On Running, Writing, and the Rules for Both

One Man’s Non-Expert Opinion on All Three

Photo by skeeze on Pexels

On Running

I’m a runner.

I’m also a writer.

Although I hate labels, this is how I see myself because I do both of them on a regular basis. Others may not think the same since I’m not elite in either, but I don’t care what other people think.

In the running community, there is a saying most everyone knows.

“If you run, you are a runner.”

It doesn’t matter if you run a 5-minute mile or a 15-minute mile. If you run, you are a runner. If you can only run 1 mile or if you routinely run 20 miles, you are a runner. And running does not require you to be a certain body size, age, a professional or an expert on form.

When you are first getting started running, it is difficult. This is especially true if you haven’t done any form of exercise in a while but the more you run, you find you are able to go a little farther and faster each time — and you become better at running.

This is not to say it becomes easier, because each run, no matter how far or fast, is its own unique challenge. I’ve had runs of 10+ miles which were easy and runs of 3 miles which were hard.

Running is also a form of therapy for me. Especially on my long runs where I’m out there for several hours, it is a mental release. It is one way I use to help better both my physical and mental health. I can enjoy the scenery of the mountains and desert and be by myself without any distractions. It is one of the most wonderful feelings to me.

Photo by Me

I’m proud of being a runner and what I have accomplished. I like to compete in local races and I’ve done pretty well for someone who just started running seriously a couple of years ago. I’ve won my age bracket in several races and have finished second in a couple others. I also recently completed my first ultramarathon.

But none of that matters. It doesn’t matter if I finished first or last.

Because “If you run, you are a runner.”

On Writing

Writing is a lot like running.

“If you write, you are a writer.”

It doesn’t matter if you spend 10 minutes a day writing or 8 hours a day writing. It doesn’t matter if you write 100-word articles or 10,000-word articles. Writing does not require you to be a certain age, a professional or an expert on the rules of writing.

“If you write, you are a writer.”

When you first start to write, it can be very difficult for the words to flow. But, the more you write, the better you become. Like running, writing does not necessarily get easier because each time is its own unique challenge.

However, with both running and writing, the more you know, the better. You should have the basic knowledge of both. For instance, you should know you can’t go out and run 20 miles if you haven’t done any exercise for a while. You can get injured. You should also have some basic understanding of writing and grammar if you want people to understand what you are trying to say.

But, you can still run and write without this knowledge. It is not something you are required to do or learn.

On Rules

Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash

As a writer and reader on Medium, I am in awe of the number of incredible writers who share their thoughts and stories.

I’ve learned a lot from reading other people’s work as well as from the comments. The community has been an inspiration to me. The feedback I have received over the past year has been overwhelmingly positive and I am looking forward to furthering some of the relationships I’ve started here.

I’ve learned Medium can be an incredible way to get your thoughts and stories seen by a lot of people in a short period of time compared to other methods. The reach of Medium is worldwide. Especially for someone who as established as I’d like to be, this is invaluable.

Now, let me just say this before I get started talking about rules. I’m not an expert in anything. I’m also not a professional anything. I don’t claim some type of special knowledge others don’t and I am certainly not the world’s best writer.

But that is the beauty of writing. You don’t have to be an expert or a professional. You just have to write.

To become a runner, all you have to do is run. There are no rules you must follow. Well, don’t run in the middle of the road, but there is nothing which states you have to run a certain way or have to use a certain form. There is also nothing that says you have to run every step of the way in a race or even in training. If you want to walk for a few minutes, you can. You are still a runner.

In running, you don’t tell someone to stop running because you don’t like their form. You don’t see someone running and say to them, “Hey, I don’t like the way you run, so please stop.”

You don’t discourage other runners from running how they want. You allow them to learn how to run the best way for them. I may run completely different from you, but it is what works for me.

I am always willing to share advice if someone were to ask for it, but I share it from my perspective and what has helped me. It may not work for them, but I don’t tell them they need to do it a particular way and I don’t discourage them from running.

On “The Rules”

Photo by geralt on Pixabay

This is the part where I’ve learned a few other things from Medium — and these things aren’t quite as incredible to me.

What I’ve seen is there is a part of Medium which seems to believe you have to write a certain way to be considered a “real” writer. To be a “real” writer, you have to honor the “craft” of writing — you have to be a purist.

To be a “real” writer, you can’t use listicles and how-tos with trendy headlines as your main way of writing. Doing this is only going to make your writing worse.

To be a “real” writer, your emphasis can’t be on money or marketing. God forbid if you may want to make a few dollars. But please clap 50 times, sign up for my newsletter and courses, and download my e-book after you’ve read my “real” writing.

I’ve seen people push the idea that putting out a lot of content means you don’t care about your writing. This is also true if you have a large audience. You can’t be a “real” writer if you do these things because then it is all about gathering followers.

I’ve observed some say if you write with emotion, it is not meaningful and does not create a lasting impact. ??? Or if you write about the same subject all the time, it is not valuable.

But what I’ve seen which is the most confusing to me is some writers believe they have the right to tell other people HOW to write or even WHAT to write.

On “The Real Rules”

Photo by geralt on Pixabay

Maybe I’m naive. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of that. I do know I really don’t know anything. I’m ignorant about a lot of subjects and I’ll be the first to admit it. But after making it through life thus far, I believe I have learned a few things.

I’ve learned I don’t have the right to tell others WHAT to write or HOW to write. I also understand I don’t have to read anything I don’t want to.

I’ve learned if I want to be happy with myself, I have to do what is best for me and my family. Even if that means breaking some of these made up writing rules.

I’ve also learned I don’t need anyone else’s permission to write HOW or WHAT I want. I don’t need your approval and likewise, you don’t need mine. You don’t have to listen to a word I say.

That is called choice.

If you don’t like something, you have the option of choosing not to look at whatever it is. If something bothers you, the choice is there to not continue to seek out that thing. Yes, it is within your rights to get upset about something you believe is wrong but you do not have the right to tell others what they should do or what they should be getting upset about based on those beliefs.

I’ve learned there is no such thing as a “real” runner or a “real” writer.

There are many different writers on this platform and the amount of content produced is incredible. Therefore, the content is going to be widely varied. And there are some people who write certain content who are very popular that break these so-called rules.

Good! I’m happy for those people. This is not a competition or a game — it is how some people make their living. It is how other people hope to make their living. Let them do it!

Advice is welcomed by most. But advice is not telling people HOW and WHAT they should write.

All that does is discourage others from writing at all. However, we should be encouraging others to write period.

On All Three

Photo by Michael Mroczek on Unsplash

Just like you don’t tell someone to stop running because you don’t like their form, you don’t tell someone to stop writing because you don’t like the way they write.

Like you don’t discourage other runners from running how they want, you don’t discourage other writers from writing how they want.

Let’s be honest.

There are no rules.

There are no sacred rules you must adhere to become a “real” writer. There is no such thing. You get to make up the rules for yourself.

Listicles and how-tos are fine. Trendy headlines are fine. Making money off of your writing is more than fine. So is writing with emotion and sharing personal stories. It is all fine!

Produce content for the people you want to and write content how you want. If it doesn’t work, then change it. If it does work, don’t allow others to influence you that their way is better.

If you feel you must stick to some arbitrary rules, then so be it. But please don’t feel you have the right to tell others they have to stick to them as well.

Do what works for you and let others do what works for them.

“If you run, you are a runner.”
“If you write, you are a writer.”

This was originally published on February 22, 2018. It has been edited, improved and Recycled.