Sometimes You Just Have to Get Out of Your Own Way

I came across a video via Twitter a few weeks ago that absolutely scared the HELL out of me! I mean, it was amazing…but I was literally shaking watching it. My heart was pounding, I was breathless.

This was a strong reaction to have – but then again, this isn’t the kind of video you see every day.

In fact my first thought after watching it was: If you could do this, what in life could you NOT do???

Here it is, if you want to take a look:

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I admit: I have pretty much no desire whatever to mountain climb – much less mountain climb without ropes! But I’m absolutely in awe at Alex Honnold for doing it.

And that leads me to my second thought on watching the video. Which was: I’d love to take pictures of somebody doing that!

Photography compels me to notice things I wouldn’t otherwise notice – to live moments in a very aware way. I think it would be so interesting to witness and record a feat like Alex Honnold’s – to experience it through photography.

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And that’s a fairly typical reaction for me anymore: “I’d love to take pictures of…X.” The urge isn’t limited to extreme sports either! Photography has become something of a framework for – well, pretty much anything I want to do at any given moment. From traveling to self-expression to just day-to-day living, photography has begun to wrap itself around every part of my life. It’s completely changing the way I approach…everything.

It’s gotten so that in the last few weeks I’ve actually begun worrying about it. I can feel myself getting pulled out, like a powerful tide, to places I hadn’t envisioned myself going – artistic places (and through that to “life” places.)

It’s a wonderful feeling, really. It’s exciting. It feels like I’m standing in a doorway – and right on the other side is the most startlingly beautiful world. All I have to do is just put my foot down and start to walk – just give myself permission to explore. It’s RIGHT THERE.

But the problem is: what if I do? What if I give in to this urge and just GO? Let the tide sweep me out and away from where I am? It’ll be fun…yes. Stimulating…even fascinating.

But…how do you come back from that? How do you go back to where (and who) you were?

I don’t think you do. And I don’t know what that means.

I’ve been worrying about that.

I just don’t want to mis-step right now.

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But…I want to walk through that doorway. It’s not an urge I can shake off (I’ve tried.) It goes too deep to ignore it or talk myself out of it.

I mean, I suppose I could – ignore it or talk myself into inaction. But I can’t do that and cultivate mindfulness and authenticity and all that stuff that I keep writing about here. If I’m going to live mindfully and in a way that’s true to me, I can’t stuff my own desires.

I guess it’s come down to that.

Yes, I’m very much a beginning visual artist/photographer. Yes, that means it’s not particularly practical to devote a lot of time and energy to mastering my ability to express myself in those areas. And using my time that way is going to mean that I don’t advance in other areas to the degree I’d hoped and planned.

It’s just getting harder and harder to care about that.

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And then I watch things like that Alex Honnold video and I find myself thinking how climbing a mountain without ropes isn’t particularly practical either. But what an accomplishment!

And not just the physicality. It’s about overcoming obstacles (getting strong enough to do it, working with the danger, etc.) It’s about testing yourself and trusting yourself.

And I’m thinking that maybe I should do that. Maybe I need to allow myself to do that.

Maybe it comes down to believing in yourself…and having a little bit of faith in your own instincts. If you want something so badly, maybe there’s a reason for that.

I’ve started thinking that maybe what I need to do is just get out of my own way.

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So here goes.

This (I see now) is what I’ve been moving toward for the last three years…with increasing acceleration in the last six months. This is the heart of what’s had me a bit freaked out and fretting in the last six weeks or so. It’s about this reality – the acknowledging of which marks a pretty big shift for me.

This:

I don’t want to be a writer.

And the reason for that is because, while I like to write (a lot actually), I don’t care about writing. It doesn’t move me. It never really has.

That thought just came to me in the last few days…and shocked me when I realized it was true.

Writing has always been a part of my life – but it’s always been the means to an end. Somehow I never grasped that before.

For me, it’s never been about writing for writing’s sake. I’ve never been compelled to put words on paper (or computer) because writing was my natural medium – even though words have always flowed well for me, and I’ve found satisfaction in the process.

No…I’ve always engaged in writing as a means to an end. Always. And it was those other “ends” that meant something to me, not writing.

I wrote as a little girl because I loved acting – in actual plays or playacting or, when there were no other options, casting my dolls as characters and directing them. I used to read books of plays all the time – and when I was tired of my choices, I’d write my own.

There was this transcendent feeling I would get as a little girl, when I was acting on a stage or even playing those games of pretend. The world was painted in brighter, bolder hues. Every moment was worthy of savoring. There was a strong sense of being alive – of being fully immersed in life. It wasn’t just about expressing something through acting a part; it wasn’t just about the end result. It was everything about the process, start to finish.

