Sometimes you need to get things off your chest before you can move forward. I’ve been suffering a bit of writer’s block because I waited so long to write and publish the post I released yesterday. Though it can be difficult to reveal one’s vulnerabilities to a larger audience, I’ve found that doing so can be therapeutic and can help one grow and progress. I also needed to provide a bit of background on where I am in life before tackling some related subjects.
With regard to my writing, I’ve been able to keep more standard posts like shoe reviews and science analysis going because I have a formula for writing them – the template exists, and I just need to fill out the parts. However, writing somewhat formulaic posts can get tiresome at times, and I miss being able to just sit down and dump my brain onto the page. I think yesterday’s post opened up the floodgates a bit, and it feels amazing to be writing this post because I want to rather than because I have to.
Over the past year or so I’ve reflected a lot on my experiences as a blogger and runner. I’ve thought about what I like about each, and what I dislike. At times I’ve considered quitting both, or conversely attempting to take things to a new and higher level. In this post I want to start the process of writing about some of these more philosophical topics by sharing one of my conclusions: the best part about both blogging and running is the people you meet and experiences you share along the way.
When I think back over the past 8 years since I started running, the things that I remember most clearly are the races I have run. There’s an element of personal achievement that makes such experiences memorable (a topic for another day), but the things I recall most fondly are the people I have met on those days. The runners I have shared difficult miles with in marathons. The people I shared a van with during Ragnar Florida Keys. The people I ran with at the Hat Run 50K. Fellow crew members and pacers at the VT 100. Fellow runners suffering through the Endurathon at Craftsbury. Runners I have helped complete their first 5K.
The experiences I have had with fellow runners are what make this sport so special. We’ve shared the slog of running long, hard miles in training, and we’ve run, and sometimes hobbled, together on race day. Sometimes we’ve shared triumphant moments at the finish line, sometimes we’ve struggled just to get there, but it’s those shared experiences that stay with you.
In a similar manner, the joy of blogging comes from the people you meet through your writing. The people that send along kind words in an email, or the thanks you get for helping someone out with a tough decision. It’s the comments and support you get when you share something difficult. Yesterday was a perfect example of the latter – it wasn’t easy for me to open up on what I’ve been through over the last year, but the countless messages of support, both public and private, mean more than you could ever know.
The thing about blogging is that it’s so easy to fall into the trap of letting marketers and PR firms dictate what you write (again, a topic for another day) – the lure of attention and advertising dollars can be tough to fight. Sometimes you need to wrench control back and make things your own so that the words can flow. I enjoy writing shoe reviews, but I’ve realized that the best interactions I get are when I share something personal. That’s what creates connections. That’s when both reader and writer benefit. That’s when people who have shared similar, and sometimes difficult, experiences in life connect with you in a way that would never happen as a result of a product review. Yes, you need to do the latter to make a living doing this job, but only doing that is no way to live.
I think most runners would agree that connections made with other people are the best part of the sport, but I think a lot of bloggers forget that, particularly as their sites grow. It’s something I need to constantly remind myself of, and if you are a blogger I’d encourage you to consider it as well. Write for your audience, and keep them first – after all, readers are what keep sites alive. Without them, there would be no advertising income, no opportunities to try out gear. And when you let readers know a bit about you as a person, that makes people connect with you and trust your opinions more than if you become a shill for marketers.
Whether you are a runner, a writer, or a running writer, remember to cherish and cultivate the connections you make with other people. Be there for them, support them, and they will be there for you. That’s what life is all about.