It’s that time of year — time to gather with some soul sisters on the coast of Oregon. This marks the fourth year this group of sisters, Tribe, will be communing with one another alongside the majestic Pacific. And I’m ready. I’m ready for the ritual, the comfort, the ease of being with these beautiful women. I’m ready to review the past year, to share the triumphs and the defeats. I’m ready to whisper my greatest longings, to give voice to the big dreams I’ve been cultivating. I’m ready to laugh with my whole body, and I’m equally ready to release the tears that have been welling up.
I’m ready for connection and sisterhood. I’m ready to feel secure in my creative journey and these next big steps I’m taking. I’m ready to allow for and accept the support I so desperately need. I’m ready for the dose of inspiration I get from these kindred spirits, from this community we lovingly call Tribe, to walk steadfastly into the adventure of the creative unknown. I’m ready for the self-care, the refocusing, the re-committing to mySelf and the life I want to live.
Back when I was in graduate school, I would go to these “speed mentoring” sessions that were held during our big annual conference (aka, American Psychological Association Convention). I attended these sessions seeking sage wisdom from prominent Counseling Psychologists who had found success in their careers. I was steadily working toward earning my doctorate at the time, and I desperately wanted to land a faculty position at a university where I could conduct research and train graduate students. Knowing these academic jobs are hard to come by, I felt like I needed all the advice and help I could get. So, off I’d go to these mentoring sessions each year during the conference. Picture “speed dating” but with no alcohol, no flirting, and only “talking shop.”
One of the kernels of wisdom that has stuck with my all these years later is this: Think of yourself as a writer. Yes, you will be teaching and doing research as part of your faculty position, but your main task will be writing. You must embrace an identity as a writer.
What incredible advice this was for me as I was making my way professionally. I did land a faculty position, and I recently earned tenure and was promoted. I’ve achieved these milestones in large part because of my research productivity which translates to my writing. In order to get my research out there and be published in scientific journals, I’ve had to seriously hone my writing skills and dedicate myself to regular writing. Indeed, I’ve had to embrace an identity as a writer.
Interestingly during this time, my life has expanded. Cancer came to my door and I had a wake-up call. My life reached a turning point and I had to ask myself what I wanted, truly wanted, from my “once around.” That’s when I made the conscious decision to dive into photography. And in launching Life Refocused, I plunged into a different type of writing than I’d ever really engaged in before. My identity as a writer broadened. I was no longer only writing for scientific and research purposes, I was writing for myself and for you.
A lovely series on people’s writing processes has been making its way around the blog-o-sphere of late. I’ve read with great interest about how and why some of my favorite writers get their words out into the world. So I was very happy when my dear friend and Tribe sister, Emily, tapped me to be next in the series. Emily is a brilliant, funny, and heart-filled writer. She has a memoir or two in her and I can’t wait to see her birth those books. Thanks for tagging me in this awesome series, Em.
Here are the questions and my responses (as they are true for me today).
What am I working on?
As I write this post, I’m holed up in the mountains of Colorado working on a book proposal. In this year that I worked on 365 IMPOSSIBLE Self-Portraits, a book began germinating in my heart and soul. Stories and experiences from my life came rushing in day by day as I shot these self-portraits. I decided I couldn’t ignore these stories, nor could I hide the intimate self-portrait work I’ve done. Thus, I’m working on creating a book that is memoir meets instant self-portrait photography.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not sure there is a specific “genre” for my current book project. That is both terrifying and exhilarating! Of course, many people write about their lived experiences and many share their beautiful photography. I hope that my work here at Life Refocused — both the writing and photography — brings an honesty and vulnerability that is often missing in social media and blogs. I don’t try to “pretty it all up” and spin my life as one of simplicity and ease and only beautiful things. I try to convey the fullness of my experience, the ups and downs, the triumphs and the swirling.
Why do I write what I do?
I write for myself and I write for you. First, I write to figure myself out. To understand the emotions in my heart, the swirling in my brain, the angst in my stomach. I write to unravel the mystery of who I truly am and of my experiences. I write to let go, to not hold on to it all. I write to show up and reveal my Self to me. And in doing that, in coming to some understanding — no matter how small — I want to share it so that maybe someone else understands herself/himself a little bit better. I write to connect with our common humanity, the feelings and longings and thoughts we all experience. I write to feel less alone and to (hopefully) help others feel less alone.