And I’m remembering what that felt like with such clarity right now because that’s how I feel about photography. And I’ve never ever felt that way about writing (or about very many other things, actually.)

I think that’s important. How can it not be?

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In high school and college (and later too), writing was escapism – in high school because I was bored and dissatisfied and in college and beyond because, while I was much less bored, I was much more dissatisfied…and at times very unhappy. Writing gave me the means to leave the world I lived in and enter another – and it felt good.

It’s occurred to me in the last few days that it’s perhaps inevitable that I’ve reached this point of dissatisfaction with writing – because when I made the decision three years ago to get divorced, I began to remake my life in a new and unique form. And escapism doesn’t fit that endeavor – at all. I don’t want to escape from my life now; I want to grab onto life and make it everything I want it to be. I want to live it fully.

Photography aids that in pretty much every way. But writing doesn’t – not for me.

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And that right there explains, I think, why of all forms of writing it’s blogging that I find most satisfying now.

I blog to record happenings, to untangle confusions, to share ideas. It’s about community and about conversation. It’s about dreams – but it’s not about escapism. For me, it’s a purer form of expression.

I definitely want to continue blogging.

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I honestly don’t know where this is going – where this “tide” I’ve decided to let take me away is actually taking me.

In regard to photography: I don’t even have decent equipment! I have a basic digital camera and a book I just bought about GIMP; that’s it. So for the foreseeable future I’ll just be taking a lot of pictures for practice and then messing with them as I teach myself GIMP.

But that’s a first step anyway.

For the next one, I guess I’m just going to keep my eyes open – and trust that I’ll recognize it when I see it.

I think it might just all come down to trusting yourself: Life, art, happiness…all of it.

We’ll see, I guess.

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20 thoughts on “Sometimes You Just Have to Get Out of Your Own Way

  1. Hmmm… interesting… you know, there’s always been a side of me, of who I am, that’s pretty child-like… childish, my ex would probably say LOL It’s the Gemini in me, I guess. I’ve always repressed it and tried to be more mature and, well, grown up, because I thought I should be. Because I thought that’s what people expected of me. But it wasn’t until I met and fell in love with Joy that I truly felt I could be who I always needed and wanted to be. And that person is quite childlike, to be honest. Fortunately she loves me anyway, which never ceases to amaze me.

    Where’s this going? Well, by being childlike I’ve actually become more grown-up and mature… because I don’t feel pressured to be that way. I don’t feel as though it’s expected of me, so I just do it anyway because I want to. Whereas before I’d avoid doing it because I felt I had to and, therefore, it was a chore.

    How does this relate to you? LOL Good question. Maybe writing is like that for you… maybe you wrote because *you* expected it of you… because you’d always written and maybe a part of you felt you wouldn’t be true to yourself if you didn’t write… but then, with all the changes you’ve had in your life, you’ve come to realise that you don’t need to please that part of you anymore… and that, by trying to please that part of you, it ceased to be a pleasure and then became a chore…

    …does any of this make sense? LOL Your words, as always, are insightful to us both πŸ™‚

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    1. It absolutely makes sense! It makes a TON of sense, actually! I hadn’t considered it quite like that before…but I think what you’re saying is absolutely true for me. Different sides of me being free now to emerge? Everything shifting around in the last few years – in life, but also with all of my “inner layers,” or whatever? Methods of self-identification that have served their purpose and now need to be let go?

      This might not be exactly what you were driving at…but you’ve gotten me thinking along some interesting lines!

      I really appreciate the insight. Thanks!!

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  2. So I read this before but I began thinking more about it yesterday when I was snapping pictures in my yard — something I do frequently. I was immersed in my surroundings and feeling an overall sense of joy in the moment being with my kids and my dogs and the weather was perfect. Then….my mood shifted and frustration set in as I scrolled through my pictures. I didn’t like the way they turned out. I was unable to correctly capture the fabulousness of the moment. Now granted I was using the camera on my phone, so not the best equipment but for what it is, it’s decent.

    Anyway, I thought of you and some of the ways you’ve described writing — that you’re not able to capture everything and at this stage (for you) photography and other media outlets seem to be a better fit. Forgive me if I’m putting words in your mouth, but that’s sort of been my take-away especially in regards to what you’ve written about writing vs. photography.

    For me, my writing process has been a bit different, photography as well. NOTHING has ever trumped being in the moment and one of my struggles with writing is forcing myself to sit and actually do it, particularly when I was in my 20s. I was so engrossed in actual life. I was traveling and experiencing and I couldn’t be bothered with stopping to actually write things down. Well, that’s not entirely true because I did write but not with any regularly or follow-through.

