So, after a whirlwind autumn season, I’m finding myself distracted. Luckily, I know what I need to do to correct the situation. I’m also having a moment of feeling like there are so many things I want to say about so many things, and yet I know none of them would be useful.
There’s a great William Burroughs quote, “There’s nothing more provocative than minding your own business.” I happen to be of the opinion that you’ve got to have a pretty good relationship with yourself to appreciate that quote. It also helps if you’ve got some of your own business to mind. And it doesn’t hurt to have a decent amount of confidence in the decisions you’re making, but, I digress.
I’ve put down my camera indefinitely. (I picked my camera back up again because, I wanted to.) I’ll likely fully explain that some other time, I’ve plans to anyway. I wrote a note to myself that says “Save it for the book” and that’s good advice if you’re a writer. The point is, I love taking photographs but, I am not a photographer and I have no desire to be. It was something to do in the meantime. Since getting sober three years ago, I’ve actually published eleven books, soon to be twelve. One is in review, will be re-released, and one isn’t ever coming back as it was, if at all, but nonetheless, I did the work and then some. So I’ve meandered for a while. Some of that is because I know myself pretty well, I know how I get when I get into something. You know? Some people have that mysterious gift called “balance” when it comes to their lives and their art. I tend to be all-in, all-go-no-quit with whatever it is until I’m finished with it. I haven’t wanted to do that for a while. Now it’s the holidays. But I’m hitting that place with it where I can’t avoid getting back to writing for too much longer.
You see, I happen to think that writers are born, not made. I think that’s true of many endeavors. I shall elaborate. ( And no, this isn’t the full explanation that I’ll save for another time, the proverbial “book.”) I’ve taken some really great photographs. I think it would be reasonable to say that I am a decent amateur photographer, depending somewhat on the subject matter. I understand light, I’ve taught myself how to frame things and see things in the frame so that it could even be said that I’ve something of an eye for taking certain kinds of photos. But, no matter how many photographs I take or how great a camera I get, I’m never going to be a great photographer. I am not a born photographer. I do not have a sustainable passion for photography, my heart isn’t in taking pictures. Some folks take piano lessons for years and they become proficient piano players, but their heart isn’t in it, and/or they have no natural spark that can carry them from proficiency to greatness. Then there are those folks that teach themselves to play the piano (guitar, what have you) and without ever having any formal instruction, they become masters because they love to play and they’re going to play even if they have no audience. There are people with great talent in some area or another that have no interest in whatever their seemingly obvious “gift” is. Perhaps a person is a phenomenal singer and everyone knows they are, but they have no interest in being a singer, their passion is raising kids, having a family. So they get married and have a dozen kids, and they love that and are great at having a family, then someone hears them sing and says, “You could have been a famous singer!” Well, no, because they had no love for it, it wasn’t what they were meant to do, born to do. The greatest artists the world has ever known, painters, they were born to do what they do. When I “garden,” hey, I’ll tell you, I look for sturdy plants because while I have some luck with things and could cultivate, hardy-har, some skill, I’m not ever going to get into what kind soil balance is required to get azaleas to bloom because it just doesn’t matter that much to me. When I take photographs, I feel like I’m trying to unravel the mystery of something that I don’t completely understand and that I never will understand. Images, and metaphorically one might deduce “image,” are a mystery to me. When I write, I’m trying to express something, things, that I do understand, or that I am able to understand through my writing.
There’s something ever so slightly frightening in understanding, in knowing, myself as a writer. Something undeniable, like being in love. Being a writer could consume me, and nearly has a time or two in some way or another, so I’ve held it off again as if to prove to myself that I can. All the other things, all the distractions, are just running away from the writing. One might even say that taking photographs had become my favorite avoidance ritual. I have to get back to the writing, this solitary pursuit, this one thing, that is my thing to do, this minding of my own business. I think if someone is supposed to be taking photographs, or painting murals or portraits, or writing violin concertos, or building race cars or whatever it is, they know that of themselves at some point. So, it’s time to set aside all the distractions. I’ve got to get back what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ll be “around” but taking something of an internet hiatus whilst I get back into the deep waters of these words.
An Ode to Anais Nin: We All Think We’re Mermaids
12/14/19 Teri Skultety
(there are sharks swimming in these waters
taking shallow breaths
looking for a feast)
whispered the mermaid,
hoping her voice would carry to his ear
over the sound of the waves
as she escaped into the deep
away from the circling beasts
her heart to keep