Monday, October 14, 2013

The Need for Balance

This morning I was weighing my love of staying home with the falling into sadness. I love what I do! I love the writing, being alone, listening to whatever music and watching whatever tv programs I want to, eating or not eating, and not having anyone else’s noise interrupt my work. I love that I can choose to write or draw and not be in anyone’s way or intrude on someone else’s space.

On the other hand, I have to admit that more and more I tend to fall into depression and grief. Granted, since moving here I’ve suffered major loss in my life. I lived totally alone for the first time and when I had to put my beloved cat down this summer, I was even more alone. Unfortunately, that makes this house hold more sadness than joy. I also realize that it’s not healthy to stay inside all the time and I tend to do that more and more.

Yes, I do go out and meet with other people. I go to breakfast with artist friends once a week. I do occasional interviews and cover events for the newspaper. I will go off on day trips once a month; sometimes alone and sometimes I will have company. I always enjoy these times, but I am also eager to get back home.

Then for the next two to four days I’m home alone as I catch up with all the writing and photo editing. I keep saying, “What more could I ask for? I’m living the life I want to lead.” So why do I keep succumbing to sadness? Sometimes I wonder if it is this house or property. Yes, it’s beautiful here, but because this place is where I have suffered my greatest losses, it’s too much.

But it’s also given me some of my greatest joys! I have a new life direction which is totally exciting and inspiring. So, why do the least little things bring me to tears? And now with the upcoming holidays... and now I always think of Christmas, not as a time of joy, but THE Anniversary of my mother’s passing. The holidays mean nothing to me and haven’t for many years and it’s especially so now that I’m alone. Oh, it’s not that I don’t get invited places. I just don’t want to go. I don’t want to be around happy people who love the holidays. However, I did tell my brother I would go to dinner with them for Thanksgiving this year.

So, where am I going with this? I know the answers. I know what I need to be doing. I just have to do them. I know I need to get out of the house more, but with the writing consuming me, it’s hard to get away from the computer. I realized this morning that with a tablet, I could go someplace to work. Yes, I’d still be working and still be on the computer, but being outside of this house would be good. I could go to a restaurant and find a corner to hang out for awhile when they aren’t busy. Most places have Wi-fi now so I could have access to my writing files which are in a cloud storage place.

I’ve been thinking about getting a tablet for awhile. I just need to make the time to get to Staples. Then, too, I’ll have to force myself out of the house. It’s easy to stay here, easy to stay home. It’s not good for me. It’s okay for a day, maybe two, but when it stretches into three and four… and I notice that the longer I stay home and inside, the harder it is to go out.

Yep, I need to balance the staying home with the going out.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Revelation

It’s been eight months since my big journey south this past winter. Some of the reasoning for undertaking the trip was the need to get away from the New Hampshire winter, get out of the house, get away from grieving the loss of my mother, give myself something else to think about, and find and stabilize a life direction.

The adventure was exciting and I saw things I’d never seen before. There was fear and wonder. I visited many places and fit more in during those 33 days than in the past fifteen years and when I got home, I buckled down to put the experience into a book. Words cannot describe the intense joy that I felt over my discoveries and I was eager to share.

I never got a big revelation during the journey about my life’s direction. (Then again, I know it doesn’t really work that way.)  I simply delighted in each experience whether it was exploring a plantation or wild life refuge or feeling homesick and missing my kitty. I bowed down to writing when I got home knowing that it might take up to a year to finish the book. I was a little disappointed to not feel any great life-changing event, but such as it is. The months began to pass.

I ran into obstacles with the book. I had many questions and was finding few answers. I know what I wanted with the book, but was it reasonable? If I could pull it off, it would be amazing! Unfortunately, I had to be realistic and consider what such a book would cost. Then in mid-summer, I was dealt another emotional blow with the loss of my bestest best kitty. I was devastated and I floundered.

Bringing a new kitty into my life helped me move on. She distracted me from the grief and I was able to get back to the book. I decided to make changes and dealing with those set me back as I changed photos from color to black and white to save cost. The writing of the book itself is finished and now it’s about fitting the text from the 8 ½ x 11 MS Word document into a 7 x 10 Open Office template and inserting the photos and maps. It’s tedious and frustrating. I thought the hard part would be the writing. It’s not. It’s this other stuff. Plus I have to do Table of Contents and Lists of Photos and Maps.

In the meantime, I took on another project, another of photo and writing. Oh, yes, I realized I’d been bitten by the travel bug big time. So, now I have multiple books going on at the same time even before the first is completed. But, this is exciting. I am excited and inspired!