    So..for me I have to maintain a balance and somewhat of a discipline between living (being in the moment) and my output as art — writing, photography, or whatever. And I have to let go of my perfectionism. This is MAJOR for me with photography. Writing is just hard and I don’t know many people who would argue otherwise especially if they’ve actually aspired to make a living that way. I mean, it comes easier to some but there is so much editing and rearranging that must be done. It’s time-consuming, particularly if you’re writing novels or screenplays. I guess what I’m saying is that you don’t simply pop out a 300 page novel. But photography, in some ways is perceived as easier. We see an amazing shot and naively assume that boom, it just happened. The reality is quite different and any successful photographer will say something of this nature. In fact I would say that this is one of the biggest frustrations of many photographers. I have a friend who has a successful photography business and she shoots mostly newborns and children. She works her tale off, loves her job, but gets annoyed when people ask if they can just have the proofs so they can “print them themselves at Walgreens.” Making a living is NOT easy and she is constantly having to alter her package prices because no one sees the value in what she does. She has an amazing eye plus she works hard to get the shots just right.

    I am seriously streaming here. For me, I’ve never considered that I could actually work as a writer until fairly recently. I was an okay writer but I never actually worked to improve my craft. I just flowed with my natural ability. I currently have a job that is mostly writing and it’s so much harder and time-consuming than I imagined. I’ve developed a new level of respect for writers who make decent livings solely from writing.

    It’s SO interesting to read your process because you seem to really have a drive with photography to soak up everything you can — you’re taking pictures, reading and learning as much about photography as possible. You’re considering what types of things really get you going and make you want to capture them. You seem to have a natural tendency to get excited about something and the ability to immerse yourself in that interest. I think that is amazing because I tend to be SO caught up in the moment and then reproducing it so others can see (or read) the amazingness that I see/feel/smell/hear feels nearly impossible.

    I’m going to wrap this up by saying again that I think you are at a great place right now and should continue rolling with whatever is working for you. Capturing life through photographs is obviously bringing you loads of joy and keeping you excited. I love reading about your process and as I’ve told you before, you are inspiring me to let go of my own expectations with photography. Thanks you! So sorry for the crazy-long stream of consciousness post.

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    1. I love stream-of-consciousness comments!! I’m also really kind of fascinated to see (through your perceptions) how I’m coming across publicly as I write about all of this photography stuff. I’m just picking my way along – and using this blog to help me untangle my thoughts (which isn’t particularly conducive to making sense to anybody!) So it pleases me GREATLY that I AM apparently making enough sense that I’m comprehensible to you (because you’re not putting words in my mouth at all! I do really feel that you understand what I’m trying to express.)

      I really appreciate your reading and commenting. Even if you were totally misunderstanding me, I’d still appreciate your time…but that you actually DO get what I’m saying? That’s a gift!! Thanks so much.

      It’s weird. When I think of my writing, I FEEL what you’re saying (in regard to your frustration with capturing/reproducing the moment authentically in art.) That’s one of the things that drove me crazy about writing – and continues to.

      But with photography it’s a very different experience. And it’s not that I’m more adept at that artistic form (because I’m most definitely NOT. I’m a complete beginner.) It’s more that I don’t EXPERIENCE the moments in the same way when I’m thinking in “photography” terms. Like, my life moments. And that makes all the difference. I ground into the present when I’m taking pictures, in a way that makes everything deeper and more vivid – and the actual physical picture sort of just grows out of that.

      So it’s not really about capturing the moment in a picture (or not) for me – because I actually can’t separate the moment and the picture. The moment wouldn’t even be happening for me (at least not in the same bold, vivid hues) if I wasn’t taking pictures.

      I hadn’t really thought about this before – but, on thinking about it, I guess I approach photography with the idea that I CAN’T reproduce a scene. And so what I’m going for is an impression of what the scene FEELS like – via subject matter, but also via color and composition and all of that.

      Maybe “impression” really is a good word. I guess I do sort of feel like what I’m aiming for is something like what, say, Monet or somebody was doing in painting. He was capturing the “feel” of a scene, not what it really looked like, realistically.

      And that’s one of the most liberating things for me about expressing myself through photography rather than through writing: it’s the freedom to pursue the impression. It’s a purer thing for me. The labor of writing almost always, for me, buries the authenticity of what I’m trying to express – and that’s so frustrating.

      I’m wondering, thinking about this, if it’s that you DO really need to be less of a perfectionist in photography? Maybe…but maybe that’s NOT what it’s about. Maybe it’s rather that you just might need to re-frame your intent?

      Because you’re right: not that photography is easy, but it’s not painstaking in the way that writing is. What I mean is, there’s a spontaneity inherent in taking a photograph – and there’s no equivalent to that in writing.

      Do you think maybe you’re thinking too much of the end product and it’s messing with your ability to engage spontaneously? Or engage on an emotional level?

