A JANE EXTRA: Courage

A Guest Blog by Julie Brannagh

I’m thrilled to be making a guest appearance at Jane’s blog while she takes a little time off to enjoy sweet baby Mac!

When I started thinking about what to write, I kept coming back to the same subject: Courage.

We don’t think much about courage in our daily lives, despite admiring those who seem to have it. What is the indefinable thing that causes people to decide they’re going to be brave one minute longer than everyone around them, or take a risk that leaves most people paralyzed with fear?

Over the past month, we’ve seen an example of courage on a world-wide level. She didn’t pull someone out of a burning building. She didn’t put herself into the line of fire. She didn’t persevere in the face of personal tragedy – or did she? Mostly, she walked out onto a stage in front of three thousand jeering, scornful people (and eleven to twelve million watching on television,) ready to tear her apart. She didn’t look like the person that should have been in her shoes right then. How could a less than photogenic, plump, middle-aged woman have talent that stunned the world?

I’m talking about Susan Boyle and you’ve her performance of “I Dreamed A Dream” on Britain’s Got Talent. (Jane wrote about her several weeks ago and has a link to the YouTube clip here on her site). I can’t watch the video without tears, because I can’t imagine that kind of courage. How did Susan do it? Did she hear the laughter, see the rolled eyes, and decide that no matter what, she would just keep going?

How many times have each of us been in that situation? We’re facing whatever it is we most hope for, and we either open our mouths and sing, or we walk away from the chance, maybe forever. What is the cost when we abandon our own dreams due to fear or insecurity? What is the difference between those who take a risk, and those who just can’t, and spend the rest of their lives wondering “What if?”

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by women who dared to take that chance, despite numerous rejections. They believed in themselves and their talent. They walked out onto that empty stage, facing a crowd of those they knew that told them to give up, told them they’d never do it, told them they should focus their attention on something “more attainable”. They did it, and here are a few of their stories.

Jane Porter (our lovely hostess!) wrote for fifteen years before she published in 2000. She has since sold over four million books. One of those books was made into a movie.

Susan Mallery received 50 rejection letters in eighteen months at the start of her career. She has published over 100 books in eighteen years. She reached the New York Times bestseller list last year.

Cherry Adair had seventeen completed manuscripts before she sold her first novel. She’s since published 23 books, (Cherry, I hope that’s right!) and is another New York Times bestselling author.

Anna Campbell wrote a book twenty-seven years ago. She stopped writing for most of those twenty-seven years. She published Claiming the Courtesan in 2007, and turned the romance industry on its ear. Her fourth book comes out in October of 2009.

Susan Wiggs told a group of romance authors that she wallpapered a bathroom in her house with rejection notices. She published her first novel in 1987. She’s been on the bestseller lists ever since.

I’m sure some reading this are shaking their heads and saying, “But I don’t sing. I don’t write! What does this have to do with me?” It has everything to do with you. After all, there are things you dream of that none of us know about. Do you talk yourself out of them, or do you at least try? Some dream of learning to surf. Some want to fly. Some would like to be able to give a presentation at the office without feeling like you’re going to throw up! Some would like to be a parent. There is something in your life that you want to achieve. Maybe it’s not going to happen in front of eleven million people, but you will know, and that knowledge will stay with you till the end. What’s stopping you?

Again, courage isn’t always rescuing someone, or standing up and stating what you believe to be true in the face of those who disagree. Sometimes, courage is in the small moments, when you realize your life will be richer if you take a chance.

Easy on the EyesI always look forward to Jane’s books. Easy on the Eyes, though, is special to me already. Her heroine is thrust into a completely unfamiliar situation. For her, it’s sink or swim. I’ll bet she swims, despite those who want her to fail. This is courage: The fact that each of us has the opportunity to be more. Will you take it?

I hope you’ll share some of your triumphs with everyone in the comments.

Julie Brannagh

Julie Brannagh
Julie and her husband, Eric

Julie Brannagh dreamed of writing a book her entire life, and finally did it in 2005. She is currently writing her fourth single title, and she’s now working towards the goal of publication. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing her blog, The Little Pink Clubhouse.

