Recently, I was tagged by my cousin Jim to take a black and white photo every day for seven days. Additionally, the photos were to be things from my life, and I was not supposed to say anything about the photos. I was to post them without comment or explanation. And I will say right up front that it was a very cool experience.
It is not that being a writer, artist, and publisher is boring. They are incredibly rich and exciting occupations; however, the kind of life you live is outlandishly boring, because for most of my day, I am in solitude and either reading, writing, thinking, or painting. Excepting for painting (I usually play loud music when I paint), my house and day are one of total silence. Additionally, it takes hours and hours to write, paint, think, or read, and so my life is filled with hours and hours of quiet solitude. One time, I had a showing of my paintings at Keuka College in the Finger Lake region of New York; along with the show I was required to do a talk on my work for the freshman class. They would then have to write a paper on my work and lecture. One of the kids told me they were interested in being an artist and wanted to know my thoughts on the matter including any advice I could offer. Immediately, I told the student that the biggest challenge for an artist is coping with the loneliness because to actually get any work done, you are going to have to block out enormous periods of solitude. Dogs help. However, in the end, if you want to do some decent writing, reading, thinking, and painting, you will need a lot of silence and alone time. And it is lonely and boring—especially in the breaks between activities. I usually wander around the neighborhood, cruise Facebook, or stare out the window like my little poodle. Consequently, when my cousin tagged me to take a picture for seven days of my life, I panicked. My life is so boring. Here’s a street. Here’s a street lamp. Here’s my refrigerator.
However, what I found was that when pressed to actually look at the places I wandered around, look at the possessions I used frequently, and look at the places I frequented for pet supplies or wine (all in terribly chic and dramatic black and white) I came to see my life had a quirky kind of beauty. I saw comic irony and tragedy, spirituality and bondage in my images. Taking pictures of my ordinary life turned me into a tourist of my little world. As a tourist versus a native, I saw the world that surrounded me as being far more rich and alive—and I think I learned a lot about myself in the images that I chose to take and post.
Taking a vacation from yourself, I think, is a very good thing. Many people express that similar quality when they have an opportunity to dress up for Halloween or even a wedding. It gives us a chance to step away from ourselves, and so we can perhaps re-see ourselves from a different angle. You may never want to post your pictures on Facebook for all to see, but I do suggest you do this activity. Even in private, I think it would give you a glimpse of your life that perhaps you did not see before—and perhaps you will see like I did, that my incredibly boring life of silence and solitude was slightly more complicated than that. My ordinary, forgotten, disregarded, bland, totally normal day to day world was weird and alive and was helping me with my work and my character. So go out there, take some black and white snaps of your ordinary everyday world, and become a tourist of your life.