Say what you are

by Kim on February 8, 2012 · 46 comments

In 2005, when I first started running, I was too embarrassed to call myself a runner.  I believed that there was some mythical point I had to reach- a certain number of miles logged or races run or a half marathon time to beat- before I became a real runner.

I worried that if I said I was a runner people would think to themselves she sure doesn’t look like a runner or who does this girl think she’s fooling?  Even after I’d run so many races that bibs filled my bulletin board in layers and medals hung from all available doorknobs, I still blushed when people asked what I did in my free time.  I didn’t think myself worthy of the title runner.

I was a runner, of course, even back then.  Because you are what you repeatedly do.

I know now that no one really cared whether I was a runner, not because they didn’t care about me, but because it’s no big deal if I’m a runner or a baker or a roller derby queen.  Regardless, I really, really wanted to be a runner so it mattered to me that others accepted and embraced what I claimed as my own.

It seems silly now that I worried about that kind of thing, but the truth is that I still worry about that kind of thing.  Now, the title I feel unworthy of embracing is writer.  In place of my runner fears, I now worry that people will read what I write and think: She’s not a good writer.  She’ll never make a living writing crap like that! Who does this girl think she’s fooling?

My first check as a paid writer, April 2010

Logically, I know it is futile to care about how I’m perceived.  I can’t control how others think; I can only be who I am.  Yet, how do I stop myself from caring about something that matters so much to me?

I find myself chasing that mythical badge of worthiness again- unable to stop myself from thinking that if I just log a specific number of hours writing each day, or earn a certain income off my blog, or finish a novel (or start one, for that matter) that then I will be a writer.

And yet, I am a writer, aren’t I?  In much the same way that I became a runner by continuously lacing up my shoes and hitting the track, I am a writer because I sit down, even when I can’t bear to do it, and follow that little tug inside that asks to be explored, knead it until it rises to life on paper.  You are what you repeatedly do.

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Last summer I ordered business cards and on them I printed: Kim Dinan, Writer.  Just using that word to define myself gives me a thrill.  I am a writer and because I’m a writer I make space in my life for this thing that matters so much to me.

I have learned the power of saying what you are- even if you don’t feel worthy of the title.  Runner. Writer. Scholar. Piano Player. Naturalist.  Artist.  What is it that you do?  What is it you love to do?  That is what you are.

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie February 8, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I felt the exact same way when I started running! Even after 5 marathons, I feel weird calling myself a “marathoner.”

But you’re right, we are what we repeatedly do. And, when it comes to advancing yourself in a profession, I think you need to put yourself out there how you want to be seen – if you want to be a writer, you need to call yourself a writer.

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Kim February 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Yes, I think you are right- if you want to be a writer, call yourself a writer. Kind of a “fake it ’till you make it” kind of thing.

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D.J. - The World of Deej February 8, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Oh how I can relate…I write a travel blog, but I have a hard time calling myself a travel blogger or travel writer. Not sure if I’ll ever get there and feel like a “real” travel blogger, but I’ll keep trying…

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Kim February 8, 2012 at 6:31 pm

But you ARE a travel blogger, writer, etc. It’s all in our head, yet so odd that it’s such a difficult hurdle to cross.

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Janet February 8, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Dear Kim,

You are not just a writer, you are a fantastic writer. The way you describe things creates a visual, and you have a unique way of evoking emotions in your reader(s). But you don’t need anyone’s approval. I think you’re right – as long as you’re doing what you love to do and it makes you happy to do it, you shouldn’t care what other people think. Even though that’s hard, and everyone needs and/or seeks validation.

And if you ever do come across any “haters”, I would disregard such noise. Chew and swallow your own and others’ constructive criticisms, and spit out the other crap.

Ellen said on her show the other day that the “haters are motivators”. I like that.
Even if you’re your own “hater”, I think that just proves that you’re self aware and that you really care about what you do.

PS. If you ever need validation, I have buckets of it for you. :D

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Kim February 8, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Awww, thanks Janet :) I really wasn’t fishing for validation but it sure is nice to hear anyway, I really appreciate it. I would definitely say the biggest hater is the internal critic.

