Getting over being too busy. A photographer's (and everyone else's) dilemma.

There's always something else that needs to get done. Always. But we'll never do it all before we die and no sooner do we finish dusting than, when we turn our backs, the next delicate layer of dust starts to descend. Invisibly and inevitably.  It's hard to open the door and just go.  Go anywhere but back to work. What good is it to work all the time?  When you're working you're only thinking about work.  You're not thinking about happiness or the taste of the wind or the way your heart feels.  You're only thinking about getting this project done so you can start on that project.

I was working on post processing image files today.  At first it was fun.  The dog was lying down by my feet, keeping me company.  I had a big cup of warm coffee with just enough creme to turn the world in my cup a deep and lusty beige. Each image seemed fresh.  But after a few hours I started to resent having to sit in my chair and do work.  It started to feel like the same thing, over and over again.

I thought about picking up a camera and heading downtown to see what new images I could find but really, that seemed like work too.  So I put my dog in the house with Belinda, grabbed a bright blue set of swim shorts (so not like the practice suits we wear at morning training) and headed over to our club to jump in the pool.

Usually, when I head to the pool it's to practice hard.  Swim laps.  Get competitive.  But my brain was having none of that today, hence the big, baggy, bright blue swim suit.  I got to the pool and it was nearly empty.  The kids weren't out of school yet and it was that nappy, snoozy time in the afternoon for people with small children.  

There was one woman swimming laps in a lane and two older woman standing waist deep in the water on the other side of the pool just chatting.  The sky was clear blue, which was nice after a week of clouds and rain, and the water was as blue as the sky.  I jumped in with a big splash and dog paddled around for a while.  I was wearing an old pair of goggles with very dark lenses and it was fun to go to the bottom of the deep end and look up at the sky.  The sun was a squiggly hot dot.

I resisted actual swimming.  I resisted doing anything that remotely resembled work in the water, and when I was refreshed and happy and calm, and floating on my back squirting water out of my mouth I knew I'd broken the sneaky spell of too much work.  Which made it so much easier to go back and finish my work.

Physically and metaphorically it's important to stand up from the desk from time to time and just walk away.  To short circuit the vicious little loop that keeps you trapped inside, away from all the fun.  You can always go back and work more but we need play time just as much.

I love the image of the picnic shelter, just above.  It was taken at a little municipal park a few miles outside the tiny town of Marathon, Texas.  I took it when I went to west Texas a year or two ago.  It was a trip that wasn't really about going anywhere as much as it was about breaking the cycle of habits.  Working and not stopping to look at stuff.  This image reminds me that we need to be alone with our thoughts from time to time to properly sort them out and integrate them into our dynamic sense of reality and self.  It's not something I can do in the middle of a crowded mall, at a PTA meeting or in the car between work appointments.  Sometimes you just have to shut everything down, kiss the spouse on the cheek and spend a week on the road having your own adventure.

It's okay for photography to be the premise.  As long as you don't make that into a job as well.
Big talk for someone who makes a living taking pictures....

Being alone is scary for a while.  Then it gets good.  And then you're ready to come back home and get back to life.  But the interruption changes the story.  Which changes your life.  Which opens everything up.  Bring the camera but don't be afraid NOT to use it.  Sometimes looking deeply is much more important.

Imagine, a non-picture taking photography vacation.  Novel.

1 comment:

ohnostudio said...

Funny you should write about getting up and walking away. I had a large retouch job today on one file for a client. It's a cover and the work was tricky. So as always I formulated my game plan and got to work. I got to a good stopping point, then went out for a short walk, came back in and made some coffee. On to phase 2 then, and worked until I got to a good stopping point where things were "good" and committed my edits. Made a few personal calls and came back to it, and lo and behold my work was almost done. I'm really going to try and break it up more often when I do jobs like these. The work seemed like it took no time at all and the thought flow seemed a lot better.

"Imagine, a non-picture taking photography vacation." It's not a crime - I've done it.