Write 52
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Write 52

Look Back to Move Forward

Battling Imposter Syndrome

Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

I once attended a writing workshop, in the beautiful setting of the Garden Museum in Vauxhall, London. The event was hosted by two renowned food writers; we ran a delicatessen in those days so food inspirations were constantly being sought out.

I remember, vividly, when one of the writers — much published, and much-admired by us — made it clear that to be a writer, to call yourself a ‘writer’, you really needed to have some books under your belt, probably a regular column too.

In spite of myself — and the promise I’d made {subconsciously, beforehand} to sit quietly in the background and soak up the opportunity to immerse myself in the moment — I found myself disagreeing. I felt my hand snake skywards.

“What”, I wondered aloud, “if someone needs to call themselves a ‘writer’ as an encouragement; to give themselves ‘permission to write’?”

That, most clearly, was not the answer; no ground conceded by the authoritative writer. To be fair, it was her party, but I’ll cry (inwardly) if I want to. Slightly crushed I retreated to a safe space, nodding at the things I agreed with, listening and not speaking.

Damn, and I thought I was a writer.

So, a break for lunch; a long lunch with a writing challenge at the heart of it. Take the writing prompt ‘At The Table’ and produce a short piece; there would be the opportunity to read it out to the class if you wanted to.

The words flowed. I didn't eat lunch, I recall. One take, no editing, a short piece of writing emerged. We reassembled. I sat quietly, looking forward to learning from the others who all seemed way more poised and accomplished than me. An arm stretched out, a gesture towards my corner of the horseshoe-shaped seating arrangements. “Perhaps you'd like to start us off”. Damn, I’m not even a writer; she’s already told me that. Start us off.

No, definitely no, said my inner voice. “Yep, okay”, says an actual voice, sounding a lot like my voice and way more confident than I was feeling.

At The Table

I am at the table, deep in lively debate with myself about whether I’m an imposter.

Published authors, food writers, commentators on matters of the culinary heart … makers, journalists, columnists, influencers … photographers whose images paint a thousand words.

And me.

A library of books and articles, arraigned before me in human form.

Food experts, lovers of food, masters, and mistresses of recipes and flavours … curators of food past, present, and future.

And me.

These are the talented folk who have made their mark in their first careers, taking tentative — but confident — steps into whatever is their ‘what next’. The barrister, the restaurateur, the preserve maker, and the truffle huntress … there’s a truffle huntress, dammit. Interesting folk at every turn.

Cookery schools have taken a pause to release their inspiring owners; food businesses will have to wait a day for advice from their mentors; the heat has been turned down on macaroons and award-winning salted caramel sauce so the entrepreneur behind them can add words to the story already written.

And there’s me.

I scribble a bit. Blog a bit. Produce notes to champion others.

I’m in a room full of writers … and me.

I’m at the table, actively seeking inspiration.

And, yet, I am at the table letting the words flow; I am sat here summoning up a paragraph or two that reflects my thoughts and emotions. I’m telling a story, my story.

I’m in a room full of writers and I am writing.

Perhaps I am a ‘writer’ after all.

The silent nod from the front of the class, the accompanying smile of recognition, that was all the approval that this aspiring writer needed; the encouragement to write a little more; perhaps, even, to gather up the sobriquet … yes, yes, I think I shall be a writer.




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