The closed doors (and borders) of the coronavirus pandemic have opened a different door for me–the possibility of “just” being a writer. Most summers, I’m attempting to write while sailing Kagán, and oh, yes, working to keep her running optimally and looking beautiful, too.
There are, indeed, many days at anchor when words find their way to the page. Wavelets rippling against the hull can be the perfect accompaniment for writing. But day-to-day cruising life, like day-to-day landlubber life, is rife with distractions.
This is not to say that the current climate we’re weathering isn’t distracting in its own worrisome way, even for those of us with the privilege to hunker down at home. But the myriad things-to-do and places-to-go choices I typically navigate have contracted significantly during the pandemic.
But it turns out there’s nothing “just” about being a writer. I imagine other artists face similar challenges, but the only artist’s journey I know is the one of creating a world with words. A young poet and I recently discussed our particular paths in verse and prose, reflecting on acts of radical vulnerability along them. It seems to me that is where art happens, where craft takes flight, and people’s hearts are opened by the work.
Years ago, a friend asked how I could let myself be so vulnerable in my writing, and I answered, “my words are not me.” And that’s true–when I’ve made the decision to let a piece go beyond my library’s walls, it is no longer solely mine. It’s my readers’ as well, for them to make their own meaning of. But I have been surprised of late at how much like me my words can feel. Real or perceived, intended or unintended, slights feel wounding, not physically (sticks and stones, etc.), but emotionally.
Still, I move through yoga postures that help me focus and place myself before the blank screen, or the filled screen (to re-write and re-write again, because artistic wings don’t soar without the craft to carry them aloft), and resolve to be radically vulnerable in this daily work of finding the words. To be a writer, just a writer, there is no other choice.