As I re-initiate this journey I need to revitalize my focus. I need to start watching, seeking for those images that deserve to be captured, ideas that will inspire me. My first effort was to build a portable art packet. Pencils, pens, paper – everything I need to draw and write. Always with me, easy to get to. Problem is that I’m not comfortable with those mediums, so it doesn’t come naturally. I’m not comfortable enough with the method to easily capture the idea or image. The effort to capture gets in the way of the act.
A couple of weeks ago I started carrying my little camera around. It made a tiny rectangular bulge in my front left pocket – but I never pulled it out. It was available, easy to use, but not obvious.
Last week I started carrying my big camera with me. It’s in the way, kind of a hassle to haul around. I’m always conscious of it and I’m comfortable with it. It feels good in my hand – like it is supposed to be there. My hand forms around it, strokes it, knows it. It is easy to use, I understand it. I don’t have to think about using it. So when I see an image that I like it is a natural act to pull it out, swing it up and capture the shot.
And the result is I find myself watching, searching and finding. My awareness to the world around me is coming back. I’m seeing the shapes and colors around me that I’ve been walking by and ignoring. I’m searching my mind for ways to use images, ways to tell stories about what I’m seeing around me.
I enjoy the feeling again.
I read the following quote from ‘The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer’ by Jackson J. Benson that explores this idea. I don’t see this trait as specific to writers – I believe it applies to all creative types:
‘How does an author write a serious novel? Does he come up with some characters and a plot idea and start writing, using the stock phrases he has accumulated and throwing in a little description here and there? Does the felicitous sentence come by accident, do those small perceptions that so truly bring us into life come to him at the typewriter carried by the muse, and are those insights into the human condition at heart of his work evolved out of the sudden inspiration provided by an approaching deadline and the need to pay the gas bill? Not if the writer is Steinbeck and not, I suspect, for any other author of similar stature.’
‘It is rather simply a matter of living as a novelist twenty-four hours a day, every day, whether you happen to be writing a novel or not. Everything, EVERYTHING, is material, from your thoughts about your wife, your dreams and nightmares, to how your neighbor talks when he is embarrassed and how a friend looks at you when he wants something and what the local grocer does when he puts on his apron or makes change for a customer. Everything. Most of us could neither stand the burden or bear the exposure of privacy.’
‘The life of a novelist should probably really be a history of the constant gathering of bits and pieces of observation and insight, and the personal suffering and human concern which generates the pattern for the pieces and the need to express that pattern. For a novel such as East of Eden or The Winter of Our Discontent the novelist lives a preparation of years, accumulating hundreds, even thousands of small items. To describe the process from the outside is nearly impossible – even from the inside, as in the notebooks left by Henry James, it cannot be more than suggested.’
The creative muse is an always on effort. You aren’t creating art twenty four-hours a day – but you need to be an artist twenty-four hours a day.