Something you may or may not know about me is that I am a runner. I’m not a particularly fast runner, I don’t necessarily “look” like a runner, and I’m far from being a natural athlete. Nonetheless, running has been a passion since I took my first tentative steps thirteen years ago. Since then, I’ve covered a lot of miles. Because, well, runners run.
Over the years, I’ve done my Sunday long runs with different groups and different people, depending upon my goal event (at my pace, I hesitate to use the word “race.”) Lately, however, I’ve been doing most of my running on my own. But recently I decided to sign up for 30K Around the Bay (for those of you not into metric, that’s roughly 18.6 miles), with the outside chance of doing a May marathon (26.2 miles/42.2 kilometres). And so I joined a Marathon Running Clinic, put on by my local Running Room, with the hope I’d have the company of like-minded individuals for those long Sunday runs.
Now, that’s where this story really starts, and I apologize for all the backstory info-dumped into the first couple of paragraphs. If I were writing a book, or even a short story, I’d have the space to weave it all in properly. But this is a blog post, which I try to keep under 600 words (apparently that’s about the cutoff for readers to stay connected).
I mentioned upfront that I’ve done my long runs with different groups and different people. As such, when our group met at 8:30 a.m. for our inaugural Sunday long run, I realized I knew at least half of the people there, although I hadn’t seen most of them in a couple of years or more.
Here’s the thing. Every single person I chatted with, however briefly, asked me the same question: “Are you still writing?”
Now, I’m not sure if you’d ask a lawyer if they still practiced law, or an IT professional if they still worked with computers, or a teacher if they still taught. But it made me realize that to most people, being a writer is just another profession.
Except that it’s not. Because the thing is, writers write— with and without any expectation of publication. With or without any expectation of payment. Because the harsh reality is that very few novelists can afford to live solely off the royalties from their books (and given the state of publishing today, things aren’t going to get any easier). To quote author Katrina Monroe, “Writing is like giving yourself homework, really hard homework, every day, for the rest of your life. You want glamorous, throw some glitter at the computer screen.”
And yet as writers, we write, day in and day out, whether we’re on vacation, or alone in our rooms, whether we’re in a coffee shop surrounded by strangers, or on the commuter train as we make our way to our day jobs. We write when the words flow from us like maple syrup in springtime. We write when the muse seems to have taken a holiday. We write through writer’s block and really, really bad first drafts. We write through rejection.
Some of us even keep notepads and pens on our night table in case an idea comes to us at 2 a.m. (I actually have a pen with an LED light so I don’t have to turn on the bedroom lamp).
Because writing isn’t what we do.
It’s who we are. It’s what defines us.
Some of us are lucky enough to do both.