Who’s Afraid of the Big Blank Page? By Daphne Dykeman

Having left full-time paid employment to become a mother, I still wanted to contribute in some way to the family budget. I saw that the local paper printed book reviews by a number of freelancers, and I felt that, with a degree in English and a passion for books, it would be a natural fit.

I checked out the most recently printed book available at my local library and began thinking about my sample review. And continued thinking about it for four months. I played around with openings and phrases, but it was impossible to actually commit anything to paper.

It was the fear that kept me back. As long as the idea remained an idea, I had the possibility of being accepted. When it became fact, an actual written document to be submitted, then it could be rejected, and I didn’t think I would have a second chance. So I would sit at the computer and play Solitaire, check my email, anything but actually commit to my project.

A small financial crisis finally forced me over the precipice. I collected my scattered thoughts, wrote the review, and submitted it along with a letter to sell myself. When the reply came, I was too afraid to look for a moment. Then I tried to read it all at once and saw only that the editor had enjoyed my review. Reading more carefully, I saw that she wanted me to become a regular contributor.

It was a small first step, but it gave me both my first recurring assignment and a measure of confidence to take to other markets. But one regret will always stay with me. The editor said in her letter that my sample review was good enough to publish, but the paper had a policy of only reviewing books printed within the last six months. By the time I had finally submitted the review, the book was eight months old.

Daphne Dykeman lives in Saint John New Brunswick, where she continues to contribute book reviews to the New Brunswick Reader. She has also been published in Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul, Today’s Parent Pregnancy and Birth, as well as some Sunday school periodicals.