There’s a field along the edge of the road where I ran this morning, a narrow track hemmed with tall grass that leads to an opening across paddocks and hills into the dappled distance. I stopped at the end of my run and stood there for a few minutes, watching the sun light illuminate the hedgerows and wild flowers, golden ribbons across the green, above them a cobalt sky with wisps of cloud. I stood there and breathed in the balmy morning air, heard the birds and listened for the noises of nature, breathed in and out and tried to find my place in the rhythm of things.
A solitary poppy stood, a splash of red in the green. I stooped to look closer, saw another and another. It felt as if they were lifting their papery heads to cheer me on.
I whispered to the world, ‘I am a writer’, then again, a little louder, still hesitant that someone might be listening though it wasn’t yet seven ‘o’ clock and the lane alongside me was deserted but for rabbits, birds and insects.
I stopped, breathed deeper, exhaled louder, spoke the words again.
‘I am a writer. I am a writer.’
It has taken me a long time to give myself permission to say this and really mean it.
Several weeks ago, I gave up my full-time job to focus on other work, to focus on my consultancy and my writing. These first few weeks have been quite challenging. At the start I had agreed to many things, perhaps to fill the inevitable spaces, perhaps because I was scared of standing still, of looking around, of breathing, of making my own spaces and holding them.
I found myself getting frustrated by the fact that I was not carving out enough time for my writing. I found myself wondering if writing held as much importance as my media work, feeling frosty when my husband noted the difference between a working day for me and a writing day.
But every time I questioned myself, I came back to the belief that writing is one of the most important things in my life. I wanted to make time to write. I want to make time to write. I want to give myself permission to not only write, but to call myself a writer.
On July 20, I have my debut personal collection of writing coming out. Surely this is proof I am a writer? And yet, somehow, I question myself. I wonder if I am good enough to be published, to teach the workshops I am planning which others have encouraged me to do. I ask myself what gives me the right to do this? I worry. And I know the worrying is part of what makes me me, what makes me the kind of person who cares, who sees, who listens, the kind of person that should be doing this, that is good enough, and perhaps some days good, without the enough.
Why not me?
I think about how I prepare for a running race. I do the training. I am nervous. I recognise those nerves. I welcome them. They are there to help me not to hinder me. I hold my own. When the whistle or gun goes, I go too.
I go and I run and I am one with my body and the world around me. I do not worry if anyone is watching or listening, I do not worry that people might say she is not a runner. I go. I know.
I have done the training. Just because I am not an Olympian this doesn’t stop me calling myself a runner. Just because I have not won a Booker Prize or a Pulitzer, this doesn’t mean I am not entitled to call myself a writer. I have written for years, and have taught extensively, and I have won more writing awards and placed in more competitions than I have ever done in my running.
I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer. I will make the time and own the title and I will be me, at peace with that. I will hold the space and I will say the words and I will welcome being overheard.