The Courage of Public Creativity

By Angie Dixon | Posted 6/5/06 | Updated 8/4/23

Often we don't think of creating as being particularly courageous, but I assure you it is.

A few weeks ago I agreed to judge a short story contest for a state writer's conference. I wasn't expecting much in the way of quality, wasn't really keen on doing it in the first place, and basically blew it off at first. Boring work, reading bad stories. Who cared?

Then something I read in a novel made me care. These people had put everything they had into these stories. Sure, some of them weren't very good writers. Sure, some of them just phoned in their entries. But what about that one great writer who really worked hard? Didn't that person deserve my respect? And since I didn't know who that person was yet, I had to give them all that same respect, and did.

I began by reading each story completely, all the way through, and setting them into categories based on my feeling about their writing quality. Then I sifted through again and found what I thought were the "best" stories."

And I was struck, as I did this, by the fact that these 18 people sat down and wrote what they (presumably) considered their best work, then put it in the hands of strangers to determine whether it was really any good or not.


Then I got to thinking about all the work I'd done on my current book proposal, how excited I'd been when asked to send a promotion plan as a prelude to the agent looking at the whole proposal, and how willingly I'd put everything I had in one package, mailed it off, and trusted that this guy would know what he was doing, and at least treat me with respect when he turned me down.

Wow again.

Creating is an act of courage. There's no doubt about that. Just to put the words down, make the brush strokes, sing the notes. That's pure, unadulterated courage.

But think about what it takes to then send that work out into the world. I've "learned," or so I tell myself, that a rejection of my work is not a rejection of me. It still feels like it, though.

I "know" that the people who aren't getting rejections are the people who aren't trying to get published. Lucky them, sometimes.

I also know that there are really good, honest, caring, compassionate people out there in the publishing world, and that it is possible to find them and work with them. One way is to read the acknowledgments in books you like, that are in your field. My prospective agent was the agent for two of my favorite books. Knowing all these facts about it not being personal, about their being good people, all that — it doesn't really help.

What helps?


The only way to truly, courageously present your work is just to truly, courageously present your work, trusting that God knows what he's doing even if you don't, and even if you don't believe in God.

Creating publicly may be the most courageous thing you can do. I applaud you.

And if you're reading this and thinking, "But I've never sent a query… contacted a gallery… entered a contest… played in public…"

Calm down.

Two things I have to say to you.

First, when you're ready, you'll do it. You may never be ready, and that's okay, but when you are ready, you will do it.

Second, you are courageous just to know you're not ready.

We're all courageous. We're miracles of courage.

Copyright ©2006 Angie Dixon. All rights reserved.