by Catharine Bramkamp
I am surrounded by professional photographers. My husband works for a professional camera bag company and is an accomplished photographer. My youngest son is an accomplished photographer; his photograph graces the cover of my book, Ammonia Sunrise. My father was an excellent photographer. My grandparents – prolific. But I just want to have fun. The pressures inherit in wielding expensive equipment is too much for me. What if the photo is not worthy? What if the object I focus on is not important? It’s not about the film anymore, although that used to be a consideration. I remember when the photo had to be worthy of the film and the process: the film stock, the printing, sorting, displaying, and the overall performance. Back in the good old days, I would often just buy a fifty cent postcard with an image created by a photographer more talented than I and call it “good.”
On a recent trip, I brought along a real camera. Trailing advice and directions from both son and husband, I was determined to do right. The camera was small, but just bulky enough to not fit in any pocket or slide into any purse. It took me quite a while to focus the camera, line up the shot and frame it (my husband’s admonishment). Every picture was a project: I would pull out the camera, remove the lens cap, focus, line up the shot, frame it, take the picture, and stuff it all back. I was traveling with my mother and was in charge of photography because she cuts off the heads of her subjects in every frame (it’s a gift).
Pull out camera; adjust; remove lens cap; turn on; turn off. I know that doesn’t sound like much of an effort, but the time it took was enough to slow me down, and unless I planned to stalk the deserts of Syria with the camera held to my eye the whole trip, I knew was going to miss photographic opportunities.
Then the battery died in the middle of Ephesus, right before I reached the library, immediately before the sun broke through and illuminated the entire iconic edifice. Frustrated, I whipped out my iPhone and took the photo. What a joy! I lifted the phone and snapped.
It was a revelation. All of sudden I was free to grab any moment – a specific light, an interesting stump, or a rock. (I have a great picture of a rock.) Armed with just a phone, I didn’t need to exude any pretext that I knew what the hell I was doing. I was just a writer with a phone taking photos of my feet (that was an accident). I entered an entirely different consciousness with my phone
Bonus – I stood in front of a sign that warned: No Cameras. I didn’t have a camera did I? I had a phone. The joys of semantics.
What does this have to do with writing?
Are you waiting to sign up for the perfect writing retreat or workshop? Are you waiting for the contract from a publisher before you even write a word? Are you longing for a new computer, confident that will do the trick? Are you waiting to retire? To be wealthy? To inherit? Are you over-thinking the process? Yes, you are.
Don’t wrestle with too much expertise and fancy equipment like I did. Just as I learned to take any picture, and thus have far more photos with which to play, you can write on anything if you really want to write. I’ve written poems on scraps of paper, napkins and the backs of sales receipts. (The receipts from Costco have plenty of room on the back.)
So take a picture. Send it to me.
Catharine Bramkamp is the author of Don’t Write Like You Talk: A Smart Girl’s Guide to Writing and Editing (3L Publishing). She holds two degrees in English, has published hundreds of newspaper and magazines articles and a handful of novels, including three in The Real Estate Diva Mystery series. She has published two essays in the Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. She is an adjunct professor of writing for two colleges and is a successful writing coach. Visit her website at: www.YourBookStartsHere.com
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