On Change and Self-Management


San Francisco • 2016...#vintagecar #vintagecars #graffiti #graffittiart #look_at_me #blackandwhite #blackandwhitephotography #blackandwhitephoto #55chevy #streetphotography #streetphoto #streetlife #streetphoto_bw #fineart_photobw

On June 30, 2016, after 12.5 years of employment at my local public university, my unit dissolved my position and set me free.

The likelihood I would have left a mind-numbingly boring job on my own seemed about nil. So the boot out the door has proven beneficial.

I had no idea how much time I spent managing the stress of boredom. My mental focus could now be on my self-directed projects, I told myself on July 1.

Except I took a little detour into photography and instagram.

Photography has been a lifelong, though periodic, hobby. Even though it was only six weeks ago or so, I can’t recall what caused me to want to pick up my iPhone and start capturing again.

But I did, and I have, something like 2500 photos, which is nothing on an iPhone. Hit that Burst button and five seconds later you’ve got 35 photos.

The other thing I did, well, I became a social media harlot. Instagram gave me likes and comments and boy did I do a lap dance, several in fact. My old lover Writing got left in the studio, waiting for my return.

Perspective...#streetphotography #france #documentaryphotography #streetphotographer #igmichigan #streetlife #documentaryphoto #streetphoto #urban #urbanshot #bnw #streetphoto_bw #inthemoment #blackandwhite #blackandwhitephoto #streetphotographers #blackandwhitephotography #bandw #people #candid #versailles #grandparc #fineartphotography #iphonography #bnwbestgram

Writing requires extreme mental diligence on my part. It doesn’t have the ease I find in photography. Photography thrills me. Writing, not so much.

Simone Biles’ coach said in an interview she realized soon after beginning their productive time together that Simone needed to have fun to continue feeling motivated. So she gave Simone fun.

I don’t really know how to make writing fun, except to try to not take myself so seriously. Even saying that doesn’t help much.

Words inspire, comfort and kill. Sure, people go ape-shit crazy over images, like Robert Mapplethorpe’s penises or cartoons of the Prophet.

But Donald Trump wouldn’t be the Republicant’s Presidential nominee if he paraded photos depicting “making America great again” (like what would that be? Jim Crow? Concentration camps filled with Muslims?). Nope. Too literal.

Words give us too much wiggle room, too many opportunities for us to interpret a word according to our needs and wants. I despair being misunderstood or, worse, being boring.

All of this is to say I  don’t take much confidence from my writing, not in the way I can, and do, from my photography.

Untitled • Leadville Series (6/6) . . . #urban #streetlife #igmichigan #streetphotography #urbanshot #documentaryphotography #streetphotographer #bnw #inthemoment #streetphotographers #bandw #documentaryphoto #streetphoto_bw #blackandwhitephoto #streetphoto #blackandwhite #blackandwhitephotography #colorado #people #candid #fineartphotography #iphonography #streetart #people #leadville

When I don’t feel confident I put things aside, which results in the worst possible solution: Not writing makes me feel shitty, which in turn deters any interest in writing.

This blahblahblah cycle of write-avoid-write feels ancient and familiar.

Photography, though, has somehow reinvigorated my writing. I imagine my words next to my images and that seems fun.

I’ll try that one for now. Because I must keep creating. You must keep creating. Good day. Bad day. Every day.

Yours in the work,

Wanted: Intuition


Today I plead with each you to follow your intuition. The voice that wakes you at 1:00 am and urges to write an important character sketch; or the urge to return to a just photographed spot and explore further.

On my bike ride home I had a flash of inspiration about some street art I had just shot. “Oh! I could shoot it from this angle.”

“You can do it another time, add it to your never ending list of things to shoot.”

Then: “What the heck? Why don’t you go back? Ms. H. isn’t waiting for you at home. You have no other obligations. Go! Isn’t this time about pursuing your creative life no matter what?!? Go. Right. Now.”

So I did and found the lovely moment above.  Inspiration is like a renewable resource, but with a hitch. If I don’t renew it when it tells me to then it becomes nonrenewable.

Once delayed it becomes harder to access and less inspiring when it does arrive.

Right now I am writing this to you all as I prepare for a trip to Denver. I could have waited until my return, yes. But why wait?

Once this story is out, Inspiration will have another for me. But for that to happen I must renew it every day.

So must you.

This One Trick is at the Heart of Writing

In her book, Imaginative Writing, Janet Burroway states, “There is a simple trick at the heart of imaginative writing.”

Read the following statement, she asks us: “Not everything that appears to be valuable is actually valuable.” We generally understand it. But if the sentence were to be rewritten as “All that glistens is not gold,” then, she writes, “You literally ‘see’ what I ‘mean.'”

If we use words that evoke our senses – things that can be seen, heard, touched, smelled and tasted – then we can create a world our reader can enter. Consider this passage from A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway:

“They say the seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that those who make jokes in life the seeds are covered with better soil and with a higher grade of manure.”

Would we find an affinity with Hemingway’s statement if it were written in more abstract language? “Within each of lies dormant our future selves, a self that will do better in life if one adopts a healthy sense of humor.” Probably not.

Artists other than writers know they create in the realm of the senses. Musicians create in and with sound, the dancer in movement, the painter in light and color, the sculptor in tactile materials. Writers create with words, which in and of themselves are abstractions.

We must endeavor to remove abstract language from our prose, whether it is fiction or nonfiction (but especially if it is nonfiction). Abstract language works well in legal briefs and business proceedings but not novels or short stories.

For those of us driven to write fiction, we want to thrust out into the world the stories that obsess us, in part because I think we are driven to observe and explain human natures. We best do this through using images. Nonfiction will also become more memorable and appealing through the skillful use of images.

Images are a series of words (or a word) that evokes in us two ore more senses. Again Burroway, “An image appeals to the senses. This is the foundation of all imaginative writing.”

To write images successfully we must use our senses and our mind. We must know when our language becomes bogged down in abstractions. Burroway offers more than several examples.

A thought without an image:

It is best to consider consequences before proceeding.

An image that describes the same thought:

Look before you leap.

A thought without an image:

The situation is being manipulated by peripheral interests.

An image that describes the same thought:

Wag the dog.

This may all seem overly simple. I know, however, I must remain vigilant to creeping abstractions in my writing. And I know even with twenty years and thousands of words written in my past, I never tire of being reminded of the keystone importance of images in writing.

I’ll close with a Toni Morrison quote from her Nobel Prize speech:

“For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”