What I have in common with the cowardly lion.


I’m writing a novel. There, I’ve said it. I’m not telling how long I’ve been writing it. Or, how many drafts I gone through. What I will say is that in addition to skill and creativity, the right and left brain dynamic duo, courage is needed to finish any kind of marathon writing or art project.


I love the sound. It’s strong, unbendable, fierce and feisty. My impression was formed in part from the cowardly lion’s spoken word solo on The Wizard of Oz. Here’s the first three lines:

What makes a king out of a slave—courage.

What makes a flag on a mast to wave–courage.

What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk—courage.

Some of the song is nonsense, but we get the picture. This lion longs for courage. It’s in the way he pronounces the word, exaggerating the hard “C” sound and finishing it off with the shake of his head and gnash of teeth as if he is tearing off a chunk of meat.

When the trio suggests that he join their trek to Oz to ask the wizard for this intangible, the lion readily agrees. Little does he know that courage is already his, waiting for a time to reveal itself.

Courage is one of those innate God-given human traits that we all have inside us. You can’t see it, touch it or measure it. You can’t prove its existence through science. Courage is stuff of the heart and soul, blooming under pressure, when the end goal trumps the fear that keeps us from pursuing what is right and good for us, and others. It’s a character trait that grows stronger with use. And little exercises of courage prepare us for bigger acts of courage.

I started writing seriously when I was about 18. I saw and still see it as a vocation from God. I wasn’t good at it. But my belief was that God would give me wisdom and provide opportunity for me to grow and become who He designed me to be. Writing was and still is a faith walk for me. I started from ground zero. Learning the craft and building confidence to write and finish a writing project was and still is mentally and emotionally taxing. I have one of those brains that spin thoughts off into six different directions. I also had trouble finishing what I started. So I took steps to force myself to write for deadlines. My writing time went from taking two weeks to taking two days to finish a 600-word magazine article. Then, as a newspaper reporter, I learned to write stories within hours, forcing myself to stop spinning off into more research, fighting against the anxiety that I didn’t do enough to write a good story.

Writing a novel has been a depressing, frustrating, fearful, fun and exhilarating experience. Many times, I’ve wanted to quit. I’m not good enough. The story won’t matter. I’ll never get it right. These are fears I battle. But the story is an important one. When I remember how it imbedded itself into my soul and how it never lets go, I know it’s part of what God wants from me. In the process of writing it, I am changing, growing, risking, rising above fear. And the courage that I need to keep going reveals itself whenever I need it.

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