      Your first paragraph definitely sounds as if you WERE engaged emotionally though. So maybe that’s not right.

      The thought just came to me because I’m finding that when I have the most fun with photography (and take the best pictures) tends to be when I’m not really trying to capture the MOMENT – but rather the moments WITHIN the moment. Like the twinkle in my son’s eye, say…rather than a more comprehensive image of what’s actually happening around him.

      Of course, I’m also totally influenced right now by a book I just read: The Tao of Photography. One of the authors’ main points is that photography is a very strong tool for turning off your thinking mind and riding with your emotions – and that sometimes when you’re too analytical you destroy the whole endeavor. This definitely seems to be true for me.

      Regardless, I do think it’s really, really great that you can be so immersed in the moment as to be so frustrated about recreating it. To feel the moment so strongly is a very powerful thing. Photography is proving to be a bridge for me for doing that same thing – but you don’t seem to need a bridge. That’s really wonderful.

      I’m curious to see where that takes you, artistically!

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  3. So much of what you said here is SO interesting — for me specifically, it has served as a much-needed reminder that there are numerous ways to do/approach things and I have always been fascinated by how different people learn/see/approach different tasks. Specifically, you mentioned not separating the taking of the picture and being in the moment — also that the act of photographing actually grounds you in the moment and allows you to see things more vividly. Also, that your goal is not necessarily about capturing the actual scene but more about the feeling (and even moments within moments) — I liked your example of Monet and his paintings not being an actual picture of a scene, rather a feeling. Hmm.

    In line with your description/approach, the pictures (of mine) that I like best are the ones where I have been more in the moment rather than simply attempting to CAPTURE the moment (or at least an element of the moment.) Though, like the example I gave from the other day, I think I was in the moment UNTIL I pulled out my camera. Then I got too caught up in the RESULT, which led to my frustration.

    I’m also coming from a place right now of realizing that my kids are growing up and I’m concerned that I haven’t captured enough of the precious moments, but then I realize that I actually have. I’m a novice photographer and though I do have a good camera I don’t always get the best (quality) shots because I don’t know how to use it to its full potential. That said, I take lots of pictures and I capture moments in unique ways — like the example you gave of the twinkle in your son’s eye. This is the very reason that I prefer the pictures that I take of my kids more than other people’s, even good professional photographers. Good thing since I can’t afford lots of professional pictures. In other words, the quality of my shots is not as good, but the moments and feelings are there.

    It sounds like the book you’re reading might be a good one for me to get out of my thinking brain as far as photography goes. Even though, as I mentioned in my first lengthy response, I am good at being in the moment with many things. My problem with photography (in addition to perfectionism) is my frustration with technical things and not being confident in the technical elements of photography. I used to be way worse — and for what it’s worth, some of this comes from Gil (husband) being highly technical and buying more camera equipment than he knows how to use (for us) and then me having to figure it all out on my own when all I want to do is snap a damn picture. He likes lots of options but they make me feel overwhelmed. Like you, I’ve enjoyed having a decent camera on my phone — I notice that I capture more because it’s more readily available.

    Also I should clarify since I was sounding so full of myself about how great I am at living in the moment. This is true to a degree and particularly if I am interested. My attention wanes terribly if I’m bored or uninspired. I’ve done tons of mindfulness exercises, yoga, meditation, reading, etc. to help me live in the moment regardless of what I’m doing. I don’t just see it as an innate thing but rather a skill that can be cultivated.

    Are you familiar with Meyers Briggs Personality test/typing? I’m an ENFP but barely an (E)xtrovert. I’m pretty much down the middle on that one — need adequate time with others but also LOTS of alone time to recharge. Just curious if you know your type.

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    1. I believe I am also ENFP. That sounds right. I just poked around online to see if I was remembering that correctly, and I THINK I am.

      I seem to recall that I’m not heavily on one side or the other in any of the categories…except maybe the “P,” I think (“perceiving,” right?) I think for me it comes down to the fact that I’m a really intuitive person – but that’s always sort of played out against my logic, because I’m also very naturally logical. It’s like this perpetual push-pull!

      I’m very much like you in the people time/alone time needs. I’m very social…but I also need that time alone occasionally to just be in my own head.

      Thinking about this is interesting – because I’ve realized in the last few years that my life progresses much more to my satisfaction when I allow myself to be guided by my instinct and not talked into another route by my logical side. That’s been a really important thing to grasp for me. So I’m trying to allow for that more these days and not talk myself out of illogical things (like, say, giving a lot of attention to photography when I don’t have any money and should logically be devoting my little bits of free time to things that will have a more immediate lucrative aspect!)

      Meyers Briggs is interesting!

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