Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 14, 2013

A Little Love and Courage

As a child, I associated bravery with commanding lone deeds, sacrifice, or being part of a swaggering team. None of this looked anything like me. Even when I played games like Robin Hood, I was aware that the sticks I used for arrows were more apt to dribble to my feet than soar toward an imagined foe. Maybe I could be Dorothy at the moment of truth in Oz, accidentally spilling a bucket of water on the witch. But I never thought I could be Gretel, deliberately pushing a murder-minded lady into an oven. Even to save my own life.

As I grew up, I learned that some people act truly brave while feeling fear, and some manage derring-do that masquerades deep insecurity. Now I can give myself some credit for pushing past my own fears, which aren’t the kind that will be featured in any films. I was scared to post my new year’s theme of loudness, to risk stating that I want something that I might not be able to achieve. I don’t want to jinx even luck I don’t entirely believe in, don’t want to annoy any listening spirits, who might mock me for sounding greedy. It’s embarrassing to display hopes and make them look big and fabulous and like we mean it. No one wants to be laughed at. One of the first signs of a child leaving childhood is when they’re spotted flubbing up, and instead of moving on, they say, “I meant to do that.” Kids no taller than tables start wanting to look always in control, which may take many more years to learn is a mythical state.

I wanted to commit myself to taking a bolder stance to getting more of my words into the world, so made that vow public, thinking I’d then be less likely to turn back. I got even more. Generous cheers from friends made me not only less afraid of stopping in my tracks, but aware of how much I don’t want to. I’m going to move more of my words from my room, which means doing some self publishing and checking in on work that’s idled for months with no response. I’m going to tone down calculating vacations and problems and all the things that might get in a reader’s way, calling this being patient and polite, but is more truthfully being scared to be called a bother, a mask for a lack of self respect.

I believe I’m on the right path, which I didn’t clear alone. Courage is a form of love. I feel a little bit brave now not with that stomach-twisting sensation of stating a goal for all to hear, but with the affirmation of listeners. Naming our dreams for candy houses, a good mother, or a book we can hand to others makes us more apt to find the good people along the way who lend their sturdy enthusiasm. I’ll keep writing, which is always a bit like dropping bread crumbs, making a path that shows a way out of all the forests we enter. One true story is that if a an orphan, a princess, a boy named Hansel, a girl named Gretel, or anyone at all can find a way out, so can we.




  1. I’m so glad you posted that entry. I’ve thought about it–and you–a lot since New Year’s. Yesterday I drafted a post that was so “all about me” and whiny, I realized today I could not publish it. The new year has brought troubles already . . . but who gets a free pass in life to do as they please?

    I am so glad to hear someone else “calculates vacations!” I too sit here and think, “Let me see . . . Bologna is in a week, are they packing? And they just got back from an SCBWI conference . . . probably inundated with manuscripts already . . .” If we wait until the optimum moment to snag someone’s attention, assuming we know when it is, it IS just a moment in everyone’s “crazy-busy” schedule.

    I think I want to be a bigger bother this year. I’m gonna ride your coattails.

  2. Thank you for thinking of me, and wish we had a tea shop where we could whine together to our whiny hearts content. You are right that when one does all those calculates it leaves perhaps fifteen minutes in the year, and then all the other calculators might be on the phone or sending missives.
    Do you think we should make up some Bigger Bother t-shirts? This is a club I’d love to have you join. Maybe even better than The Diamond in the Window club, a novel I enjoyed, but as you suggested, would likely have loved more at ten years old. Many parts made me smile, but there were a few hedges I had a hard time pulling myself over.

    I hope January turns for you.

  3. I so respect and love your honesty–it is so refreshing. Your goal-setting is inspiring, too. The writing life is so difficult in so many ways–and courage is needed all the time–more obvious and visible hurdles than the ones we deal with would be easier–If only all we had to deal with was a witch who was trying to push us into an oven! Resolving to be a Bigger Bother is much worse.

    • Thanks, Amy. You are one of my inspiring people. I tuck away that quiet and powerful voices of yours for courage.

  4. I’m a paid-up member of the calculating-vacations club, and boy, do I understand that desire not to be laughed at! But I agree – the instinct for caution, for self-protection, can slowly strangle us. It takes real courage to slip free, though. And courage to write about the process as you do.

    • Thank you for your courage, Amy. So glad we can march, and sometimes duck, together.

  5. Good grief, thank you for explaining out loud your courage, which gives me more strength to stoke up mine.

    And I love “kids no taller than tables.”

    • Sarah, it’s our year for courage, yes? And please some jokes along the way, too.

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