Overcoming Obstacles to Embracing Authorship

Todd Foley (’09) never imagined he’d be an author one day. Though he always liked writing, it wasn’t until taking courses at Trinity Western that he realized he had a knack for it.

“The Communications courses equipped me with the ability to cut text mercilessly,” says Foley. “The program helped me learn to recognize the story in everything—relationships, arts, film, and more.”

As his love for writing developed, Foley thought he’d become a journalist. He got involved as news editor for MARS Hill, Trinity Western’s student paper. In his final year, he attended the Laurentian Leadership Centre, and interned at the Ottawa Citizen. This was great experience, but Foley soon felt the newspaper industry wasn’t a good fit for his passions.

The World of Corporate Communications

After graduation, Foley switched from newspaper writing to corporate communications. He worked for two years as Communications Coordinator at Food for the Hungry, then another two years as Associate Editor at Focus on the Family. He also spent some time writing scripts and storyboards for radio and TV commercials, and started a side business as an editor.

“I’ve been involved in editing other people’s work for about ten years now,” says Foley, who now works full-time at Focus on the Family as the Integrated Marketing Manager.

In the years following graduation, Foley had many great experiences as a professional writer, but the joy of words he once knew started to fade.

He missed fiction.

Becoming an Author

Foley had always been a veracious reader and lover of movies. One of the things he loves most about fiction is the way it encourages people to have conversations and explore perspectives they might not have otherwise.

This realization gave him an idea. He wanted to tell stories that would inspire conversations. Foley discussed this with his wife, and she encouraged him to try his hand at writing a novel.

Over the course of a few years, he wrote whenever he had a spare moment. This usually meant writing over lunch breaks, or late at night. It wasn’t easy, but he made time wherever he could. It was fun, at first. But then fear crept in.

The Fear of Failure

“Stories don’t die,” says Foley. “It’s scary, in a way. If I create something and it’s perceived as not very good, it’s out there forever.”

Foley started to wonder if his writing was any good. Should he stick to the corporate world and leave imagination behind? He became protective of his early drafts, and feared feedback on his novel. But even while afraid, he couldn’t stop writing.

“I was always writing down ideas and thoughts,” says Foley. “I realized, if I’m thinking about it this much, I’m clearly passionate about it. Would it be honoring to God not to finish?”

Foley came to the conclusion that God gave him his passion for a reason, and even if only a small section of people read his work and liked it, it was worth the effort. He had to accept that he’d always have fear, but that he couldn’t live with the regret of not finishing his novel.

The First of Many

When Foley’s first novel, Eastbound Sailing, was published in 2012, he felt both great pride and extreme vulnerability.

“I felt very protective of it when I first finished, but it became a good exercise in learning to let go,” says Foley.

Since 2012, Foley has released two other works of fiction. Charades, a novella, which was published in 2016, and just this year he released Love, or Something Like It: A Connection of Stories.

But even with having several books to his name, Foley admits there still is fear.

“I battle with fears every day and with every project. But I’d rather step into the unknown and release my work than wonder ‘What if?’” says Foley.

When asked if he had any advice or encouragement for other creative types who might be afraid to share their work, Foley says, “Give yourself permission and grace to create a terrible first draft, refine it, and release it. And never treat a finished project as your last project—keep on creating!”

Foley says that he has grown a lot through this process, and writing is now like exercise for him. Writing keeps him healthy and happy, and now that he’s started, he has no plans to stop.

To learn more about Todd Foley, visit his blog.