I don’t write very much anymore. Some of this is due to the wacky nature of the last 12 months. Some of this is due simply to the fact that I have Less Time. I’ve tried to make up for the lack of writing in pictures.
Taking photos has been easier for me in some ways than writing. Photo-taking is not my primary form of expression; I am a somewhat-shitty photographer. I cannot fool myself or anyone else and claim that because I own a DSLR or a high-resolution smartphone, it means that I magically have a Good Eye. But my writing process is labour-intensive. I often write things out long-form; by hand; before things make it to the Internet. I do quite a bit of editing. I suppose I am a bad blogger because blogging evolved into Having a Brand, but my writing process stayed stuck in the Stone Age.
So sometimes photos really ARE worth the 800-1,000 words I can’t discipline myself to write.
Back in March, I flew to Paris for a conference. It was a weird weekend – it was my birthday and I had arrived in Paris to find that a dear friend had passed away overnight. Lisa had had metastic breast cancer, and she disliked all the verbs customarily associated with having had cancer (fight, battle, etc.) so I am at a loss for how to describe the situation, other than to say that Lisa had been sick for a long time, and I admired her, and the wholly straightforward, realistic, and optimistic way she handled her illness/treatment. While it was not unexpected to learn of her death, it still left a huge hole in my heart to discover that she was actually gone.
Despite the circumstances, I embraced the Paris weekend: Saw old friends; ran the Paris Half Marathon; joined a group of colleagues for a dinner following the race. Over dinner that night, my friend John began explaining a social media project he had been working on – a photo-a-day project he had been posting under the hashtag #john365 on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. It wasn’t about showing off, or simply taking selfies, or merely posting pictures of (yet another) delicious meal, he explained, but it was more about reflecting and connecting through meaningful images of each day.
(It was not, as I had wrongly assumed, a religious thing. In fact, a surreptitious Google search of “John 3:65” led me only to someone named John’s commentary on Lamentations 3:63: Look at them! Sitting or standing, they mock me in their songs, and I was pretty sure, at that point, John was not that John, and he was not that paranoid.)
The project instantly resonated with me. My friend Lisa had been known to say: Find a bit of beauty in the world. Share it. If you can’t find it, create it. Some days, this may be hard to do. Persevere. As a result, people from around the world would share photos of their found beauty with her – snapshots of their gardens; observations of things in the world they might never have stopped to notice.
I resolved that night to join John’s project, and posted my first photo.
If you are in a writing rut, or you need inspiration, or you find a bit of beauty in the world and you want to share it, or you have any number of reasons for taking a photo each day and putting it out into the universe, maybe you should consider #365-ing. I have found it to be fun, and cathartic, and terrifying, and a way to connect, and a way to confuse and all the wonderful things that an art project should be.