I’m spending the week alone in my parents’ house feeding the bird and watering the houseplants. There’s nothing but thunderstorms in the forecast. I’ll get my three days of rain. I’ll be trying not to listen too closely to the silence, and hoping for lightning to strike.
Did you ever try to do something real because you simply weren’t sure you could in the first place? Yet in spite of absolving yourself of the failure ahead of time you were still a little too afraid of committing in public? The Vacuum Challenge, it is not a stupid, sometimes dangerous and ultimately simply gross thing that vacuous unsupervised teens insist on doing. Instead I’m talking about the creative challenge of working in a vacuum. With no creative sounding boards or external creative challenges, no collaborators, no deadlines, no feedback, its just me and my pen (or keyboard).
The funny thing about this state of affairs is that happenings in my life and the world around might keep me prolific. There is never nothing to be written it comes time to begin working. Even so, this empty rehearsal hall is reverberating with just one frequency, and only one object, there is no intentional interplay, just the accidental intersection of passersby. I’ve been living in this world for some time now, and mostly I’ve learned that it erodes motivation more than effectiveness. Historically there has been much success to be found in this solitary work. When I peek out to share my work, it has been well received, but the longer the sequester I take, the more difficult it becomes to discern the point of finished. It becomes desperately important to have some cohort, even a single collaborator, but someone to share in the experience and reflect the vibrations of your work-for-work’s-sake.
That said, if all things have been by committee of late, I highly recommend taking the Vacuum Challenge. Take a project for a journey through the your internal wilderness. Cherish the realization that in you lives every perspective if you are open to them. Enjoy the difficulty and apprehension of sharing that work when it comes time.
Last week I sent out my Solstice Print-fest picks. We’re still waiting on the actual prints to arrive at my door. The solstice print-fest is a twice annual event (on or around the summer and winter solstice) during which I cull through my best photographs of the last 6 months and order (or make) some nice prints of them. The exercise is always interesting, last december I ordered prints of nineteen different pictures, this time only seven. But even so I was surprised by those seven photos.
The better part of my 2011 was literally ALL about photography, and that meant bringing my printing bill down to a reasonable size and just 19 images was a challenge. But in the last six months my focus (no pun intended) has been elsewhere. So when the 6-months dormant to-do item popped up in my calendar application I was a little daunted. “How am I going to put together 6 or more photos to send to print?” So I sat down with my computer, and discovered, that on the few occasions when I had set about taking some pictures they turned out pretty well (fhew!). That was a relief but the big surprise came when I started looking at how and where I took them. There were very few pictures taken with my dSLR and even fewer edited with Photoshop. Instead most were from my iPhone, and some my Canon S95 (a pocket-size camera) a lot were simply dumped into my computer but a number of them had already been worked on using my phone or iPad in apps like Snapseed, iPhoto or PS Touch. I was amazed at how much work I had accomplished in the last 6 months without thinking about it and with very lightweight mobile applications nonetheless! Don’t get me wrong, I did do some additional work with them before sending them off but most of the hard stuff was already done.
And this experience taught me something about the term Making Time. You know how they say, “If you love something you’ll make the time for it.” Well I always thought of that in terms of the things you go strongly out of your way for and block off parts of your week to do. The time that you defend jealously, and schedule before you let anyone else near your appointment book. But instead as I look at the library of photos on my computer, I see that there are some things that you love so much they become ambient. Photography is not a serious hobby for me, its become a part of how I see the world, and not in a technical, looking-for-playful-light sort of way. But I know that taking a picture is possible at any moment in almost any place, and in-between shifts of two jobs, in-between writing, in-between social events, on road-trips, out on a run, there are constantly moments to capture. And when you’ve captured enough moments, and suddenly you look back, then it turns out you’ve made a lot of time.