There’s something humbling about reading the words on a page you had just madly written down minutes prior during a 2-minute freewriting exercise. I can still hear my voice tripping over the phrases and my cheeks burning. I was so confident of the short story of a man driving home from his sister’s Christmas meal and facing the consequences of what he had done that morning when marking it on paper that I hadn’t steadied myself for an entire room of people to hear it. It was terrifying.
I’ve been forced to ask myself, am I a writer?
This was a question I was asking myself the entire time I was contemplating applying for Tom Well’s writing group with Middle Child. When I had first heard of the opportunity, I didn’t think too deeply into it honestly, I just knew I wanted to be involved, but when I read the application, imposter syndrome smacked me in the face.
To backtrack, anyone who reads my experience with writing would be confused as to why I wouldn’t consider myself a writer. I’ve written about uncountable short-stories, poetry pieces, short-film scripts, articles, blogs, reviews, lyrics, essays for my short-lived YouTube career, alongside copywriting for social media and various company websites, and I’ve probably overlooked many other examples, but most of these surprisingly isn’t for the sake of writing.
Despite myself, I applied and I got in. Over the course of the weeks we met in a room, I poured my brain onto the page for the first time and when reading that first piece, I panicked. Everyone else was so funny, so quick, so clever, and I felt I was wading through a clumsy chunk of an idea. After I had read out loud, I analysed the room and the reactions, and honestly, there could have been a million positive comments, but they would never have shined through a twitch in a mouth corner which I had translated into shame.
Creative writing, an idea from your brain, is very personal. Compared to well-researched essays, reports or even an album review, for me, it feels like a world away. I can spend hours of energy constructing an incredibly insightful piece for a company blog and happily stand in front of a crowd of hundreds and confidently read aloud. My heart is safely tucked behind my ribcage and nowhere near my sleeve. But then I reach into myself and pull out something fictional, explorative, use my imagination, my knees give way at the idea of letting another person see.
The thing about practice, surprisingly, is that the thing you practice generally gets easier. Over the weeks sat in that room with the brilliant group of writers, sharing our ideas and our work throughout Tom’s exercises, something clicked. I wasn’t consistently confident, but I noticed that feedback that was constructive and useful no longer felt like an attack on my soul. You’ll be happy to hear, by the last week, I was volunteering to go first in sharing my ideas, and with a smile on my face, I shared my thoughts around where I wanted to take my final piece. I feel I am prepared to hear my own writing performed by another on stage in front of an audience, not only that, I think I’m thrilled by the concept.
As most of the past attendees of Tom’s writing group will say: If you have any consideration of trying out the writer’s group, then bloody well apply.
Jenni Harrison, Events/Media Producer and Manager (and writer)