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64 Comments

  1. You tell ’em, Julie! I always thought getting started took the most courage…that commitment you make to yourself to follow through, all the way to the end, whether it’s writing a book or standing up to sing at karaoke night.

  2. Kristan,

    I have to agree. It seems like we talk ourselves out of it before we even start. For the people that follow through, though, it means everything.

    If you’re going to eat an elephant, you have to do it one bite at a time. 😉

  3. Shelli,

    I just can’t get enough of those stories, either. There are so many people around us that did battle with rejection and discouragement, but just kept going.

    Sometimes, it’s all in the “just keep going”!

  4. Julie,

    Your post gives me encouragement to stay positive about things that intimidate me. With my mind set on the goal, there is nothing that I can’t accomplish… well, at least with God on my side!

    Sheri

  5. That was nicely written!! I loved all the different examples of authors and success…how their failures kept them going until they became successes!! How awesome…Hope everyone has a great weekend!!

  6. a lovely post Julie; I need courage now as I face breast cancer with ?’s galore and not knowing my own mind right now. I thank you for this little push.

  7. Julie, how cool to see you here. And I love the new pseudonym! I saw you were blogging when you mentioned it on Facebook and decided to pop over to give you a cheer. And what do I find? You’ve already given me a cheer! Aren’t you a darling! Thank you.

    I got tears in my eyes when I first saw the Susan Boyle clip too. The moment she opened her mouth and that beautiful pure sound emerged, I got goosebumps, it was so good!

  8. Whew! A heavy subject. Sometimes I wonder how often what we define as courage is just jumping in and getting it done without overthinking it.

    Being of an analytical mind-set, I always have to mentally chart out the probability of all possible outcomes. That allows me to postpone any positive action. Hmm…lets see….if I make a chart of all the agents in the US and cross reference them with their area of expertise, I will save myself the trouble of sending my MS to someone who is not interested in my genre. It also postpones those hurful rejections. But of course, the time I spend making the chart would be much better spent sending out the damn queries! Not to mention that once you actually take that step or leap that crevasse, you discover it wasn’t so scary after all.

  9. Love your post…

    With many others, I have thought a lot this week about international journalists who take huge risks so that truth may find the light of day.

    While the line of “I can’t tolerate it anymore” varies greatly from person to person, I believe there is some courage in all of us. It is the point at which we have faith that the risk is a smaller price to pay than maintaining the status quo.

    Courage, like cowardice, is contagious.

    “It’s stasis that kills you off in the end, not ambition.” – Bono

  10. This is going to sound silly probably to alot of people.

    Four years ago I read Flirting with Forty and as a single parent with a 2 year old and walked away from a very good paying job to go back to school, everyone told me how dumb and irresponsible I was being. The last three years have been some of the ruffest three years of my life, and some of the most fun with my daughter. She is 6 years old now. I have to say my employer ended up working with me and I worked part-time which was nice.Recently I went back to work full time and I miss the extra time with my daughter.

    We use to drive a 1993 chevy truck with a huge dent in the side, paint peeling from those awful years chevy had problems with the paint sticking and I have owned for 13 pluse years. Riding in the cab with our windows up because there was no air conditioning cuz she had asthma during the burning season and roasting. Well to my 2nd point. The truck started having wiring problems and I went crazy and bought a HUMMER 3.

    There are people either extremely excited for use or extremely critical and down right nasty. It was really hard for me to make the decision to buy but I said heck to what people think.

    We love it and for anyone looking for a 4×4 SUV I would recommend them and they are a lot less expensive than Jeeps, Tahoe, or other SUV’s with all the extras.

    Have the courage to enjoy life!

  11. When times are bad like they are now, sometimes it takes courage to not give up but just get up and everyday and go out there and try. Never give up!

  12. Thanks for the great guest blog. It’s always nice to hear from other authors and to know that you have to keep on keeping on, in whatever area of your life it happens to be. Perserverance is so much a part of courage.

    Reading Jane’s books recently has made me want to step out and do the things I’ve put off while raising little children and to grasp ahold of the future while enjoying the present.

  13. Those are great reminders, Julie! And I especially love the stories of our local author friends and the struggles they went through to get where a lot of us want to be. Thanks so much!

