Now begins an extended metaphor. Yesterday I went on a 12 mile kayaking trip, where I stopped at the halfway point for lunch at the canoe shop. I left my kayak on the rocky landing point in the only spot available, which is the protocol. Other kayakers who conclude their trip must bring the boats up the hill and return them. I was enjoying my lunch on a deck above the launch and keeping an eye on my kayak as there was much traffic below. At one point a young couple barged into my kayak. The woman was clearly miffed by the obstacle in her way and roughly knocked into my boat, which sent my paddle into the river. Her companion retrieved it and kindly moved my kayak higher on the beach. I was glad I had not called down to the woman because the problem was solved.
Next came a young family of four in a red raft. The father and the children scrambled out and went up the steps. The mother, who was very large, had a hard time getting out of the raft. She had to crawl from it to the slope. There she held onto my kayak for support and managed to crawl and lean on it until she called to her husband to come and assist her.
I saw that the young woman who annoyed me actually was the agent for moving my kayak up the hill so that it was the exact support the next woman needed it in her own ascent. If I had interfered, likely my kayak would not have been in the right spot to be of aid.
This scene made me think about the often a mysterious and slippery path to publication. Having a story or poem published, or a book accepted, is not a given. Even if a writer does all the proscribed tasks, reads all the good books, earns an MFA, submits first to small magazines and then more prestigious ones, queries agents, attends conferences, does the hard hard work of revision, patiently sends out finished poems and waits for chunks of a year for that small slip of paper saying no or a two line letter saying Yes! . . . even if a writer does all those things, there is no guarantee of publication and a career that grows in an organic or logical way. Some writers find early success and grow up in print, with mixed results. Others toil many years before finding the right publication, the right agent,and the right editor. The interactions of the women and the kayak suggests that there is a path that one doesn’t control. Sometimes the “I” and the normal impulse (“That’s my kayak, leave it alone!”) is not the most knowing of how things should go. Again, I come back to understandding that doing the writing is what I can control. What happens when it floats off into the world is not.