Sweet are the uses of adversity. Aren’t they? Although sometimes the sweetness takes time to come out.
In my life this sweetness has arrived in the form of me taking new risks — doing things that I would never have done. Coming on camera for example. Yes, I wrote about it last time too! I did not have to repeat, but some of my friends from Instagram, who missed the live there have requested me to compile small summary of what I spoke about. And so, never saying no to a reader, here I am.
You can choose to read this further if you like a good filmy story, or dismiss and get back to browsing the internet. If I was not doing this, I would be doing that too!
So, my discussion was with this another awesome woman, Ishita, someone who I admire much. A writer, marketing & PR person, and now a businesswoman, Ishita is one of those who inspire you everyday and push you to do better. The topic of discussion was the career shift and making your passion, in this case food, your profession. Given that she runs a wonderful delivery kitchen with her partners and I write about food it had to be food.
Unlike most conversations, we had planned to keep it free flowing and informal. Maybe that’s why so many of you stuck around for over 90 minutes. Thank you! Means a lot. Now, since there was no strict Q&A, I will just bring in the key discussions we had especially pertaining to the career shift.
1. My background and what I do now.
For those who may not know, until just three years ago I was a full time learning consultant and training professional. I did workshops with managers of top corporate groups and helped them become better managers and leaders. I consulted corporations and helped them identified their learning needs and make their learning curriculum. I also created learning content for companies and corporations. Some of this I still do but at a much lower scale.
At the time, from 2013 onward, I was moonlighting as a travel writer. Some of these stories also had elements of food — because food is never far from travel.Gradually though I realized writing was my calling. Trying to juggle the two was getting harder and writing was getting sidelined every day. So one day, on the 1st of January 2018, I decided to give one full year to writing. I wanted to try everything I could and see if I succeed. If not, I would get back to making money and training people. As luck would have it, I started seeing fruition in just a few months.
2. Why and how the switch. (We will talk about how you can do it too!)
No switch happens in a silo. There is a long and intermixed process. I did not one day wake up to become a writer. I had been writing since forever and only made it more formal in the past few years. The why of the switch was simple — I wanted to see my name in every newspaper and magazine that did feature or travel writing. I am not a trained journalist so reportage isn’t what I was looking at, but storytelling is what I wanted to do. Since travel was something that I always did and travelled alone much before solo-travel blogging became a rage, I felt that was what I wanted to do.
3. Why food writing.
Food came later as an offshoot of travel writing and now is the mainstay of my writing. I realised that with small kids and a home to run I cannot travel as much I will have to, to make it as a top travel writer. The opportunities were many but I was stuck. So I looked at the next best thing: food. It helped (and now I am glad I branched out) that food is my lifeblood. It is a part of who I am, where I come from and what I do everyday. I have been cooking since I was 10 and still make 3-4 meals daily. In fact, sometimes I feel the reason I quit a full time job was just to cook and feed.
The more I read about food in media the more I felt there was space for and a need of realistic food writing. This is before I ventured into intagram too. I had no idea a world like that existed.
Anyway, so slowly but steadily, I started to bring in stories of real food of the real India within my circle of influence. I wrote about the humble pani ke batashe and alu ki tikki, I wrote about the ghee that is made at home, I brought stories of people selling food on platforms and women cooking tindas at home. The idea was to make food stories real sans any fancy vocabulary or critiquing.
4. Challenges: It cannot all be hunky-dory you see.
Switching careers comes with its own set of challenges — and the first one is money. I was, and am, lucky that I can afford not to make as much money as I would in a steady job. Anyone wanting to switch needs to be sure that he/she can sustain with little or no income at first. I freelance which also means that the incoming money is erratic and unsteady.
The second is making a place for yourself. With everyone wanting to be a food writer and blogger, the space is getting more and more crowded. This means you have to have a definite voice and some knowledge about food before you can write. I did that very slowly over almost three years, built up on my knowledge, and went deeper and deeper into the subject.
Making space is not only confined to the work but also means belonging to the group of people who do this job. This to me was hardest because I take time to mingle and make friends. I cannot go and just attach myself to a group of a person. But this is where I have pushed myself the most and it seems to have paid off.
The last and final challenge is to find places where you can write. I did not know anyone in the industry when I started. In fact for the longest time I did not know I could even pitch to a publication without them knowing me. Then there is the alignment of your voice with that of the publication. Which is tricky and can take time to find.
5. How can you venture into writing — food or otherwise.
If you are lucky you may have a few friends in the business, if you like me know no one don’t lose hope. Like I always say if I can do it anyone can do it.
The first step is to find out why you want to write and what. Is it because you like the subject, is it because you like to write, or is it because you think writing is glamorous. If it’s the last one — don’t bother. If it’s the first two you move ahead.
The second step is to invest time to get to know publications and their work and of course your subject. If you want to write food, for example, find out what kind of food writing there is in the market. Read magazines and newspapers and study their approach to the subject.
Third and most important is to practice. What we see on the paper or a magazine or even a blog is a result of weeks of thought and days or hard work. It takes time for anyone to develop a style and a voice and knowledge of the subject is paramount. Practice writing in your blog, on your Instagram account or your notebook, but write everyday and make notes daily. Also seek feedback — a writer is nothing without readers who like and follow their work.