I’ve had many interests during my life . . . some lingered, others died away as I and the world changed.
Two that can be classified as hobbies are Writing and Photography. They could not be more different.
Actually, people say that, but I suppose they could. What I really mean is that despite both being creative endeavors, there are fundamental differences beyond the mechanics of each.
Understand, these differences I’m about to mention, they are presented not as absolute truths, but rather how I look at the two activities that occupy large amounts of my time while I live on this rock.
Summarized, they are thus . . . I see photography as something that is not strictly creating something new, but rather taking something everyone knows, and showing it to them a different way.
Some might recognize the above photo as the inside of a pepper (a yellow pepper, to be precise).
I think it’s safe to say that literally millions of people have seen this very thing. I’ll go out on a limb, and even state other photographers have snapped similar shots; if not millions of photographers, at least thousands.
Photography captures things we see, things the camera sees, and it’s tough indeed finding something someone has never photographed before, let alone seen before.
Understand, I’m not belittling the task of presenting something for the enjoyment of others, and doing so with a unique vision and with the technical expertise to realize it.
Some say I am pretty good at photography, but, as I stated before, I do not apply myself to it beyond what amuses me in the moment.
Copyright 2008, E. J. D’Alise
I don’t know why they keep surgical rooms so cold. Or maybe they just feel cold as you lay there in your flimsy hospital gown, complete with the easy all-around-access feature. Personally, I think all of the attending personnel should be required to dress as the patients do. But, that’s another fantas . . . I mean, story.
I had gotten all of the briefing a person could want relating to the efforts everyone would put forth to not:
a) cut off anything important,
2) add anything obscene,
iii) cause me to become a fond, but fading, memory.
I now waited for the show to begin. A show I would miss, hopefully going through it in a dreamless and oblivious state. I passed the time by motioning for people to come close so I could ask them something or other. Actually, I just wanted to check if I smelled booze on any of them. Thankfully, there was no booze, but there was just a hint of garlic; they must have all had garlic bread for lunch.
The time came. The sedative breached my mental defenses and I felt my grip on consciousness slip away. I idly hoped my bowel control would not follow suit.
And then nothing . . . except . . . yes, a small point of . . . make that a growing point of dark! A deep black, non-blinding in its lack of brilliance. I started to walk toward it, but bumped into what appeared to be a wall. “Damn Dark!” I muttered, “I can’t see shit!”
To my surprise a rich, melodious, nasal voice resounded all around me.
“Can you see anything?” it asked.
“No,” I replied “There’s nothing here to reflect the black light!”
. . . I paused a moment or two, then asked “Are you . . . “ I could not bring myself to finish the question.
“I’m Murray,” the voice answered, “I’m from the operating room next door. I wandered around, but got lost in the dark.”
I waited for more, but Murray was gone . . . I guessed they brought him out of the anesthesia, and he had returned to his body.
I felt a slight tugging, and slowly, then faster, zoomed back to myself. I blanked out, only to slowly regain awareness of my surroundings. I found myself in the recovery room . . . I had survived The Dark. But I’m not telling anyone about it.
I wrote the above April 4, 2008 . . . the day of my first rotator cuff (and knee) surgeries. I presume I wrote this when I got home.
Why is this here? . . . to illustrate a point I want to make.
What’s the point?
The point is that the above very short story is a complete fabrication by me. It is something uniquely mine, arising of my own mind, experience, and particular way of looking at the world.
In contrast to THIS, I’m not likely to find many stories like the one above. The choice of words, the characters, the tone . . . all mine.
Some might argue the pepper photo is also unique. That may be so if one means the presentation, but the idea to photograph a pepper is not. Certainly the pepper is not unique (in a general sense only; in a specific sense it was, in fact, very unique, and it’s now gone, never to be seen again). Aside minor differences, peppers look very similar, and the one above makes no departure of note in pepper architecture.
In contrast, all the stories I write, the novels, the characters, the dialogue, the tone, the pacing . . . all of those writing-related things are unique to me. Sure, the ideas can be similar to other works, but even there I can push to things that have a good chance of being like no other (there are a lot of people writing; it could be multiple people have similar ideas).
The way I arrange the twenty-six characters representing the alphabet to form everything I write is not likely to be duplicated. Even if someone copies it, it’s still my idea. Even if they improve on it, what I wrote remains mine.
That is why, were I forced to choose between writing and photography, writing would win hands down.
Of course, I don’t have to choose . . .
. . . I can do both.
BUT . . . there is one other difference between the two. I would never consider paying for any classes or seminars about photography. I have attended a few seminars about the post-processing aspect of photography, but would never do so again. I would rather just play with stuff and learn on my own (what I do anyway).
