I’ll be arriving in Paris as this post goes live. I am so lucky to be back in the City of Light after just two short years have passed since my last visit to this gorgeous city. The opportunity to present at a conference there is what brought me back, and I have zero complaints! I do have some complaints toward myself as I have fallen culprit to letting the majority of my photos from my last trip to France sit on my computer hard drive. So, in prepping to return to Paris, I spent some time reminiscing about my last trip and dusted off some of those never-before-shared photos.
With all the fun there is to drink up in summer — the ice cream, the trips, the homemade sangria, the bike rides, the concerts — there is also a need for stillness, for quiet. A need to replenish, to sleep late, to read all day.
I love a good book. This deep affection for reading — and words — is perhaps the greatest gift my father gave me. As a young child, my father tucked me in each night after reading me a few stories. Then as I grew older and could read on my own, I read in bed before I went to sleep, just as my father was doing in his room. Reading has always been part of my bedtime routine. To this day, rarely an evening passes without Tony and I reading in bed before calling it a night.
Reading is self-care for me, and as such, I’m trying to carve out more reading time in my daily life. It’s tough to make progress through books, let alone make my way through my lengthy list of books I want to read, when I only make time for it at night before crashing. Many a night I find myself having read merely a paragraph before feeling the weight of my eyelids pull shut and my head nod into my chest. Thus, in the ever-valiant fight against time, I’m seeking more moments to read.
Despite my soporific reading habits, this year has been full of great books so far. I hesitate to state this out loud (as much as posting to my blog is “out loud”) for fear of jinxing myself, but I’m having a good run since the start of 2014. Everything I’ve read has been so well worth my time. Save perhaps one book, I’d recommend them all. In no particular order, here’s what I’ve read and enjoyed over the past six months:
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Books I’m currently reading include Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, both of which I’m very much enjoying. As I am writing and working on my own book project for 365 Impossible Self-Portraits, I’m really wanting to immerse myself in more memoir. It is helpful and fascinating to see how other writers inhabit the life they’ve lived through their words and storytelling. Additionally, I’m taking my time gleaning great advice from Manage Your Day-to-Day, an edited collection culled by Bēhance from 20 creative minds on developing a routine and habits to mine your own creativity, writing, and other dreams you’re seeking.
What are you reading these days? I’d love to hear what you’ve read and loved lately. Or what you’ve read some time ago that is still resonating with you. I adore fiction and I’m definitely on the lookout for more memoir and great books on the writing process. Please share in the comments!
Keep reading, friends. Reading is sexy. It got me a husband after all. But that’s a story for another time…
It’s the 10th, and while our group missed last month, we’re riffing again. Rather than a photo to prompt our riffing this round, we decided to use a word to get our creative juices flowing. The wicked funny Cherish (hey — wait a second — she got to pick our photo to riff from last time!) chose the word “go” for us to get our riff on.
I had a number of ideas swimming around when Cherish first selected “go.” And then, time seemed to go, literally slipping out of my hands as I went to Colorado for a week to work on my book, and then had a crazed work-week when I returned. Now I’m off again to Oregon, my happy place. Seems that my version of “go” is me — I’m on the GO. You know why? Because SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER!
Hop over to Corrina’s site to see her version of GO. It’s a sweet and profound one.
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.