Before I redecorated my bedroom, across one wall ran a banner that asked the question, “If not now, then when?” It was the first thing I saw every morning and the last thing each night. The reason I strung this banner was to help motivate me in my creative writing.

Being a journalist and writing non-fiction newsy type articles involves a process quite different from creating fiction.

As a journalist, you’re trained to remain objective and aloof. You must never get involved with the story, just uncover the facts and report them whatever they may be. You’re the impartial observer, trying to get at the truth without influencing the outcome. It took me years of training and practice to reach the point where I was able to step back and let the facts speak for themselves. I found though that this type of writing is a kind of art itself and I became quite good at it.

With Bread ‘n Molasses I don’t have to stick to just the facts. I can interject with my congratulations for a job well done, or say how cool I think something is, or recommend a product or service I really like. It’s just the nature of the publication — we’re not a newspaper or newsmagazine so our editorial mandate is more laid-back and informal. Still, sometimes I fall back on my journalism training and write a straight “just the facts M’am” news story because for me it’s the easiest way.

Fiction writing is totally different. Whereas in news stories you keep your feelings objectively at bay and don’t become personally involved, creating fiction is the most intimate personal thing you can do. It’s a crazy roller coaster ride of a process — you feel everything all your characters feel, you see everything they do, it’s like you’ve lived all their lives, shared all their experiences.

If you stood outside my door and listened to me when I’m working on my fiction you might be tempted to cart me off for a psychiatric evaluation. You would hear me talking to myself, arguing with my characters, pacing the floor trying to make a point, rolling around holding my sides with laughter, sobbing uncontrollably and occasionally screaming because something has just popped up and scared me. To say it’s an intense process is a huge understatement!

After you go through this process several hours everyday for weeks or months with a particular short story or scene from a novel; it can be a bit terrifying to think about sharing that with other people. It’s a huge risk to show family and friends let alone send it off to people you don’t know in hopes they’ll publish it. The story becomes like a child you’ve given birth to and it’s hard to step back and release it into the world. It’s really hard to accept feedback for what it is and not feel personally attacked. This is part of the process, developing the thick skin so you don’t shatter every time someone criticises the story, distancing yourself from the work so you can look at it objectively.

And that’s why I had hung this banner across my room. “If not now, then when?” My dream is to create and publish fiction – it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child and first learned to read. This was the message I needed to see everyday in order to get past my fear of rejection and send my fiction into the world. This was my motivation for overcoming my fear. I found a great article that talks about this. Go ahead, check it out, and then make your own sign. What is fear holding you back from creating?

Leave a Comment