How does my writing process work?
Hmmm. Well, first, I need quiet. I’m not someone who can write (or read) with any music or other distractions. My brain just isn’t that good and can’t handle the stimulation. When I’m writing for Life Refocused, I write at home. I do “morning pages” most days and while I don’t intend to birth a blog post there in my Moleskine, it often happens that way. My journaling to understand myself naturally spills into something I want to share here with you. Other times, a photograph I’ve taken awakens me to a story or experience I want to share. And then there are the experiences or feelings that churn in me, that echo in my head, and I know I need to write to free them.
As for the nitty-gritty, I read and re-read my writing. Even a blog post. I was the copy editor for my high school newspaper and I hate typos and editing mistakes. So, I read and re-read my writing to eliminate those errors to the best of my ability. It’s also important to me that my photography matches and reflects what I’m writing. Thus, I’m very selective in what image I share with my words. I also don’t usually hit “publish” as soon as I’m done writing. I typically schedule my posts so that they go live the next day. Oftentimes, once I’ve written a post and scheduled it to publish the next day or so, I think of something else I want to add. I then come back and add to what I’ve written. That space between scheduling the post and it going live gives me a little cushion that I need for my brain to reflect back just a bit more to add a finishing touch or a missing piece.
Last, I read and respond to every comment that someone takes the time to share. As I said, I write for me and I write for you. When someone takes a moment out of her/his overly-scheduled and busy life to share a comment with me, I treasure it and I respond in kind. I live for community and connection, and comments on my writing give me just that.
I’m thrilled to pass off this writing process series to Meredith Winn, aka CameraShyMomma. Meredith is an incredible photographer and talented writer. She is an astute observer of life, of love, and of relationships. Her words often reverberate within me throughout the day. Meredith will be picking up this baton next Monday, but in the meantime, dive into her website to bathe in her words and images.
Meredith Winn is a freelance writer, tintype photographer, and Associate Editor of Taproot Magazine. She lives off-grid with her partner and a trio of boys in the western Maine foothills. She weaves stories from truth and optical illusions from images. Working from the darkroom in her yurt, she greets history where silver and light meet to create handcrafted ferrotypes. Meredith’s work can be found in a variety of publications and galleries. Find more of her work at her website.
I mentioned a few posts ago that I took a whirlwind weekend trip to NYC to meet up with some of my photography sisters, Debra and Lindsey. We set ourselves on a mission to find some of the amazing street art the city offers, and we were not disappointed. Having packed a ton of cameras between the three of us, we found ourselves shooting the same content with different mediums, including different types of instant films.
I’ve been a bit stingy in revealing my photographs from 365 IMPOSSIBLE Self-Portraits. As many of you likely know, I’m working on a book that includes this body of work. Because I want the book to showcase these self-portraits, I’ve been reluctant to share them all here on my website. It feels like it would ruin the surprise of the book. At the same time, I do want you and others to be interested in the book and wanting to see the rest. I’ve got to pique your interest, right?
In that vein, I decided to share two new self-portraits for Day 4 of ‘Roid Week. These are some of my very favorite photos that I’ve been holding back…
Sharing more of my work from 365 IMPOSSIBLE Self-Portraits makes me more and more excited to work on my ideas for the book, and to get it out there. And I really hope it piques your interest and leaves you wanting that book!
As a photographer, I aim to convey emotion in my images. For Day 3 of ‘Roid Week, I chose to share two photos that are imbued with a sense of melancholy. I again selected images taken with two different cameras. I also chose two photos that were comprised of very different content — at least on the surface.
First, a still life photographed with my “new” Polaroid 195 camera…
And second, revealing a new self-portrait from 365 Impossible Self-Portraits…
And please, please, please, check out all the amazing photos in the ‘Roid Week Flickr pool. If you’re needing a dose inspiration, that is THE place!
For Day 2 of ‘Roid Week, I decided to share two self-portraits. I selected one color photo and one black and white, and also chose two images shot with two different cameras.