Writing is different.
Or maybe it’s that I’ve never gone to a writing workshop, and so I imagine, like I did for the photo-related workshops, that I might learn something.
Think about it! . . . me, at 61, learning something!
Each year I look at the upcoming workshops . . . they break down into two categories (at least the ones I look at).
First, the week-long workshop, such as the Out of Writing Excuses Workshop. I am very tempted, especially since Melisa could be there, and I would not have to worry about her.
Why do I mention Melisa and my concern for her? Because Odyssey is the other workshop I would consider. Or Clarion, although this one does not even offer the possibility of having a spouse or other family along — you have to stay on the housing provided by the workshop. Clarion is eliminated on that provision alone.
I’m lying, of course . . . it’s not my concern for Melisa; it’s my concern for me. It’s perhaps odd these days, but I like my wife; a lot. Love her, even. The idea of being apart overnight would cause me considerable stress. In our nearly 39 years of marriage, I can count on one hand the number of times we have been apart overnight. And I hated every instance.
There is simply no way I would consider being apart for six weeks (!) to attend a writing workshop.
So, it’s a no-brainer, right? Take the Out of Writing Excuses Workshop.
I wish it were that easy . . . that workshop currently has over 150 people signed up. It might be a good experience, and I know being on a boat is not going to be bad . . . the concern is this: will I learn anything?
You see, I already do a lot of reading on writing, listen to podcasts, get hints, get opinions . . . what I don’t have is one-on-one feedback and a professional assessment of my work.
There are four hosts and one guest . . . that works out to 30 attendees per instructor. I’m guessing, but don’t know, that it will be like the seminars I attended for post-processing photographs . . . I’ll hear group lectures. I’ll do group exercises. I might get critiques from my fellow attendees. But how much can I really learn from that?
And that’s the other problem . . . I have no frigging idea where I am at in my writing.
It may be that the six-weeks long writing workshops are way outside my skill-set. They state this requirement:
“Odyssey is for developing writers whose work is approaching publication quality and for published writers who want to improve their work.”
“Clarion participants are selected from applicants who have the potential for highly successful writing careers and who submit writing samples with an application. Some have already been published.”
And that is not even considering the cost. None of these are cheap, but the six-weeks seminars obviously cost more.
However, speaking of cost, if you look at what you get, it appears the six weeks workshops are more value for the money (my opinion, of course; I don’t really know).
To review . . . Clarion is out; besides, they sound snooty. Odyssey is a possibility, but, man, six weeks. It sounds like Melisa could be there with me, but I’m unsure of what she could do there for six weeks. Viable Paradise sounds like the perfect thing. The Writing Excuses workshop sounds like fun, but I don’t know how useful it would be.
Let me clarify that last statement . . . it’s not that I am saying I would not learn anything at the Writing Excuses workshop. No, it’s more complicated than that.
You see, the Writing Excuses workshop comes across (to me) as a celebrity cult workshop. The hosts of the podcast have large followings, and just reading some of the comments leaves me with the impression that for many the main value of the venue is to rub shoulders with the hosts. It almost seems actual learning is secondary to the experience of listening the hosts speak and spending time with them. I’m probably wrong in my opinion, but that is the feeling I get.
. . . so, after all that, what’s my plan?
Ahem . . . there is one other fly in the ointment.
While I am guaranteed inclusion on the Writing Excuses cruise workshop just by plonking my money down (figuratively speaking), you can only attend the other workshops if you get accepted.
For instance, in the case of Viable Paradise the writing example I provide would have to beat out all but 23 of the people who apply (the workshop is limited to 24; I have no idea how many apply).
Everything I read says it’s very competitive.
So, here’s the deal: I’m going to submit my application to Viable Paradise . . . probably.
It’s the only workshop that fits the bill, and at the very least I will have one more data point when it comes to my writing; being accepted would mean my writing has what it takes. Not being accepted means I still need work.
At this point in my writing career that isn’t, and at my age, it’s probably a foolish thing to do, attending this type of workshop. Still, like many other things in my life, it feels right. Perhaps learning a few more skills and getting professional guidance will enable me to actually sell my writing.
I dare not dream big, but perhaps in the course of the next 20-30 years (if I live that long) I might even recoup the cost of the workshop in the form of sales to obscure magazines and sales of my self-published works.
If at 90 I’m still faced with a singular lack of writing success, I’ll still be doing photography . . . I might then change my mind about taking a class or two.
Oh, look! . . . more peppers!
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.