I always find it interesting when two of my worlds collide, which often happens with my running and writing life. I have seen the need for names or labels divide both runners and writers, and I wanted to address this. In the running world, there is a debate about the right to be called a runner verses a jogger. Some runners feel that you only earn the right to call yourself a runner if you run a certain mile split. Others feel it has to do with the amount of races you do. Me? I believe you earn the title of runner, and likewise writer, through consistency and commitment.
I am a runner. Six days a week, I lace up my running shoes and hit the road. Sometimes I run twenty-two miles; sometimes I run only four. I run in the humidity, in the dark, in the rain. Sometimes I can’t wait to get out there and fly over the ground, and sometimes I slog through the run, looking forward to the shower at the end. There are even some days when I sleep in and miss the run completely, though that doesn’t happen that often. I’ve never won a race. I've placed in my age-group. I’ve seen my marathon times get better and better, I’ve seen my mile splits get smaller, and I’ve set goals and crashed through them. But I’ve never won a race, and I probably never will. I’m okay with that. I’m a solid mid-packer. I am close to Boston qualifying, which I am quite proud of, but I've never broken through that tape. But I am still a runner.
I don’t know why that lesson was so hard for me to learn when it came to writing. At first, I never told anyone that I wrote. It was a hobby that was just mine, an indulgence that was too sacred to share. Then, when I finally got the courage, I told people that I liked to write. I wrote almost every day, most often meeting and exceeding my goal of 1,000 words, but I could not call myself a writer. I liked to write. Because in my mind, until I was published, and published more than once, I was not a writer.
How silly. I run every day, therefore I am a runner. I write every day, therefore I’m a writer. It should be that simple, but it’s not. It took me a while to see it that way, mainly because I let other people’s perceptions color my own. But then where is that line? Are you only a writer if you are published? Or are you only a writer if you can make your living that way? Or are you only a writer if you have been validated by someone you deem worthy?
I am not a person who believes everyone deserves a trophy for participating. But I do think there are many ways to be a writer, and only some of them involve being published. If you love words enough to craft them into sentence and story, then you are a writer. If you write consistently and hone your craft, you are a writer. To me the line between someone who writes and a writer is passion and drive. A writer works at her art and pushes herself to be better. But you don’t have to cross that finish line first to cross that finish line – you just have to meet whatever goal you set for yourself and find joy in the act of doing. That is running. And that is writing.