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Carmel February 8, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I had this exact.same.thought this weekend. I always have trouble with that title, runner. I say that I’m going for a run fairly often, but define myself as a runner? Hardly.

I think I’ll always have those little voices telling me I’m not good enough or can’t possibly be what I want to be. The difference will be whether I choose to let those voices be right or I keep doing what makes me happy.

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Kim February 8, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Inside, I know I am a writer just like I knew I was a runner before I could say it. It’s just that I’m so shy. Why? I’m afraid to be judged, I guess, at something that truly matters to me.

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Beth Yost February 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I just read your post while sitting at my desk at work–where I’m supposed to be writing. I smile to myself because my title reads, “Content Creation Specialist”. I think, “Why can’t they just call me a ….(no, I’m not). I was up until midnight last night working on a blog post. “This is awful. I need to be more disciplined. Am I using the right preposition here? Ugh, I’ll never be a REAL writer.”

We are, but yet… :) You are not alone.

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Kim February 8, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Yes! Yes! We are, but yet… It’s nice not to be alone, though I guess I wish instead we were both yelling from the rooftops “I’m a writer!”

“Content Creation Specialist” only a writer could have invented that title :)

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Elizabeth Bird February 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I feel the exact same way when I tell people about my blog! I worry that they will notice that I have so many twitter followers or so many comments on each post. Then I wonder when I started caring about these things – when did this start defining what makes a travel writer?

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Kim February 8, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Hello! It does not define (or, it should not. Or, I mean, I hope it doesn’t)!! I really try not to pay attention to that stuff. I know it’s impossible to ignore it completely but nothing good can come of comparing your stats to other people’s stats, you know? (Also, do as I say and not as I do) ;)

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Hannah February 8, 2012 at 1:14 pm

There are few writers that have me impatiently waiting for their next literary offering. Alice Walker is one of them… another is Paulo Coelho… and another one is you Kim Dinan. You are a beautiful writer, one whose words I devour with glee every time you publish a new post. I always read them more than once, and take from your writing endless amounts of inspiration and joy. It is also through your written words that we have become friends, without ever having actually met. You words hold magic my friend, and I treasure every one of them xxx

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Kim February 8, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Awww, Hannah, I swear I would pay you to say these things to me but you do it for free ;) Thank you so much, as always, for your support. I swear you radiate across the ocean.

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Maryjean February 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Wow Kim! You continue to inspire me in so many ways. Thank you for being totally honest and being who you are. I think that’s why you are so easy to relate to, for me anyways. I think you are an amazing writer and I’m so glad I get to follow you on this amazing journey!

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Kim February 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Thanks MJ. You AMAZE me. You, my friend, are a brave woman.

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Brad February 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm

You forgot something else that you are: AWESOME.

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Kim February 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Awww, thanks Brad. This is awesome! This post made all my friends tell me how wonderful I am. Whaaa haaa haa, my evil plan worked!!

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meriah February 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Too true!

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Kim February 8, 2012 at 6:38 pm
Dalene February 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Totally get it (I still have a hard time doing it to) but as you know, you SHOULD. You definitely have a knack for connecting with your audience, and that is a rare gift. :)

(One tip, be prepared at border crossings to answer a lot of questions when you say you are a writer. At least we have had issues in Europe, I think they all think I want to come and take over their newspapers or something. Silly customs.)

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Kim February 8, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Dalene, wow! I’m honestly surprised they give you a hard time about it. So, you tell them you are a writer and not just a traveler? Or do you say, “hello, I am Dalene, come from the icy land of Canada to usurp your newspapers and magazines?”

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Gillian @OneGiantStep February 8, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Wait until you are a ‘traveler’, or a ‘traveling writer’, or a ‘travel writer’, or…

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Kim February 8, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Or… or… what else can I be?

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Nicole (colehaber.com) February 8, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Hi there!

I am new to your blog but I really liked this post. I actually had the same issue when I started running. I know exactly what you mean.

