• Sarah Tinsley

Uncharted Waters

Updated: Jul 9

At the moment, everything is new. The lists and scrawled schedules that make up my work days are full of things that are unfamiliar. Get ideas for the front cover of my book. Connect with artists. Increase traffic to my site. Collaborate. Guest post. Design anthology. Apply for funding. Plan celebration event. Pitch article idea.


Sometimes I look at them and wonder who this person is, who has these tasks as her work now. Where are the other lists, the more familiar ones? Data input, planning, reviewing schemes of work, photocopying, designing resources, meetings, phone calls home to find missed homework.


Sometimes it feels as though I'm unboxing a new life


Those waters were deep. The whirlpool of teaching sucked me into it in such a way I thought I would never be capable of anything else. Constant near-drowning in the stress of it all, the panic of a missed bus that meant a lost ten minutes in the morning before the kids came in.


But it was familiar. I had my raft assembled, well-equipped. I’d bolted it together from years and years of standing in front of a classroom, uttering phrases and using gestures that I caught them mimicking sometimes. Repeat, repeat, repeat and with it a kind of comfort that even though I felt completely overwhelmed at least that, too, was not a new feeling.


What of this new sea? I catch the view of other navigators through tweets, through shared news and websites. Their boats seem more sturdy than mine. They have weathered more storms of rejection, their masts constructed from a huge pile of already published books, their sails made from stitched-together pages that have been repeatedly read.


Sometimes my barely-built career feels like this...

Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels


My boat is flimsy. I’m bailing out the water that keeps rising each time I get a new note that tells me what comes out of my fingers isn’t good enough. There are some things that pull me to the surface. They shine and sparkle in the time I hold them and I think this, maybe this, is the thing that will make me paint the word ‘Writer’ on my ship in large purple letters. But the list always looks shorter than other people’s. Comparison the hole in the hull that I can’t patch up.


If everything is new then I have no map. No chart for the sky or the sea to tell me if this is the right way to navigate. The waves are too high to see over yet. I suspect it will only be later, once I have arrived at whatever place I might reach, that I can look back at the route that I took in getting there, to make sense of it.


It's a bit hard to see, but I think I'm going the right way?

Photo by Axel Antas-Bergkvist on Unsplash


For now I will lash my raft to others. Reach out to the vessels I can see that are in danger of sinking. Be guided by those on their liners and cruise ships, comfortable and assured. Or perhaps they, too, feel as lost as I do sometimes. There is always a bigger craft on the horizon, an imagined ‘winner’ in the race.


Each of us will hold our course. Help each other. Navigate the unknown waters until they start to look more familiar.


Featured image credit: Photo by Julia Volk from Pexels


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