“If at any time you want to tell me what you’re doing, that would be awesome.”
“They’re completely out of croissants.”
“After this week, we going to jail.”
“This makes me feel like less of a person.”
“Remember this is all a maze.”
“I keep saying, you know, talk to the universe. And then, you know, it’ll be OK.”
“Oh my GOD this is fantastic.”
I just found a baby gecko in the bathroom waste pail. I don’t know why I didn’t think to photograph it before I carried it outside. I guess sometimes the instinct to care beats the instinct to capture.
I took a photography workshop this past weekend at Girls’ Club, a cool, lady-centric gallery in Fort Lauderdale. I’m not usually a joiner, but the workshop was taught by the woman herself, Peggy Levison Nolan (who you know I love).
We were asked to bring a few of our shots to the workshop, for the purpose of a critique. I didn’t know this at first. If I had, I might not have singed up. Because I don’t really consider myself a photographer. I consider myself more a writer-who-likes-to-take-pictures. Still, I brought a handful of my favorite shots, and PLN loved them.
I was floored and humbled and giddy as hell.
Suddenly, everyone wanted to know what kind of camera I use (an inexpensive Canon Powershot and my iPhone 4S) and how long I’ve been taking pictures (um - a year or two?) and whether or not I’ve considered combining photography with poetry (no).
The thing is, I really like to take pictures, but I don’t take it very seriously. I’m like somebody who likes to ride a bike but who doesn’t own any spandex. It’s something I do, but it’s not who I am.
Juxtapose that with writing, which I take very seriously. Too seriously. So seriously that it’s become a hindrance, that it’s not fun anymore. It’s become this thing I have to do, like taking my vitamins or brushing my teeth. It causes me anxiety and pain. But I don’t want to stop. I just want to learn how to do it better. How to approach it better. How to live with it.
So I’m thinking that I need to start approaching it like an amature. Like I need to write with abandon. Like I need to forget all of the things that I know because the things that I know are getting in my way.
When I was in college, I didn’t take a single fiction class. I was too afraid to be stunted by the rules and rigors of what I saw as a limiting form. But I was also too afraid to find that I couldn’t do it - that I didn’t have the stamina to fill the pages. So I stuck to poetry, and did okay.
But I always, always wanted to write fiction. I have these long, sprawling, narrative dreams. I see connections. I see things as they are and as they might be, and the way we’re all tied together with invisible strings. And the way to show that is through fiction.
So, I started writing fiction. And I wrote a lot of bad stuff. And then it started getting no-so-bad, and then it started getting noticed (winning a few minor awards and the like).
Now that I’m out of school and fully the person I intended all those years to be, I’ve got this single, monumental hurdle made out of dozens of anxieties and inadequacies and fears. It’s like this membrane that I can’t seem to penetrate. The final barrier between me and the rest of the world.
The other day, when the Pulitzer board failed to give an award for fiction, the thing that struck me was just how arbitrary it all is. You publish a novel and people like it or they don’t. It either wins big prizes or it falls out of the consciousness, or both. The point is, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter the way that my photos don’t matter.
The only thing that does matter is whether or not we do the things we were meant to do. It’s this idea of responsibility. As people who were given the gifts of time and talent and relative abundance; people who were born in this time and this place, we can’t not do the thing we were meant to do. So, just we just have to do them.
I’m going to try to approach mine the way I did in the beginning. The way I approach photography now, trying - eagerly, foolishly, arrogantly - to show the world as I see it.