Telling Stories

7th Grade Volleyballers

Just in case anyone out there was wondering what the appropriate technical footwear for volleyball is, look no further. Seeing as though there are no more trend conscious human beings than 13 year old girls, the conclusion to the previously mentioned quandary is undoubtedly Converse All Stars… in any bright color.

I know I’ve mentioned Natalie Goldberg‘s book, “Writing Down the Bones” in at least one post. In it, there’s an exercise where she suggests writing for a certain amount of time or certain number of pages answering the question, “Why do I write?” I’ve done it a couple of times. This morning, I was writing in my journal, when that question came back to me. Its easy to answer on a superficial level. My first answer is always “because I have to.” When I go deeper, I can come up with all kinds of crazy avenues of thought veering this way and that from this central question, but that’s not what I was thinking of. My question today was, why do I write this blog? Answering that is a little more complicated because I most definitely do not have to.

I started writing in my journal about why I write this blog and discovered something really beautiful. I write this blog for myself. Not because I want to read it over and over again, because if I did, I’d probably be horrified not only at what I’ve written, but at the quality of the writing in some of the entries. For the most part, I’m typing as fast as I can to get them posted before I turn into a pumpkin at midnight. What I mean by “for myself” is that I am writing because finally, I believe that I have something to say that is worth recording. And the thing that’s worth recording is my own story.

Now that may sound a little arrogant, and I actually wrote those words this morning… “That’s a little arrogant!”, but in truth, maybe a little arrogance is a good thing.

Let me see if I can explain. As I’m sure is patently clear, for most of my life, I’ve felt the need to justify what I do. When I started making jewelry, I felt like I needed to sell it, and be making money at it in order to continue learning and practicing the craft. Until recently, I’ve looked at photography the same way. I needed to keep improving my work so that I would get paid more often for doing it. And I think that I’ve never been willing to devote much time to writing because I didn’t think I had anything to write that anyone would ever publish. Its always been about the destination, never the journey.

So along comes this idea for this blog… It never occurred to me to write it for any reason other than I had something to say about the topic. Little did I know that the question I ask in the title would lead me down all of the dead end alleys as well as the through streets in my life. That it would rub in my face my propensity to turn my brain inside out trying to figure something out, which is ultimately just “mental distraction” (as one friend put it). The photos were an idea that’s been around for a while, a 365 photo project to improve my photography (so that I could get paid). But choosing to focus my topic from inside my own life looking out provided a different focus for the photos too – and not one that anyone was likely ever going to pay for. Instead of going out hunting for “the shot” every day, I try to shoot something that is “close to home”, if not geographically, then from somewhere I already am. Sometimes that means stopping the car while on my way to pick up a kid. Sometimes its in the grocery store.

So what I discovered today is that this is truly personal. Its a personal story… with pictures. I’ve always thought of my photography as a way of telling stories. Then, when I started spending more time writing, it was because I wanted to tell stories. Today, I realized that what I’m doing is valuing the telling of my own story, for me. Isn’t it true that we can only ever look at life through our own lens, and we can only ever tell a story from inside our own story? All we really have, any of us, is our own life story to start from and end with, and if we can’t value that, then we aren’t going to be able to value other’s either.

I started thinking about the books I have loved and how many of them seemed to be autobiographical in one way or another. Then I was thinking about “Reality TV” and how much we humans like to read about celebrities and public people. We want to know what makes them tick. We are reluctant to ask people, “tell me what its like to be you”, but we want to know. Maybe we really want to know because every individual is a mystery to every other, no matter how well we know them. Maybe ultimately, I write about my own life because I want to know about yours. I want to understand the other human beings that I travel through life with, but I can only do so by sinking more deeply into myself so that they are more comfortable and capable of doing the same and sharing from that place of authenticity. From there, I can photograph them and see me. And from there, I can write about my life and maybe they will see their own.

2 Replies to “Telling Stories”

  1. As you question why do you write this blog it is only logical that I would find myself asking why do I continue reading this blog. My journey began last month when I happened upon your blog and began reading a few entries each day. So far it has been a thoughtful, fascinating and insightful ride with many moments of “I know that feeling” along with my appreciation for your love of all things out of doors. Tonight, your final paragraph resonated with me in a way that left me feeling that it was truly unfair for me to continue reading and taking without acknowledging your efforts and thanking you for the authentic sharing. I will read on both out of curiousity as to what makes another human tick but also for that sense that I will continue gaining insights into myself. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for your message and comments. Reading this entry from over 5 years ago, I realize how much I still think the way I always have… and while I abandoned the daily blogging a long time ago, the reasons why I write are still the same. Aside from the fact that writing this blog daily was killing me, looking back at it makes me a little wistful. There were some good insights that came from all that head banging.

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