It was Tolstoy who wrote: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
When I sit down to write fiction, or about my life as a photographer, I usually have two thoughts. The first is: "I've been so lucky to have such a wonderful life, complete with a wonderful partner and a kind family. Lucky to have done well in business and especially lucky to have spent those business years immersed in making art."
But my second thought, which follows on the heels of the first is: "If I'd suffered horribly I might have more interesting stuff to write about." And then I quickly beg the gods not to punish me for such a self-destructive thought.
This morning I "moderated?" a comment from John, who has grown somewhat disinterested in the blog since my recent purchase of Leica products. And, rather than taking umbrage or becoming defensive I found myself agreeing with John about the blog.
Not because of the Leica gear but because reading about challenges, problems and their solutions, or narrow escapes from failure, is always more fun and titillating than reading that some old guy bought himself more cool photo stuff and took a walk and played with his cool stuff, had a coffee and then came back home to his nice, comfortable home whereupon he ventured out to his large, attached and very private office to write about his "adventures" on his shiny iMacPro while leafing through yet another folder of images of mostly cosmopolitan comfort and abstraction with which to illustrate posts about his repetitious forays.
I completely agree with John. It's tiresome. But I am cursed with what my wife calls, "An optimistic memory." When I think about the past I remember all the good stuff like exploring castles on the Turkish coast with my parents and siblings, back in the 1960s. Swimming through the 1970s and beyond. Being asked to teach at UT. Being lured from UT by $$$ to direct an ad agency. Marrying the woman of my dreams. Having a perfect child. Who is now a (mostly) perfect adult. Making decent money making decent photographs. Buying fun cars. Getting bored by fun cars and then having an equal amount of fun buying boring, practical cars. I remember the thrill of months long backpacking trips through Europe in my college years with beautiful girlfriends and endless mornings of swim practice at a private club in my middle age. Of the unbelievable opportunity to be coached by swimmers who won gold at Olympic games. And having ready access to really good coffee all the time, without ever having to scrape together change from a change jar to pay for it.
But the sad truth is that nobody really cares about all the happy moments. It's just not good material to write about. Who cares if a Leica is a good camera or not? What does it matter if someone buys a new lens? Who would ever want to read about how you paid off your house or invested wisely? Nobody.
I'm toying with the idea of creating a completely fictional life in which every moment is fraught with peril and sadness in order to keep my readers interested. But to what end? How will I be able to monetize this dystopian creation so I can at least rationalize the time and effort it might take to become truly miserable enough to be an interesting writer?
I could write about the thrill of racing to the top of Mt. Everest without auxiliary oxygen in order to document a comet exploding in the upper atmosphere but suffering from massive cardiac arrest which I survive by taking some potion that might eventually kill me, while dragging myself back down the mountain on my frostbitten hands and knees. Only to find that the memory card, with the once in a lifetime cosmic event, was hopelessly corrupted and then, because of a horrible contract with shady characters who threaten my loved ones, having to reimburse the clients who sent me in the first place. With interest. Lots of interest. Contract subsequently cancelled via sordid gun play and mayhem. But not before being severely injured in the melee...
Maybe stuff like that will keep people entertained. And there always seems to be good money in writing about run-ins with serial killers and such. And I do like science fiction so there might be an angle about dangerous and uncomfortable space travel or being enslaved, off world, to mine unobtainium on distant asteroids for lizard people who secretly rule the galaxy with iron claws....
I'll think about it. But first I'll jog over to the club for the noon swim practice on a sunny, sixty degree day in the middle of paradise. And maybe lunch afterwards. Lots and lots to think about here.
Thanks for the nudge John.