Writing Woes: Sometimes the only opinion that matters is your own

by Ginella Massa Ask any writer and they'll tell you: the work is never complete -- you just reach your deadline.

We writers labour over every word, punctuation mark, adjective. There is always something that can be fixed. Am I striking the right tone? Is it too controversial? Not controversial enough? Does it draw the reader in? Does anyone even care about this topic? Am I making an impact? Or just shouting into the void?

Sometimes I need to step away from the work and come back to it with fresh eyes and start chopping.

SAVE AS: VERSION 12

Writing about issues in the Muslim community adds a layer of pressure. Am I “representing my community” appropriately? What will Muslims think? What will non-Muslims think? Am I shaming my religion? Watering it down too much? Exposing our dirty laundry? Sugarcoating reality?

I just can’t please everyone.

SAVE AS: VERSION 46

I ask my colleague to give me her honest “white” opinion on my work. Would Canadians care about this? Or do I sound like another whiny Muslim asking to be accommodated?

She understands the fragile state of a writer baring their soul in black and white for the world to read. Her feedback is detailed, but couched within positive remarks: “It’s very informative and well-written," she tells me. "I would tweak these these sections to change the tone. But I really think you’re on to something here."

I'm encouraged by her response, but know there is still work to be done.

They say the best writing is in the rewriting.

SAVE AS: VERSION 93 I need a Muslim assessment, and I know I can count on my sister for honest feedback. A little too honest sometimes: “I think it’s too negative. And I hate the title.”

No one has ever accused her of being indirect.

SAVE AS: VERSION 187

My brother-in-law is a little more tactful and feeds me the shit sandwich I desperately need. (Shit sandwich: compliments on top, shitty stuff in the middle, nice stuff at the end). “The writing is great. I love the second half. But the intro strikes the wrong tone. It might help if you added a line here to clarify.”

I know constructive criticism is important. But sometimes all I want to hear is:“It’s amazing! Don’t change a thing!” If only.

SAVE AS: VERSION 362

I email a Muslim friend who is also journalist, hoping for a balanced perspective. She texts me back: “It’s a great piece! Informative and entertaining. You got everything covered. Great job.”

Sigh. I wish it were that simple. All I see are the flaws.

SAVE AS: VERSION 240856740

When I'm writing for myself, there is no deadline. I have to learn when to call it quits and hand in the finished product. The myriad of voices and opinions telling me what I should and shouldn’t write can't dictate the work. I can’t represent everyone. I can only represent myself. I go with my gut and write what I feel. And that will just have to be good enough. After all, it’s my name in the by-line.

SAVE AS: VERSION ME

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About the Author

Ginella Massa is a Canadian journalist, producer, and media trainer. She became Canada's first Hijab-wearing reporter in 2015. Ginella  has worked for CityNews, CTV News, Rogers TV, and NEWSTALK 1010.  She frequently writes about issues affecting Muslims in North America. 

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