Monday, January 9, 2012

Twenty Seconds of Insane Bravery

We took the kids to see We Bought a Zoo the other day. In it, the main character, played by Matt Damon, said that sometimes all it takes is twenty seconds of insane bravery. Aside from being a touching statement, it's fantastic inspiration. As writers, twenty seconds of bravery is what it takes to hit send on a query email, or push that envelope through the slot. Twenty seconds is how long it takes to hand over your manuscript to a beta reader or critique partner. Twenty seconds will net you an elevator pitch, better known as the drunken bar pitch. Oh, wait, it's not called that? All the ones I witnessed involved alcohol.

Once you take that step, there's no going back. You've taken that courage and used it to pursue the next step. Sometimes, though, it takes more than twenty seconds of bravery to get where you're going.

A writer must carry their conviction through the entirety of their work. Yes, we face doubts ("No one's going to want to read this," "this sucks," "I'll never find an agent/publishing house," etc.), but those who make it have to stay brave throughout and push right through those doubts.

Courtesy of Mohamed Ibrahim,

In those moments of doubt, it only takes those twenty seconds of insane bravery to push through the hump. We've all got that within us. I hope everyone out there employs their twenty seconds to make the next step today, whether it's just to face that manuscript today, to write a tricky scene, to query someone, or whatever else requires that measure of courage.

What has required your twenty seconds of insane bravery lately? Was it worth it?

May you find your Muse.


  1. I've been hearing/seeing this quote everywhere lately. And for good reason, I know. It's a great one. And one I'll be taking to heart when it comes time to hand my MS over to my betas at the end of the week.

  2. My children and I saw this movie as well. It does take courage to send your novel out. I've met some wonderful writers who have helped me on my journey to being a better writer. It's still nerve racking to send out my writing.

  3. That's an awesome quote! I'll have to remember it. :)

  4. My post last Monday required it. And considering the response, I'm glad I did!

  5. It took about 20 seconds for me and my fiancee to split up last night. As for if it was worth it or not, ask me again next week.

  6. I love it! Every time I had to do a reading in front of a critique group, it's taken 20 seconds for me to catch my breath and speak. I do it. I've not passed out or run screaming yet!

  7. Twenty seconds of insane bravery, huh? That certainly sounds manageable enough. The problem lies in differentiating between bravery and self-delusion ... the problem, I believe, that prompts so many screeching contestants to audition for "American Idol."

  8. I'm going through the questioning-if-I'm-any-good part. And I completely agree about the bravery it takes to hit the send button on a query. Especially when sending it to your dream agent!

  9. Great idea... I'm so using it.. I probably need it daily:)

  10. I think twenty seconds is about right: to take a breath, form a thought, and gulp before doing something. I'd love to see that movie.

  11. I love that quote. So many times I hesitate doing something, and a few seconds of bravery changes everything.

  12. If you're writing the story you want to write because you want to write it (not because you hope other people will like/want to read it), you don't need that bravery to get you through. Not through the writing part, at any rate.

  13. Actually sometimes bravery isn't always the best choice in my opinion.

  14. As someone who has spent the last few years pushing myself to make reckless decisions in the name of adventure, I can definitely agree with this!

    It takes less than 20 seconds to buy a flight to a country that will change your life. And while it may take longer than 20 seconds to cross a bamboo bridge that looks like it’s about to fall apart, there’s definitely no going back once you’re 20 seconds across!

  15. I've not done any querying lately, but it is scary. The bravest thing I've done recently was starting my blog! I didn't think anyone would be interested, but I'm glad I did it!

  16. M.J., I hope you get some great feedback from your betas.

    Miranda, I figure it will be nerve wracking even if/when I've published repeatedly. Otherwise, I guess it would get boring.

    Cherie, it's a good movie, too.

    Alex, it was a great post!

    A Beer for the Shower, that's terrible. :( I'm sorry.

    Christine, awesome! I have not done that yet. The closest I've gotten is an anonymous read and critique at a conference, where someone else read my piece and I sat, blushing furiously, in the audience.

    Susan, hahaha, I hear you! So incredibly true. Their self-delusion is strong. "My family says I'm a fantastic singer!"

    Rachel, I'm sorry you're in the questioning phase. Seems like in that phase more often than any other!

    Tania, I'm thinking we all have those moments constantly and just don't realize it.

    Susan, I enjoyed the film! And you're right: 20 seconds is what it takes to gather yourself and launch ahead.

    Medeia, you're so right. Sometimes it's so hard, but you just have to push through that moment of doubt.

    Andrew, that's true, too. I know the writing flowed for my novel, but the editing, or writing when asked for a specific type of piece, is what gives me doubts.

    BragonDorn, I imagine there are a lot of instances where that is probably true. Times when it's best to suck it up and let that moment pass. But there are times where the opposite is true, and that courage will get you where you need to go. Case by case!

    Lauren, now that is all very intriguing to me. Sounds like you have had some amazing adventures!

    Nick, I feel the same way about when I started this blog and signed up for the A to Z. That was a chest clincher for sure! But I'm glad I did it.