Last year, my sister dared me to run a 5K. I assure you, running is not my thing. I rose to the challenge, however (because turning down a dare is even more not my thing). I, who once said I’d only start running at the behest of a rabid bear, got on the treadmill, hit the streets, and ran a 5K. Somewhere in the middle of my preparations, I realized something. Despite my reluctance, despite my nonconformity to my perception of a runner, despite my naivety of the athletic culture, I was – by virtue of putting one foot in front of the other – a runner.
The same goes for writing.
Not so long ago, I overhead a teenaged girl declare to her friends, “I am going to be a writer. I don’t care what anyone says. I am going to be a writer!”
I was torn between two responses. Unfortunately, the quiet, reserved me won the moment, and I walked away without saying anything. If the other me – the one who wants to stand on the roof and shout, “Follow your dreams!” to anyone who will listen – had triumphed, I would have told that bright young lady something like this:
You are a writer! You are building worlds, raising characters, developing plots, and seeking to express it all in a voice uniquely yours. Whether the product of your efforts amounts to genius or to epic failure, you are figuring out what works and what does not. I don’t care how skilled you are, and I don’t care what anyone else says of your dream to be a writer. In my eyes, you already are a writer. By virtue of stringing carefully chosen word after carefully chosen word, you, dear girl,are a writer.
Sometimes I have to give myself this same pep talk. I have so many roles already that it feels narrow to call myself a writer. Beyond that, it feels a little presumptuous, only just having finished my first novel and still waiting for its publication, to take that label.
But I think I’ll dare to do it, even if just before a small audience, because with every word I write…
I am a writer.