Why Pat Schulte is right and why I (Andy) am slightly embarrassed

24 Sep

Now I’m inspired. Took me some time. And a cheese sandwich.

I’m writing from a Norwegian Airlines flight, en route from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria to Stockholm, via Oslo. Mia is in the window seat next to me (asleep. She has a knack for dozing off before a flight ever leaves the terminal – once, in Australia, she slept for three full hours, awakening to a view of the tarmac outside her window and assuming they’d reached their destination. The plane, in fact, had never left the airport thanks to a delay. She was oblivious). I’m stuck in the middle seat. Unfortunately for my day tomorrow, we have to spend six hours overnight in the Oslo airport. I’m going to owe a large debt the sleep bank after this.

We are returning to Sweden after delivering a Saga 43 down from Lagos, Portugal, Kinship, the same boat Mia and I sailed across the Atlantic earlier this summer with ARC Europe. We were only three this time round (myself, Mia and Tim, the boat’s owner and officially the Happiest Person on Earth), and enjoyed an uneventful – in a good way – passage south in calm weather. Kinship is now staging in Las Palmas before the start of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, where Tim will complete his Atlantic circuit in November, sailing the 2800 miles or so back to St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Mia and I will be there on-island to greet him, our fourth year working on the event with the World Cruising Club.

Anyway. Since getting on SAILfeed, I’ve felt an obligation of sorts to read what my fellow co-contributors have been writing. That obligation has since turned into a genuine interest in what they have to say, and I find myself reading for the pleasure of it rather than the responsibility. I began by devouring everything Bob Perry has to say about yacht design (Perry, in fact, is the designer of the Saga 43 – well done there, I must say), and reading a lot of Paul Calder’s posts because we have similar boats and the same Colligo Dux rigging.

Most recently (at the beginning of this flight, in fact), I read Pat Schulte’s latest post on how to create a properly interesting cruising blog. It was indeed interesting. Our own website at andyandmia.net, though it’s not technically a cruising blog (I write a lot about cycling. And dogsledding) blatantly runs afoul of some of Pat’s pet peeves (the most glaring – and embarrassing, I’ll admit – being the giant GoPro logo we have at the top of the page).

Ironically, I asked that Mia be included here on SAILfeed specifically so I’d have photos to accompany my posts (she’s the photographer), as my ego is also guilty of thinking myself a particularly interesting writer and therefore usually only include one photo at the top of each of my entries. So thanks for calling me out on that one too, Pat!

His post got me thinking on a sort of philosophical level about my inspiration for writing in general and our (humanity’s) inspiration for doing anything, and that’s where I’m really trying to go with this.

I tried to start writing this immediately after we got on the plane, but I had no idea what to write about. So I put it down. I listened to an episode of the Nerdist podcast while I ate that cheese sandwich (which, speaking of inspiration, is a great source of it – the podcast, not the cheese sandwich). And I thought about what Pat had written until a more or less clear idea started forming in my head. Then I turned on Moby’s hotel.ambient album and got to work.

My published writing career stemmed from exactly what Pat describes as the key ingredient to a successful cruising blog – that it has to be for you, the writer, not the reader. I have always kept journals of my travels and my thoughts, written in pencil in leather-bound books of blank pages (I hate lined paper). There are stacks of them in my parent’s basement back home in Pennsylvania. I still write this way on Arcturus when we’re out sailing and my computer is stashed safely away in its Pelican case.

Those early hand-written pieces morphed into my first online blog that I called ‘Life & Adventure on the Other Side of the World.’ I got a comment from a high school friend, Katie Diamond, from an entry on that blog, written on a rainy day in Germany for nobody but myself that encouraged me to try and get something published because she thought it was interesting enough to suggest something like that. So I did. And here I am.

I write because it’s a kind of meditation for me. I think that my best writing comes from spur of the moment, stream-of-consciousness type stuff exactly like this piece here. It's fairly obvious, to me anyway, when I’ve ‘mailed it in’, something to be published on a deadline about a topic I might not be 100% invested in. When I re-read those pieces I cringe, and usually don’t make it to the end of them. Those are the times when I have to re-evaluate my own motivation and try to focus on why I started writing in the first place.

To Pat’s chagrin I’m sure, my website has evolved from that first blog I published simply as andyschell.blogspot.com, to the website I created that combined my blog and my yacht delivery business at fathersonsailing.com, to its current iteration as andyandmia.net, complete with ‘sponsors’, links and all the things that Pat doesn’t like about cruising blogs cluttering the right-hand column of the site. But the common thread through all of them is simply to share my ideas with myself. It’s become easier for me to write on the computer than by hand (my fingers have learned to type words nearly as quickly as the thoughts can form in my head) which is why less and less I use the handwritten medium. And I publish them online because I get the feeling that what I am passionate about, somebody else out there must be as well, and if I connect with one other person who thinks like me, than it will be worth it (I would have written it anyway, after all).

(And Pat, for what it’s worth, my argument for the advertisements on our site is that I genuinely like to support the things I believe in. I’d have them up there anyway – especially the Cape Horn and Colligo Marine logos. Yves Gelinas and John Franta, respectively, have truly figured out that which inspires them, and have likewise made a career out of it with true innovations. They have genius ideas that the sailing world doesn’t pay enough attention to. We need more people like them).

Two things. One, so long as people like Pat (and we’ve never met, nor spoken – in fact I was only made aware of his existence when I first came to SAILfeed) continue writing down genuinely interesting, opinionated ideas, I will keep reading them. And two, though I disagree with some of what he says (he did make a list, something he himself admits he despises, though that admission in my mind is simply a literary tool he uses to make himself sound more interesting) I think his best and most enduring point is that in any endeavor, the inspiration has to come from within, has to be owned.

Paradoxically, once you the writer (or the sailor, the painter, the runner or the [input-your-passion-here]–er), comes to this realization and begins to pursue that which you have chosen to pursue solely for the sake of the pleasure you take from pursuing it (regardless of the outcome), success in your chosen medium inevitably – and effortlessly – follows. It’s life as art, never mind the cliché. So thanks for the inspiration, Pat.

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