gets stuck in analysis paralysis.

If we allow the critical voice within to dominate our thoughts and actions, we’ll never share our words at all.

Or perhaps we’ll seek external validation from some all-powerful wizard in an Emerald City (or a well-known blogger) to give us the courage we seek.

“Oz keeps a great pot of courage in his Throne Room,” said the man, “which he has covered with a golden plate, to keep it from running over. He will be glad to give you some.”

And although that wizard may be the most wonderful wiz that ever there was, he’s still just a person. Like all people, even the best writers doubt their words. On a regular basis.

But every great writer started somewhere.   We have  to crush – or at least temporarily suppress – our fear of the critics.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain – he cannot give you anything you don’t already have. The best articles, writing coaches, and blogs do nothing more than awaken you to the truth that you had the courage to write within you all along.

Writing is a risk.  It exposes our hidden desires, passions, fears and vulnerabilities.
Successful writers are the ones who have learned to get comfortable putting themselves on the line and taking that chance.

The Cowardly Lion said it best:

“I am terribly afraid of falling, myself,” said the Cowardly Lion, “but I suppose there is nothing to do but try it. So get on my back and we will make the attempt.”

*All quotations from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Free Project Gutenberg version available here)

Do Tell…

Have you ever struggled to find the courage to write? Do you still? How did you overcome it? You can start small: Share your experience in the comments.


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Douglas Prater

Douglas Prater is the wordsmith-in-chief at Freedomlance Writer. To get the latest Epic Freelance Writing Tips grab the RSS feed, get your free email updates and follow me on twitter. You'll be glad you did.

14 thoughts on “The Lion of Oz and the Courage to Write”

  1. Hey Douglas,

    Lions are my favorite animal and football team – so I appreciated the picture and lion references. :-P

    I also related strongly to what you talked about here. Every post takes me hours to publish and yet I always think – this post was mediocre at best and I’ll write a better one next time. I’ve noticed that I think this with EVERY one. I think I am improving with practice.

    I wonder if writers ever feel like they’ve written that “masterpiece” they’re after. Maybe in retrospect when it sells millions and is renowned worldwide. Or maybe they still sit in their chair and think, “eh, I could have done better than that.”

    1. It’s always hardest for me to publish when I’m close to a piece. Sometimes I’m amazed, though, when I look back at previous works after some time has passed, I’m pleasantly surprised: Often we just need a bit of distance to appreciate our own work. And you make a very good point, too, that the more often you write the easier it becomes set your work free and let the world decide for itself. All we can do is commit to making each piece as good as it can possibly be, and continue to study, practice, and improve as we grow as writers.

  2. Douglas,

    I appreciated this post a great deal. Self doubt has sabotaged a lot of things I’ve written in the past.

    I remember when I started my first blog five years ago. Certain posts I wrote received several comments while others received only one or two. I remember trying to mimic the points I was making in the more popular posts in hopes of achieving more feedback. I strayed away from writing more controversial posts and focused more on crowd pleasing.

    That was a mistake.

    I think it’s important to remember the best part of writing comes with the process of creation. I’m often amazed at what comes out when I sit and let my thoughts pour onto the screen.

    I will never again stray away from writing something just because I think someone will hate it.

    Great job with this post. I look forward to reading future work.

    1. Bloggers hear over and over that we need to be “authentic” and “unique”, but self-doubt holds us back all too frequently. It’s especially hard to break through that barrier when, for whatever reason, we’ve adopted the belief that our ideas aren’t worthy of being heard.

      Playing it safe and holding back our thoughts due to fear maims our creativity, and as you so accurately pointed out, “the best part of writing comes through the process of creation.”

      Your blog definitely embodies that philosophy; it’s rewarding to follow your truth.

  3. I too want to publish my own book of poetry….. but, i’m so scared….. my parents, friends and teachers have always encouraged me ,but, somehow i feel that something is always missing in my writing… i write in a very simple language and try to convey my feelings in the best way possible. yet,i feel as if it is not enough to please readers…i’m so scared of criticism…all this is affecting me so much that these days i have also started believing that i cannot write at all! what do i do?

    1. Those are demons I battled for a long time, and often still do. Despite plenty of encouragement, I still never felt that anything I wrote was worth reading. We can definitely be our own worst critics, and our own biggest obstacles to success.

      My first writings were all published under a pseudonym – I figured that if I crashed and burned, at least it wouldn’t be the “real me”. A funny thing happened, though: The more I put myself out there, the more confident I became.

      Criticism can be terrifying, but keep three things in mind: 1) Good critiques can help you improve quickly, 2) Not everyone will like your work, especially if you touch on emotionally charged subjects, and 3) Sometimes the worst criticism has nothing to do with your writing, but instead comes from that particular person’s own baggage – they’re taking it out on a convenient target.

      If you love writing, the most important thing is keep on pushing forward, putting pen to paper. When you’re passionate about your writing, it shines through and people will notice.

      Thanks for reading, and best of luck.

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