Most people might reflexively answer “Sure!” to the question, “Are you a gutsy person?” then be hard-pressed to come up with an example. Others would simply demur, “Not really. I’m more the quiet type.”
Sonia Marsh, author of the memoir Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island, plans to change all that. Sonia has begun a campaign to help people find their inner gutsiness, and she’s doing that through story. She’s running a monthly writing contest, asking readers to submit their own gutsy stories. Each week she selects one entry to publish in her blog. At the end of each month, readers vote to select the winner of the month.
I need your help!
Her contest is bearing fruit. My heart went pitter-patter at the thought of writing a gutsy story for this contest, but for the life of me, I could not think of a single one. I pondered for weeks before the cork popped from the bottle. As soon as I sat down to write, another came to mind – then another. I felt I’d reached a new level in a computer game that activated my “Gutsy Goggles.”
The story I submitted, “Grabbing Grannie’s Dishes,” is what I might call “micro-gutsiness.” You can read it here. After you read it, I shamelessly ask that you vote for Sharon Lippincott as winner of the August contest. Scroll down a couple of screens to find the poll and click on the author of your choice (I hope that’s me!).
Getting in touch with gutsiness
By Sonia’s definition, a “Gutsy Story” centers on a decision you made that either changed you, changed the way you think about something, or made your life take a different direction. These decisions may be huge (like her family’s decision to move to Belize, then to move “home” again a year later) or tiny (like my decision to grab the dishes). Each one matters.
Getting in touch with my gutsiness is exciting and empowering. It’s not about public acclaim or crowing, it’s about remembering times I felt strong and able to “face the fear and do it anyway.” Some fears were bigger than others.
Not all gutsy stories have happy endings. Once I learned to “see” my own gutsiness, I saw plenty of times I made gutsy decisions that slammed me into a wall of one sort or another, but even those had hidden value: I learned from them, and often had new gutsy opportunities as a result.
A key to their power
At first it seemed this story would be easy. I wrote it a dozen years ago without realizing its gutsiness. It wasn’t hard to pare the fluff to reduce word count over 33%; that was a great exercise in finding the core story. What was more challenging was complying with the contest requirement that the story include a lesson learned. Without that lesson, the story was merely an amusing anecdote.
Therein lies the power of story – the lesson. It may spring from the author’s experience or some other source. The lesson is the key to the changes Sonia refers to. Finding that lesson in your own stories may take some digging, but it’s well worth the effort. In fact, it’s a gutsy thing to do. You may learn something in the process of finding the lesson, and writing about it may spark change in others.
Stories – gutsy stories – are seeds of change that can have far-reaching effects. Even quiet people have quietly gusty stories. So be brave. Write gutsy!
Write now: read Sonia’s contest guidelines, then begin writing a series of gutsy stories. Select your favorite and send it off to Sonia. Everyone is a winner in her contest, even if you don’t receive the most votes, because finishing a gutsy story is its own reward.