Trying to be brave (Stephanie Kuehnert)

I'm not by nature a brave person. You can tell by the picture of me from the first day of first grade (and I wish I had it to scan for you). I'm frowning, my eyes are wide, and I can tell that I have my tongue pressed to the roof of my mouth, which is what I do when I'm trying desperately not to cry. It was a new school, which meant a new routine and new people. These things have terrified me all my life. But I soldiered through in first grade and again when I moved in third grade and again when I started junior high and high school and my first college and my second and every job I've ever had.

Spiders. Spiders scare the crap out of me, too. I scream. If anyone else is around including my cats I try to get them to kill them for me. Otherwise I grab the biggest thing I can find, slam it down, and smoosh, whimpering all the while. Except for this one time when I saw this seriously Harry Potter-sized in a web that connected my bushes to my house. It was AT LEAST this big I swear and I made this very same face that Ron is making and I RAN.

My mom always chuckles and is like "What about Charlotte? You loved that book. You shouldn't kill Charlotte."

My response, "I'm sorry, Mom. This is real life and Charlotte has to die. We cannot coexist."

I can't even try to be brave around spiders, though I did go through a phase of dressing up in spider-web themed attire...

Then there are horror movies. I was secretly okay with it when my parents forbid me from seeing the Nightmare on Elm Street movies in grade school, but my love for Stephen King helped me conquer my fears a bit in junior high. Yeah, I jumped every time a cat or whatever popped out during Pet Sematary, but I loved this movie so much I watched it every weekend in eighth grade.

 I was actually pretty good with horror movies up until I went to a midnight showing of the Blair Witch Project. I did not sleep that night. Every time I closed my eyes I saw those creepy hand prints... Ugh. Shudder. Then a few years later, I made the mistake of seeing The Ring. I was afraid for a week. Seriously. I was convinced that every time I opened my garage, I would see that creepy little girl and she would kill me.

Creepy children are number one on my "scary things" list. Hands down. Followed by creepy children's toys. Followed by haunted mental institutions, ESPECIALLY if a sadistic doctor once worked there and is now a ghost. I have compiled this list courtesy of watching Supernatural. Because even though I refuse to see any scary movies now, I am totally addicted to my Winchester brothers (listen to my playlist tribute to them on Rookie here) and also The Walking Dead because zombies just rule. Even though they give me nightmares. Every week. I force myself to be brave because it's worth it.

That's also why I force myself to be brave every morning that I sit down at my computer to write. Writing has given me some incredible highs, like the publication of my first two books and every reader email, encounter, sweet blog post or tweet that has come with it, but as much as I love it, it's incredibly frightening. It's not scary in the same way as creepy children, but my fear is just as big. There are days that sitting down and opening up the file for my Work in Progress is just as freaky as staring down that ENORMOUS FREAK OF NATURE spider in my garden.

I'm scared that I'll never be published again. It has been a while--almost four and a half years to be precise--since I sold a book and that's not for lack of trying. I've definitely found out the hard way that it can be easier to get your first book published than to stay published (and that's a very scary thing since getting a debut book out is not easy).

I'm scared that if I do get published again, it will have taken so long--it has now been three years and three months since I had a book out--that it will be like starting over. And I'm scared that I'll have all the same problems again.

I'm scared that I can't finish a book, even though I've written three. Those could have just been flukes.

I'm scared that all the words I've been writing suck. That maybe I used up what little talent I had. If I had it. That could have been a fluke too.

I'm scared that all of the things I'm scared of will sap my love for writing away.

This is definitely a scary job and I'm not a naturally brave person like a firefighter or a cop or my nurse mom. I'm the kid whose first day of first grade made her cry, the grown woman who ran away from an unusually large spider.

But somewhere in that mess of words that might suck, that might never get published, that might not get published for way way too many years, there is this story about a girl that just needs to be written. For her. For me. So I have to keep working on it, facing my fears because when I do I know that at least that last one will never come true.


  1. You're right, Steph--this job takes an unusual amount of courage. I admire my fellow writers far more now as a published writer than I did before I ever sold a book.

  2. I like Supernatural too. It can be scary sometimes, but the thought of being rescued by either of the Winchester brothers is definitely comforting. :) I still can't watch Stephen King movies, though. I made the mistake of watching Children of the Corn on a farm, which made the sight of cornfields freak me out for a long time after that.
    Writing can definitely be scary. It's not like pursuing a career in medicine, for example, where you have a more definite idea of what will happen. But kudos to you for pursuing your dream and not giving up.


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