At the end of 2017, I made a promise to myself that I would join a conversation I’ve been listening to for 30 years, a conversation between writers who have the temerity to put their words on pages and their pages into our hands. I admire professional writers more than almost anyone on the planet, because they have the courage to be publicly wrong, and to but their insides on the outside for us all to judge. And to do so, in perpetuity.
I owe an immeasurable debt to writers who have lit the path. It’s time to pay.
In a recent interview, David Whyte suggests that when we escape into our work, we think that through “the armored professionality of a vocation, we’ll be held immune from the heartbreaks of life.”
But of course, in art, it doesn’t work that way.
Like most of us, I have professional and personal selves, which I prefer to keep separate. I understand the rules of engagement in work relationships, and I’ve grown skilled in navigating them. But I still struggle to gauge how much vulnerability is appropriate in personal relationships, how to pace the disparate needs for connection each person craves, and how to vary the rhythm as people move in and out of spaces of desire.
In art, there are no such boundaries. Whyte says that if you’re “sincere about your work, you should not know how to precede at times. You should not know how to get from here to there. And that puts you into a relationship with the world, because you have to ask for help. You have to make the invitation to the people who will help you create the conversation which will help you follow the path of vulnerability into the world and give your gift to others along the way.”