  14. What an interesting post. I think courage is something that most people don’t think of as applying to them but I think most of us can find instances of it in our lives from something as simple as having your child screaming at you that they hate you when you ground them and it would be so easy to make them happy by taking the punishment away. Or how about signing your name on a mortgage that is for an amount that you don’t even want to think about owing or even saying ‘I do’.

  15. Hi Julie,

    Thank you for those very inspiring words. It reminds me that we all have the courage inside of us to face life’s diffcult situtations.

    Melissa

  16. It is easy to forget in order to succeed, we must often fail first (and for some of us, ahem, many times), and dust ourselves off and apply courage and move forward….

    What a powerful reminder.

    Autumn

  17. Hi Julie: What a wonderful post and the first guest post that has brought me to tears. First, the info on Susan Wiggs was hysterical but as I kept reading, there was so much more I wanted to do but couldn’t because I was a single mother of two from the ages of 0 and 3. And here I am 23 years later at the same job. I came from an airline family -my father was a navigator way back when and then a pilot and on and on. One of my brothers is in the airline business as is my dearest friend of 50 years. I am always looking up at the sky at airplanes – I love them, just looking at them thrills me. Now don’t laugh but I always wanted to fly a helicopter for a living. Just absolutely fascinates me. No triumphs here and I know I never will but none the less I can still dream.

  18. I think about the things I haven’t done far more than regret the things that embarrassed me. It is what has driven me to therapy and finding a new lease on life at 49 years of age. Suddenly it is okay to sing loud and all that in the car. Who cares? Now I can wear those stripes that I was told to never wear. Courage comes in many forms. I am really encouraged by the authors that faced so many setbacks before being published. Perseverance, people!

  19. I love this topic! In high school I had a huge dream of buying my own home. All my friends laughed and really didn’t take me seriuosly. I worked my tail off with two jobs and at age 19, I did it. When those friends heard about it years later, it felt so good. It is amazing to have the courage to make your dreams come true, especially when no one believes in you. I will try desperately to teach my children to never give up and believe in themselves. I think it is the single most valuable leasson I have ever learned!
    I think Susan Boyle is amazing, I got chills when I first saw her performance. I think it takes a really special person to be that brave!

  20. I loved your post and the writing was so inspiring. With that kind of writing and your ideas, I would love to read your books. How can I find out the names of the books you have written? Thanks so much!

  21. Ohhh, thank you so much for this blog! Courgage is something I struggle to find everyday. All I can say is thank you again for sharing this with us.

  22. What a great post! I think that it’s important too to shut out the naysayers. Yesterday I sent an email to a friend telling her something I was thinking about doing and her response was to ask me if I was going to some mid-life crisis or something. Who says that when you reach a certain age you have to stop trying new things anyway?

  23. Cindy, one of the better things about living in the Pacific Northwest is the sheer number of authors. I love hearing their stories. They give me hope!

  24. Anna, it is so great to see you here, too, young lady! I was thrilled to include you on my distinguished list. After all, you (and so many others!) inspire all of us to keep writing!

    I hope everything’s wonderful in Australia!

  25. Judy, it’s all about leaping that crevasse, isn’t it? I think it’s like eating an elephant: One bite at a time. If I just keep taking one step at a time, I’ll get where I want to go. 😉

  26. Jacquie, thank you! I am so grateful to those who shared their stories with me. I’m also so lucky to be surrounded by so many people who inspire me.

    Nice to see you!

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  27. Sally, absolutely. There are so many courageous people all around us from all walks of life. We are courageous, too. Mostly, we have to decide that it’s in us, and we can do it.

    I love Bono. I know Jane loves him, too. 😉

  28. Renae, I am so happy that you took risks and they paid off! The hardest part is deciding to do something, isn’t it?

    I loved Jane’s “Flirting with Forty”, too. I wonder how many other women read it and decided to shake their lives up as well!

    Imagine what you’ll do in the future! Isn’t this exciting?

  29. Barb, it was great to be here, and I am so grateful to Jane for the opportunity!

    I hope that you will take those steps to achieve the things you dream of, too. The best part of being this age is that those of us with children have watched them leave baby and toddlerhood, and we might have a little more opportunity for adventure as a result.