I still want to do my other art, the charcoal landscape drawings, but I AM foremost a writer and I always have been. I also realize that this new life direction isn’t really new. It’s been on my mind for a couple years. It’s just today it feels like I’ve been hit in the head with a board that THIS IS what I am meant to do! (Almost like a du’uh, I should have known.)

This has certainly been a year of learning about myself. I’ve become a better writer and the biggest thing is that I not only honed my writing style, but I’ve come to accept that this IS my style. It doesn’t matter about all the other writers who have gone on before me. I am not them and I cannot follow their styles. I am me. This is who I am. I have to be able to FEEL my writing and I want to bring that to my readers.

Today, almost eight months to the day I returned from the big adventure, it hit me; the light bulb went off. That trip south DID do what it was supposed to do! I am re-inspired about life. I have a life direction and this new big project WILL take the rest of my life. I’m excited about life again.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Consumed by Writing

“Writing consumes me in a way that no other form of art does.” – Sasha Wolfe

It’s interesting to reflect on how I approach the different aspects of my – talents. The three major components of my art life are writing, photography, and charcoal landscape drawing. Each one is very different although the photography and writing often blend in together.  

When I am working on a drawing, I have to walk away and forget it for awhile. I reach a point where I dislike the drawing and I fill with self-criticism over the work. I have to get away from it before I get so frustrated that I destroy it. Unfortunately, I sometimes leave it for too long, but I almost always go back and finish… eventually.

Photographs are always on-going between the editing and deciding what to do with picture. Those decisions play a part in how I edit. For instance, if the photograph is for the newspaper, the publisher likes to do her own editing so all I need to do is reduce the size for emailing and save it to 240 dpi. If I’m posting to Facebook, I edit and reduce, the size, and if I remember, add my Sasha Wolfe Fine Art & Photography line to it. I leave the dpi at 72. For regular prints, the editing will be determined by what I am printing and which printer it will be printed on. I am still able to easily go on to something else although I can get caught up in the editing and hours will pass.

But with writing… writing consumes me or I become the writing. The current topic stays with me and I’m almost living and breathing it. I relive the journey. I am constantly thinking about how I can improve the story or I’m coming up with more ideas to enhance the project. I think about doing more research or finding someone to interview. I wonder where to go next or how to arrange the individual articles. I think about the pictures; how many I can use and which ones are the best.

The thinking takes on a life of its own. I do more thinking than actual writing sometimes. My mind is working while I’m preparing lunch, doing dishes, or working on other projects. It creeps into my dreams. The writing is all I want to talk about and I have a number of writing projects going on at the same time.

This isn’t just with the current projects, but also fiction stories. Those stories also follow me like the vapor trails following an airplane. It’s like I can put myself in those stories and actually live what I am trying to write about. No matter where I go, the stories are there and at any moment, I can bring myself back to that point.

It’s hard to drag me away from the computer sometimes. I spend hours researching history segments to add to my current writing projects. I go over and over what I’ve written proofreading and editing. I cannot read the chapter without making changes. At this rate, I’ll never finish. But I will. I’m pushing myself.

Maybe this is why it feels like I have a built-in switch in my brain and by late afternoon, the switch is flipped to off and I cannot work anymore. Of course, this doesn’t mean I stop thinking. The thoughts just become more fragmented. I have to read or watch tv to get away from it. Then come 5 a.m. and the I am once more turned on to words and ideas. I want to write and write and even when the words won’t come, I still want to write.

It excites me, inspires me, and gives me a reason to live with joy.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Random Day Trip Project Update

I went off on my longest day trip since I started this project. I’ve dozens of stories I’ve written over the past years. I’m trying to pull some of them together while adding new ones. This is all while also working towards finishing the book of the past winter’s travels.

My mind always fills with questions. Today I am stuck with finding more information about the towns I visit or travel through. The internet only gives me small pieces usually through Wikipedia. A few towns have histories on-line, but the research is time consuming. It’s disappointing to spend a lot of time on the internet and not find any information.

My style of working is to do little planning in advance. I want to visit an area with as little pre-conceptions as possible. The trips are in exploration. I love the surprise of discovery. This is my own way at being an explorer and within the next few days afterwards, I try to dig up more information and history about the area. It’s funny because I always have the “Wish I had…” regrets, but a major part of these trips is about my spontaneity. If I stopped for everything that caught my eye to photograph, I couldn’t get very far.

So, no regrets, right? These are day trips and I can always go back for a second visit or if I pass through a place on my way to somewhere else, I can return there, too. That happened on this recent journey. I passed through three towns to which I want to return to highlight that area.