Can’t wait to read more!
N

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Kim February 8, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Hi Nicole! Welcome, I’m glad you found me!! So funny about the running thing- it seems like a lot of us have felt this way :)

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Cath February 9, 2012 at 4:01 am

I know just what you mean. I love cycling, but I see all these men in Lycra shooting past me up Italian hills on their mega-bucks racing bikes and I think “I will never be a cyclist” – even though I would never want to be a racing bike kind of cyclist. It’s all in the mind …

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Kim February 9, 2012 at 8:05 am

It is all in the mind! You don’t need Lycra to be a cyclist, you just need to love cycling and get on your bike most of the time. So funny how the mind works.

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Patricia GW February 9, 2012 at 6:20 am

Kim, this really struck a cord with me because I’ve often felt the same way. I began running in 2010 and even though I was going to the gym 3x week, I felt like I had to have special running clothes for others to accept me as a runner. I know that’s silly now, and I can dress however I like just as long as I put in the miles. I think it works the same way vice versa – you can’t say that you are X if you never do it, but only wish you could do it. You’re not a bungee jumper until you finally take the plunge.

The picture of your first check as a writer, and then ordering the business cards, sounds so empowering! Fantastic post :)

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Kim February 9, 2012 at 8:06 am

Thanks Patricia. It was sooo fun and empowering to order the cards and I’ve never felt such a thrill as that first time I got paid to write (which is why I forced Brian to take a picture of me) :)

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Mari February 9, 2012 at 8:41 am

Love this post! Maybe one day I’ll have the guts to call myself a blogger.

You ARE a writer and a good one too, I really like your style of writing. You go girl!

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Kim February 9, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Thank you Mari!!! I wish you all the guts in the world. You ARE a blogger.

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Darcy @SustainableFamilyFinances February 9, 2012 at 8:41 am

Great post! I have a quote from my son that he wrote at age 5. He was asked “What does learning mean to you?” and replied, very wisely I might add, “What you are writing is what you are learning about.”

I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school, but I couldn’t ever picture myself writing a whole book. It turns out that blog writing is a great happy medium for my life…although I have a feeling that once my kids are grown a book will emerge…

Keep being a writer.

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Miel February 9, 2012 at 9:02 am

There is definitely a book in there!

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Kim February 9, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Darcy, I just absolutely love that quote “What you are writing is what you are learning about.” Could it get anymore right than that? Children are so wise.

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Miel February 9, 2012 at 9:01 am

Indeed. Becoming a global citizen was much like that for me. It wasn’t until I looked back and realized that not only have I have traveled, I’ve traveled more than most people on this planet. Still hard to believe, but alas, it is a large part of who I am. I’m working on the running part too!

You are totally a writer!

Miel

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Kim February 9, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Thanks Miel! And you are totally a global citizen… and a future falafal shop owner, I hear ;) Congrats!

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Lauren February 9, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Kim Dinan, amazing, inspirational, ballsy.

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Kim February 9, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Lauren Patton: amazing and kind. And MARRIED TOMORROW.

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Ali February 9, 2012 at 11:11 pm

I have trouble with this too. Not the “runner” thing, totally not me, but other things. “Writer” is tough, but somehow I’m fine with saying I’m a blogger. Lots of other things like that. Like somehow I’m not good enough or qualified enough for certain titles. It all boils down to confidence, having the confidence to just BE.

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Kim February 10, 2012 at 10:45 am

Yes, have the confidence to just BE what you are, and you are what you do, and so on….

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Bama February 12, 2012 at 3:57 am

True, you are what you repeatedly do. But I think it’s also you are what you tell yourself.

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Sarahsomewhere February 13, 2012 at 7:51 am

Beautiful, Kim :) Do I need to say “I can relate so much” AGAIN? Because I do!!!!

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Kim February 13, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Sarah! I knew you would relate to this post. You are a lovely writer.

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Murissa March 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm

I am in my final semester of University and I find that a lot of us majoring in creative writing are hesitant to call ourselves writers because we are trying to figure out what kind of writing we want to focus on, even though all of us have been published (perhaps without pay).

Except me! I have spent most of my four and a half years of school writing countless poems, short stories, 1/2 a novel, 1 chapbook and a couple short plays. And now a blog for 1 year to add to this list where I am a foodie and traveler and even a novice photographer! But my favourite claim… I am a writer!

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Kim March 2, 2012 at 10:08 am

Yes… you are a writer!! I definitely it is harder to say what you are when you really, really want that thing, because it matters. You know?

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