    Women deserve adventures, don’t they? 😉

  30. Shannon, thank you so much! I never get tired of those stories. After all, it’s the story of triumph against all odds!

    It’s good to see you! 😉

  31. Maureen, thank you so much. I think saying “I do” has to be one of the most courageous acts ever. Let’s face it, sometimes it doesn’t work out, but people keep doing it. It’s the triumph of hope over adversity!

    It’s a risk. The greatest things in life come as the result of taking a risk. 😉 I hope that we’ll all keep taking those risks!

  32. Autumn, I’m in the “picking myself up and dusting myself off” phase, too. The most important part, though, is to keep moving.

    Here’s to forward progress. 😉

  33. Patricia, thank you so much for such a nice comment!

    I hope that you will look into flying lessons. I think you can do anything you want to do, and you can succeed. After all, we’re here just once. (Supposedly. ) Why not try it?

    Again, I’m glad you wrote, and I hope you’ll be flying before you know it!

  34. Kriss, absolutely! All the things we were told as children and as young people — “can’t” and “don’t” and “you shouldn’t do that”, and some of us realized when we got older that maybe that stuff wasn’t true.

    It’s fun to sing in the car. You don’t even have to sing in key! Why not live every minute? Sure we’re going to make mistakes, but isn’t that part of life?

    I regret the stuff I didn’t do, too. There’s other stuff I will do, though, and I bet you’ll try new things as well!

    I look forward to hearing about all of it!

  35. Kari, you bought a house at 19? Congratulations! That is a HUGE achievement!

    I hope that Susan Boyle will bring out a CD soon. I still love watching that YouTube. I hope she knows how many people she’s inspired!

  36. Stacy, thank you so much for the huge compliment! I treasure it!

    I am unpublished in romance (so far,) but I will have a website up. If people want to follow my progress there, I’d be thrilled!

    Again, thank you!

  37. Kimberly, we all struggle with the idea we could be more if we just took a chance. I think about it a lot. Obviously, I chose a career with a lot of rejection. 😉 Some days are easier than others. At the same time, the rewards are huge if I stick with it.

    I think you have courage, too. It’s all about deciding you want something more. It’s speaking up, even when your voice shakes. You can do it!

  38. Laura, you GO, girl. When we stop growing and stop trying something new, our lives are over.

    Mid-life crisis? We’re just getting started! Why not try it all? I’d rather look back and know I tried (even if I failed,) than play it safe.

    You’re right: We all know people who can’t wait to tell us we’ll never make it, we’ll never do it, why are we trying at all. I’d rather talk to the ones who encourage me to be my best.

    You can do it!

  39. That was just the pep talk I needed. I’m a 12 year teacher who just got laid off. Not sure of what to expect down the road, but there are many options if I am just open to them!!

  40. Julie, that was beautiful! Thank you for the inspiring words to start the week of right.

    The thing that keeps me going isn’t really courage, but the knowledge that I will regret it if I don’t try or if I give up. I hate regret. Keep writing, you and I will both get there someday! 🙂

  41. Wonderful post; so positive and eye-opening. I don’t feel like I have a lot of big dreams. My biggest accomplishment (so far) has been raising two kids (11 and 8). It’s such a hard job and there are no instructions. It’s strictly gut-instinct and I really feel like I am completely in tune with their needs, tendencies, etc. I feel like that is not without merit.

    My biggest dream is to take a vacation with my husband. We’ve been on a shoe-string budget for so long there is just never money for that type of thing. We’ve been married 15 years and have never gone further than 20 miles for an overnight. I’d love for once, to be able to travel to Hawaii or someplace fabulous–just the two of us. I feel like its always a driving trip to stay with someone and save a buck. Oh well, I have much to be thankful for and I shall not overlook the blessings in my life.

    Thanks for posting for Jane.

  42. I think everyone is stronger & braver than they realize…we just don’t know until we are truly tested. And then it is remarkable how courageous we can be.

  43. Julie love the pic of you and dh; what a couple and I stop by at your Pink Club House frequently. Looking forward to seeing you at Emerald Conference and stuffing “goodie bags”.

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