Back in the fall I had a short creative non-fiction piece published by Fierce Ink Press. I’ve been a little quiet about it, mainly out of fear of having people read it: strangers, friends, family. I worry too much about what other people think. And I worry about possibly hurting those I care about, especially my family. But a little over a month ago I decided it was time to start talking. I participated in a panel of Fierce Ink Press authors at Mount Saint Vincent University to discuss my Fierce Short, entitled “Learning How to Speak“, which recounts some of my experiences dealing with anxiety and depression as a teenager.
I was quite nervous to get up and speak about my struggles with anxiety and depression in front of some of my former professors and a bunch of strangers, but I was also honoured and excited to be part of a panel of some great writers: Chris Benjamin, Ben Boudreau, Gerard Collins, Alison Delory, and Gail Lethbridge. I loved hearing the other Fierce Short authors speak about their work and writing process, but I was afraid I wouldn’t have much to say or contribute. I think I did okay when it was my turn to speak and answer questions but, partly due to nerves and partly due to baby brain (I had Baby L strapped to me — plus, you know, there’s that whole lack of sleep thing), I forgot to say everything I had wanted to mention. When the event was finished I wished I could go back up to the podium and talk about it some more, which made me realize that I did have something valuable to contribute after all. And, perhaps, publishing something so personal wasn’t such a bad thing.
I read somewhere, or maybe I was told, that if you can’t take criticism then you shouldn’t publish. Although I may not have been emotionally ready to publish something so personal given my initial hesitation to promote and share it with the world, I disagree with that statement. If the only stories published were by writers hardened to what others thought, then so many important things would never have been said or discussed. Although I certainly don’t consider myself a great writer, regardless of what people think of me or my writing, I now believe that publishing “Learning How to Speak” was important for both myself and for others who may be able to relate to or learn from my experiences. Although “Learning How to Speak” is directed towards a young adult readership, many people, young and old, struggle with anxiety and depression (as well as other mental health issues), and yet there is still a stigma that surrounds and permeates any discourse on mental health. Unfortunately, common negative views of those who live with mental health disorders won’t change unless people start speaking out and sharing their stories.
I had trouble coming up with a good title for my Fierce Short but finally settled on “Learning How to Speak,” because in my story I learn to cope with my anxiety and depression through writing and finding my voice. But “Learning How to Speak” is appropriate to more than just my story. What I learned from publishing my Fierce Short and my hesitation to share it with others is that I’m still learning how to speak. Every day. And I hope that I never stop.
For more information about “Learning How to Speak” please visit my author page at Fierce Ink Press. Digital copies are available for purchase from Storenvy, Kobo, iTunes and Kindle, and twenty percent of proceeds go to the HeartWood Centre for Community Youth Development. I also encourage you to check out some of the other Fierce Shorts listed here. They are truly great stories, and twenty percent of each sale goes towards a youth charity of the author’s choice.