Just a Writer

by | Jul 20, 2020 | Finding the Words | 12 comments

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.

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  1. Scott Burns

    Welcome back! Are you on the boat this summer or in New Mexico? Have a super summer!

    • Jane Gill-Shaler

      What do you mean, JUST a writer? It’s one of the hardest tasks, jobs, professions you could have chosen! I’m glad you are back at it. Big (virtual) hug!

  2. Kinsman Carolyn

    Ah, Sweet Deb. You are more than “just” a writer.

  3. Carol Messier

    It is wonderful to receive and read your most recent post Deb. It is a welcomed connection since we are unable to see you this summer. There are fleeting moments where life seems normal but then the quietness of some of the boats as they patiently wait for their owners is telling that life is not normal these days. Missing Eric, Cappy, and you! Hope you are all staying safe and doing well.

  4. Scott

    Brilliant! Your choice of words and wisdom never cease to amaze!! Lots of Luv…..The gang from Maple Bay…

  5. Garry Maurath

    Good perspective, well said, concise, and meaningful (as usual).

  6. Jenn Bauer

    Thank you for choosing to share your craft with us! Hugs!

  7. Kate Miller

    What a lovely and deeply calming piece. I loved the uplift of craft and the artistic wings and much more.

  8. Eldon Gath

    Hi Deb. Really does ring home for me, because in my case I am finding it really difficult to find the words right now. First time in like 30 years I could not even come up with a 300 word abstract for AEG, indeed, could not even find a title in my head to start to write from. Apparently I need more than my chair to be creative. Sigh. Please keep up the just-writing.

  9. Pat Marsello

    Hello Deb, Strange how when you have time to write, it can become even more difficult, especially with the way the world is these days. I’ve found journaling to be helpful, it is completely personal but has allowed me to write about how I’m feeling and has helped to make sense of all this. Not that there is any sense to this, but writing is different than talking or even thinking, and it seems to help my sometimes overwhelming sadness and confusion about how so much could go so wrong so quickly. Hope you and Eric all well. Lets talk soon

  10. Julia

    Just keep up the good work of writing.


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Geologists study the earth and the processes that shape it. Writers study the human heart and the processes that shape it. The GeologistWriter builds a bridge between the two. Come across it with me!

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VENUS & MARS GO SAILING: Life. Intensified. On the Salish Sea.

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