First, I unveiled a new photo from my 365 Impossible Self-Portraits project. Although I did share this image a few weeks ago here at Life Refocused for a photo riff, I hadn’t shared it on Flickr, making it acceptable for ‘Roid Week. This is one of those photos that I like more and more as time goes by.
Next, I shared a double exposure that I shot with my “new” baby, the Polaroid 195 camera. The lilacs were in full bloom a few weeks ago and I jumped at the chance to try a double exposed self-portrait with those lilacs and the brilliant Fuji 100C film.
It’s ‘Roid Week 2014, friends! All week (which I hear is the first of two for this year!), instant photographers around the globe share in their love of this photography medium. All the action takes place over on Flickr where photographers are allowed to post two photos per day to the group pool for this extravaganza of instant film worship. Many people have “saved up” photos just for this very week because everything that gets posted during ‘Roid Week has to be never-before-shared photographs. The images that photographers post in this community are truly is a feast for the eyes. The pool has only been open for a few hours, and I am already blown away by what my fellow instant photographers are sharing.
If you’re sharing your photos for ‘Roid Week 2014, I’d love to see them. Please share links to your photos in the comments! WOOT! Happy ‘Roid Week, friends! xoxo
As I was getting all ready to share some highlights and tales from my recent trip to NYC with Lindsey and Deb, I got to thinking about the slightly larger group of photography sisters from which our spin-off trip developed. I’m missing these ladies, or “birds” as we’re affectionately called by Cherish. While the three of us had a grand time in the city, I wish that our whole group had been able to be together for this latest adventure. And since we didn’t get our acts together to do our photo riffing for this month, I thought I’d revisit the last time we birds were all together in Tofino.
The ever-adorable Lindsey in her bear hat…
A gift of the ocean…
A little TTV of Cherish…
Finding myself through the sea grass…
And wondering what adventure awaits us next….
Miss you, birds. xoxo
*For those interested, all photos in this post are instant film photography images using expired Polaroid 600 film, expired Polaroid Spectra Softtone film, and IMPOSSIBLE Project PX70 film.
I’m back from a whirlwind trip to NYC with some of my favorite photography friends. We had a lovely time in the city — ate amazing food, met up with friends both old and new, and of course, took photos! I am re-energized from being in the vibrant, inspiring awesomeness that is NYC. However, I’m also feeling regret about all of the photos I didn’t take. When I got home and trolled through my photographs from the weekend, I realized it amounted to a paltry sum.
I spent some time exploring my roadblocks to shooting to help figure out what gets in my way. I’m sharing my discoveries over at Mortal Muses today — click HERE to check them out. Maybe you have these roadblocks, too.
I did it. I crossed the finish line of shooting 365 IMPOSSIBLE Self-Portraits. One year ago today, on my birthday, I embarked on a journey that I felt called to take. The natural progression of my photography compelled me to take on the challenge of shooting a self-portrait on instant film using vintage Polaroid cameras every day for one year. Even now, as I type that sentence, it still sounds ludicrous. Each part of that project sounds daunting — (1) a 365 project, (2) of self-portraits, (3) using only instant film — and it was. And…I did it!!
I am awash with emotions ranging from elation and jubilation to loss and sadness. I have much to process emotionally as I review this past year and epic journey of photography and self-discovery. And as I need that time to truly reflect and take it all in, I am crystal clear on a few things. I am grateful I said “yes” to this hair-brained idea. I am grateful I went all in with what my heart longed for artistically and creatively, even though it scared the shit out of me. I am grateful I stayed the course when it got hard, and then again when it got harder.
Perhaps most importantly, I am grateful to you. I am grateful for every comment on every blog post I wrote about the project and on each photograph I chose to share. I am grateful for every “like” on Facebook, for every “favorite” on Twitter, and for every retweet. And to my biggest cheerleaders — you know who you are — I am forever in your debt.
Much love, friends. Much love. xoxo
And many thanks to the IMPOSSIBLE Project for their support of 365 IMPOSSIBLE Self-Portraits and help with defraying some film costs. I don’t know where my photography would be without you all!