May 1st, 2020

Words by Anna White & Alia Wilhelm · Collage by Frasie Molina


Dear friends,


We created Nearness a month ago today because we both felt we needed a creative, kind-hearted and honest space for ourselves as much as others. That said, we’re still surprised to be waking up to an inbox full of thoughtful, reflective essays and beautiful, homemade art on a daily basis, sent from people all over the world. We’ve been amazed and humbled by your response, and grateful for the inspiring and vulnerable work you have shared with us. In these past few weeks, it feels as though we’ve already become a community and cultivated a sense of “nearness” from afar, which is all that we editors could have hoped for. 


We’ve received submissions from writers living in studio apartments in the Philippines, photographers cooped up in apartments in Chicago, college students who have retreated back to their teenage bedrooms in rural England, painters living with their parents in Peru. An illustrator from Israel has had her artwork featured alongside a flash fiction piece by a writer in the States, and as co-founders who live on opposite sides of the planet - the suburbs of Seattle versus the outskirts of London - we are also constantly collaborating from afar. How cool that on any given day, someone in Lagos could be reading an essay written in Paris, edited in Washington, and illustrated in Chile!


While some of you are alone, many of you are returning to your childhood homes or forming close bonds with people in isolation that you didn’t initially think of as family. Many of us are navigating changes to our daily routines, and consequently dealing with mental health issues that are either resurfacing or cropping up in our lives for the first time. Interestingly, a trend we have noticed in our content has been a return, be it physical, emotional or mental, to a time when we were younger. Several contributors (Amber Anderson in “How To Survive An Apocalypse,” Upasna Barath in “This Is Just Summer Break,” and Emmeline Armitage in “On Revisiting My Teenage Bedroom,” to give examples of just a few) have written musings on how this period has triggered the return of childhood memories.


For better or worse, this time has occasioned many of us to remember those formative, emotion-laden years where we were last living with our families of origin. Will this elongated period of enforced solitude allow some of us the space and time to confront the kinks and straighten out the knots of our past, in a way that could be productive and healing? Could a reduction in our current freedoms actually lead to greater personal freedom in the future, since many of us now have more room for self-reflection and, consequently, self-awareness? How will this time change us, and will we ever be the same again? 


As the dates for city reopenings get pushed back from specific days to indeterminate future months and it becomes increasingly clear that the world will not be returning to the way it was any time soon, it can be hard to feel motivated to keep working towards a future normalcy that feels frustratingly vague. But the work we’ve seen submitted, and continue to receive, is a reminder that this time is meaningful. We’re not just treading water, and the work we make right now is significant. 


In her piece, “An Archive Of Thoughts,” published on Nearness earlier this month, artist Kelly McGovern asks, “During this time, I can't help but wonder what this means for our future, what it will mean for the next generation - how this time of loss, stress and anxiety will affect those who didn't experience or witness it. Will the impact be large or will it be small? What shape will that impact take?” Although this moment in time may be historic for unfortunate reasons, the unprecedented and far-reaching nature of this pandemic makes art and writing that attempts to process it all the more important, for us as well as future generations.

As you may know, up till this point Nearness has been a self-funded endeavor. Though this affords us a great amount of independence and has allowed us to compensate all contributing writers and artists for their work, it does limit the amount of work we are able to publish. In light of the encouraging words we’ve received from readers and the volume of submissions we’ve garnered from people wanting to contribute to Nearness, we’d love an opportunity to expand our platform to feature more work. We’ve created a GoFundMe campaign, and if you’re in a position where you are financially able to donate, we’d encourage you to check it out. Any funds we receive will go directly to the writers and artists featured on our site. 


We appreciate you all so much. Thank you for being a part of this. We feel closer already.


Much love,

Anna & Alia