Monday, November 4, 2013

The Wearing of Many Hats

We’ve all heard the adage of “wearing many hats” and that is definitely true for me. But the wearing of many hats is not just about putting on a baseball cap where one says Writer, the next says Photographer, etc. Each hat is as different as the type of work that goes with the project.

Hats come in many styles and are made from a multitude of materials and, as such, each “job” on the label has as much variance in its style. The writer’s hat would not look like the photographer’s hat, Some hats styles immediately come to mind when one things of certain types of jobs. I’ve already mentioned baseball caps, although those cover a wide variety of jobs including truck drivers and farmers.
With the title of artist, one pictures a French beret; cowboys wear cowboy hats; helmets are worn by football players, race car drivers, and deep sea divers, to name a few. It would be interesting to list a number of jobs that are associated with specific style hats or headgear, but at the moment, I can’t think of more.

My writer’s hat, if I wore a hat when I wrote, would be totally different from the ones worn I’d wear when out shooting photos or painting or drawing. Yes, even painting and drawing hats would be different because the jobs themselves are different and have different requirements.

A writer’s hat, for instance, would have to have a hatband into which I could slip pens, small notebook, and reading glasses. It would have an all around, small brim to help hold these items and would maybe be made out of felt. (I’m not fashionable enough to know material.) Maybe the pen would even have a feather. The small brim would be so there wouldn’t be much shadow when I was writing.

This hat would have to sit on the head tight enough so when I bend over the table to write, the hat won’t slip off, but not too tight to stop the creative flow. Finding the right words is hard work. Even with working on a computer these days, I still take notes by hand. Pens are my favorite tool.

A photographer’s hat must be of different material with some waterproofing because getting caught in the rain sometimes happens. It would probably have a string tie (I don’t know the proper term) to tie the hat under the chin. This way, the hat can be pushed down onto the back when taking pictures. I take pictures in all kinds of weather and I must be able to adapt to conditions – cold, sun, precipitation, and such. Sometimes when I’m out, I am so focused on getting the shot, that I don’t pay attention to other things. A photographer’s hat must be tough. It will take a beating.

The different projects (jobs) that I work on require a total change in how I am thinking and sometimes I go from one to the other in minutes. Instead of musical chairs, I play musical hats… although I do move around depending upon what I’m doing. For instance, in working on my books, there’s the story-writing/reporting/research aspect. I study, search my mind for the correct words, comb through the word catalogs in my brain trying to find the right descriptions and rework the research so I’m not always quoting someone else’s text. Then there’s the proof-reading and editing; many times.

Then I have to put on the photographer’s hat to edit the photos. My brain has to shift into a different type of focus. Here, it isn’t so much about words, although I do have to come up with titles, but the concentration is on color and contrast. Pictures that will go into a book take different editing than those I use in prints or cards, (which is even another hat.) I have to consider the size of the photo and how it will go onto the page of the book.

Next comes inserting the photo into the template where I’ve put the story. I try to match it to fall in with the proper place having to pay attention to margins and whether there will be text wrapping depending on the size of the picture. And finally, I have to make sure the Table of Contents is correct along with the List of Photos. Sometimes I am exhausted from all the “thinking” to make sure everything lines up (swapping hats many times during the course of a day.)

The work I do for the newspaper, even though it’s also writing with occasional photos, calls for a different type of hat. My mind set has a different focus when reporting. I am no longer writing from my point of view and the guidelines are strict for journalism. The editing (as I’m also the assistant editor) has its own rules, its own hat. This hat would come with a magnifying glass (metaphorically) with the need to make corrections. And the photographs for the newspaper are handled differently.

This just shows a couple of the hats I wear. Of course, it would be fun to actually design are real hat for each instance.

What kinds of hats do you wear and what would they look like?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"The Fire in the Song"

The Fire in the Song

He said, “If you only stop singing, I’ll make you safe.” And he repeated the line, knowing you would hear “I’ll make you safe.”  - David Whyte in his poem “The Fire in the Song”

There’s something about that line that ran through my mind this morning as I contemplated the plight of our society. If you only stop singing, I’ll make you safe. I hear the words in Whyte’s voice and in his inflection, And he repeated the line, knowing you would hear “I’ll make you safe.”

Whyte is talking about creativity, but I am hearing the words to now mean something more. This year has been a time of question for me as I’ve researched and studied certain aspects of the past. A lot of what we were taught as history is now being found to be untrue. People, who we were taught were heroes, often had a darker, not-very-nice side. (The media, even before it was known as media, played up aspects “they” wanted the public to know. We know that goes on today.) People we were taught to look up to as having our best interests at heart, more often than not were only following their own agendas. Yes, there are those who mean to do well, but a lot of the times, the best of intentions goes by the wayside.

“I’ll make you safe” is a want in all of us when we hear about the terrorism that goes on in the world, when people kill for no good reason (that we can see) or when kids shoot up schools. The media plays up the horror until we are afraid to leave our homes. We cry out our fears and organizations are developed to make us feel safe. Mental illness or mental instability is blamed. Drugs are used to control with often horrible side effects. People are locked down, locked up, and locked in.

But do we really feel safe? I can’t help but wonder if all the hype is just a ploy to still tongues. How do we balance protection versus lack of privacy? With everything being done to “protect” us (sounds kind of mafia-ish,) terrible things still happen, have always happened. I don’t know the answers. What are we willing to give up to feel safe and how much is really necessary?

Yes, I question. Yes, I am afraid. Life has always been a big adventure in a way. You never know what’s really going to happen. Even those with supposedly mundane lives can experience a drastic change in a heartbeat. I used to swear that I would not live in fear, but I can’t help it, and the thing is, I don’t know what scares me the most; the fear of terrorism or the loss of privacy.

It upsets me that we can’t drive down the street without pictures being taken of us, that our children cannot wait for the bus without a parent present, or that armed guards are patrolling our schools. There’s a part of me that believes the more fear we have, the more we will have to fear. Fear calls to itself.

Whyte’s poem hits home for me on many levels.

The Fire in the Song

The mouth opens
and fills the air
with its vibrant shape

until the air
and the mouth
become one shape

And the first word
your own word
spoken from that fire

surprises, burns
grieves you now

you made that pact
with a dark presence
in your life.

He said, “If you only
stop singing
I’ll make you safe.”

And he repeated the line,
knowing you would hear
“I’ll make you safe”

as the comforting
sound of a door
closed on the fear at last

but his darkness
crept under your tongue
and became the dim

cave where
you sheltered
and you grew

in that small place
too frightened to remember
the songs of the world,

its impossible notes,
and the sweet joy
that flew out the door

of your wild mouth
as you spoke.
            --- David Whyte