This is a learning process, and not just about the towns and areas. I’m stretching my mental boundaries, too. Each trip is teaching me to be a better writer. The irony, though, is in not going back and rewriting previous stories every time I get a “new” idea on how to improve the storytelling. If I keep going back and re-editing what’s already been written, I’ll never get anywhere and there’s still so much territory to cover.

This project is going to take my whole life. I may never get it all done.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Working Styles

This morning while doing my writing, a realization came to me. Oh, I have known this, but I often didn’t talk about this one aspect of how I work because… I was a bit ashamed to admit it. This realization came to the forefront while I was trying to figure out how to describe, after the fact, some of the sights that I’ve seen in my traveling and in my photography. How do I describe things for which I have no names?

My revelation is that I tend to get in, get out, and move on. I visit a place and only take time to scratch the surface. I take many photographs of what catches my attention in the moment. I don’t plan or study the situation.

Why do I feel guilty? Because most of the professional photographers I know take their time to study the light, plan their shots, and concentrate on preliminary work. The “real” writers spend hours researching an area and talking to locals.  I feel these types of people will look down on me if they know I zip in and zip out; that I do my work later in cropping and editing on the computer and doing a little research on the web for bits of history.

But why should I have to feel ashamed of my working style? I don’t have to. This is the way I work and I enjoy what I do. There’s nothing wrong with that. In further thinking about this and writing in my journal, it’s brought to the surface that my travel writing and photography styles are similar. After all, this is who I am; it’s how I work. Why should I expect one to be different from the other?

I visit a place and because there are so many other places I want to visit and so many miles to travel and because I limit myself to a few hours a day, I do tend to hurry. It’s who I am, how I work. Yes. I get so excited about what I see. I want to share this excitement and joy with everyone! I can’t wait to get home to write all about it and look at and edit the photos.

So many times, because I don’t always do preliminary research, I get to an area and don’t have the names for the flora and fauna. I get stuck on trying to describe something for which I have no names. But isn’t that what describing is all about? Hey, I’m a writer. It’s my job to describe, so why don’t I take the time?

One of the reasons I take a lot of photographs is to help me remember later what I saw. With digital photography, I can take the time for photos that won’t be used for prints and will only be used for reference.

Why am I struggling with descriptions in my writing? Why am I struggling to find words? Again, here’s an admission – I’m in too much of a hurry. I hurry to write the story without looking at the photos. I will edit the photos and sometimes put them with the writing, but at that point, I don’t take the time to look close at the photos to get down to that detail for writing better descriptions. By the time I’ve written the story draft, then proofread and edited a couple times, I’m ready for the next adventure. Like those adventures, the stories are “get in, get out, move on.” Not that the writing goes quick. I often spend hours writing one and that’s without trying to be more descriptive.

I envy those writers who have the ability to be wonderfully descriptive in their narratives. William Least Heat Moon in his book, Blue Highways, wrote beautiful descriptions of what he saw along U.S. back roads. Duncan Dayton followed the trail of Lewis and Clark in his book, Out West. Lewis and Clark certainly had to be descriptive in their traveling as white men had no names for what they discovered.

For the most part, I want my photographs to show what I saw. However, there’s a cost issue in putting numerous photos in a book with a lot of text. I have to be aware of the print costs, which means watching page counts and comparing the cost of color to black and white.

So, this is where I am today. I have six books in process at the moment. The big one is the adventure south that I took this past winter which is taking me months to write. Cost is one of the biggest issues with this book as I’ve had to re-vamp my original goal of having many colored photographs along with the story. I wanted to have the photos show what I saw along the journey, but no one would be able to afford to buy the book. Now I am removing most the photographs and the ones I’m keeping will be black and white. I do plan to do a color picture book sharing photos of the journey.

I am also working on another travel book, plus I have four other themed picture books in the works.

Am I crazy for taking on so many projects? Probably. BUT, I get such joy in sharing the wonderful sights I see from the beautiful scenery to animals and birds to run down buildings and more. There’s so much I want to see and do while I’m still able. I am in the later part of life and I want to celebrate the beauty around me. It’s said, “Stop and smell the roses.” I say, yes, that’s great, but also appreciate some of the other sights, too, like things that are rusty, things found on the ground, look up, look down and let yourself wonder.

Every day I look out my window and say, “How beautiful the countryside.” I want to share this beauty, this love of life and of what’s around me.

My working style is “get in, get out, and move on.” After all, there’s so much more to see and more adventures to undertake. Life is good!