The online writing community is inundated with surface platitudes: You can do it! or All you have to do is write! But it’s not that easy. Ernest Hemingway likened writing to opening up a vein and bleeding onto the paper. I sat in a lecture by New York Times best-selling author Ted Dekker and he said the same thing: “If you bleed on the page, people will drink it. Everyone is a vampire!”

Storytelling is a primal gift. Through advancements in technology and etiquette, humanity has lost much of their need to perpetuate story. It has become about filters, and quips, and memes, and somewhere along the way, many have lost touch with the primitive desire to spill tales of wonder, resting comfortably in their positions as consumers (or vampires!). And that’s okay. For them. They are fulfilled in other ways.

But then there are the outsiders. Those of us who defy convention, who reach back to the creative roots of what makes humanity great and refuse to sit idly by while narratives tumble in our heads like an overheating dryer. We are not satisfied as consumers. We are creators, and the moment we allow ourselves to pursue that instinct, that’s the moment we truly understand who we are.

It took me a long time to say I’m a writer out loud. I didn’t feel worthy of the title—like I had to go through some special rite of passage, or actually have an agent or a ten-book deal with a major publisher. I thought ‘writer’ was a term for those lucky few who had ‘earned’ it.

I was a blogger, a mother, a wife, a member of my local agricultural society, a communications specialist for a non-profit, but a writer? That was reserved for the big guys with million-dollar contracts, their hardcovers decorating the shelves at Indigo while their trade paperbacks please the masses at Costco. I didn’t even have a college degree.

I had excuses.

There is no right time to write a book and there are a hundred reasons not to try. Fear does funny things to a creative mind. It convinces us that we’re not good enough or brave enough or tough enough. It tells us that we will neglect our family, annoy our friends, and produce nothing worthy of a bookstore shelf. It tells us a parent’s duty is to their children, that dreams must be set aside to ensure a well-rounded upbringing. There is no greater enemy for a hopeful author than fear, and fear’s greatest  tool is a writer’s own mind.

In their latest hit, U2 says, ‘get out of your own way’, and to that I say, “Amen!” The moment I embraced that mantra for myself was the moment I allowed the stories within me to let loose. I want to raise children who are inspired by watching me pursue my dreams, not children who someday thank me for putting my life on hold for them.

There has never been a better time to be an independent author. Powerful platforms like Kobo have made it possible for us to write the stories we want to write and put them before a huge audience that, twenty years ago, wouldn’t have been available to us. No longer are we tethered to the whims of a publisher or required to have an agent to simply make our book exist. I don’t care that major publishers ‘can’t sell literary fiction’ and have to pass on my submission, because I can sell it. It may not be in huge numbers and I may not get the same attention as someone published under a powerful name, but I can tell the story I want to tell.

It is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. It is sweat and tears and yes, it’s bleeding onto the page. It’s pouring countless hours of work into something that you have to love enough to not care if it pays for the paper it’s printed on. It’s submitting to criticism, yet being firm in your convictions. There is no one else who can tell the same story in the same way. Let that fuel you. The world may not know what it’s missing if you don’t follow through, but you will know what you’re depriving it of. Don’t quit. Tell your story and hand it over. It is your gift.

The only thing that matters is this: what do you want? Name it out loud; identify and eliminate your barriers; then let nothing stand in your way as you chase it.

Alanna Rusnak Headshot

In November of 2014, Alanna Rusnak stopped being afraid and wrote the first word of her debut novel, The Church in the Wildwood, which went on to be named one of the top reader-recommended reads of 2017 on cbcbooks.ca and has been shortlisted for the fourth annual Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. Alanna lives on a small patch of untameable land in mid-western Ontario with her husband, three children, and an overweight cat. She has since launched a Canadian Literary Arts magazine, Blank Spaces, a follow-up novella, The Ghost of Iris Carver, and is currently working on her next novel, Black Bird. Learn more at alannarusnak.com.
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