For 10 years now I've called myself a writer. Haltingly at first, trying on the phrase like someone else's coat. I wanted it to fit immediately, but it didn't. It couldn't.
I pitched stories, and endured silence. I'd sit at my computer, listening to the sound of my breath, deep, frustrated sighs punctuating the quiet. This was my soundtrack, this, my daily jam.
Then I pitched stories, and faced rejection. I didn't recognize it at the time, but this was good. This was progress. Painful progress, ego-busting progress, but progress nonetheless.
Eventually, I pitched stories, and landed bylines. One, then another, then another.
The coat fit, and it was mine.
I was a writer.
At some point in the last 10 years, I stopped thinking about writing. It's just what I do. Today, it's not a coat I put on, but a skin I can't remove. On good days it's soft and supple, on bad days itchy and splotched.
Some days, many days, it just is.
You know that skin on the back of your arm?
Of course you don't. You don't think about it.
It's just there.
It just is.
Now you get what I mean.
I recently got to teach food writing. To develop my own curriculum for students unfamiliar with the craft. But how does one teach about one's skin? About the spot on the back of your arm you never look at, you never see?
I couldn't rely solely on my own experience, on my personal journey from A to wherever I am now... K? N? To do this well, to do it right, I needed help.
So I pulled books from my shelves. One, then another, then more still. Grabbed a highlighter, tore open a pack of post-its, and set to work. My desk, which -- two weeks prior -- had been heaped with the pages of my own manuscript, now held works by favorite food writers: Laurie Colwin, Gabrielle Hamilton, Elizabeth David, MFK Fisher, Bill Buford. I drank them in, spending new time with these writers whose words had moved me so much as I'd tried to find my own voice, my own place at a very crowded table.
I called on several experienced friends, too, to seek advice. Having taught before, years ago, I recognized that teaching, like writing, is an art, and a craft, and above all, hard work. It takes time to do it right, to do it well. I reached out to my village, and my village answered.
Something else happened, too. I rediscovered the untethered joy, the deep-seated, soul-filling passion I have for this thing I've been doing day in and day out for years, but had somehow ceased to see.
I found the skin on the back of my arm.
And it was beautiful.
More beautiful than a blossom, fresh and dewy, shiny and bright, iridescent on a deep winter morning just after the rain.