The anti-column

Mission window

For the last several weeks I have been trying to write a column. I have approximately 2,452 unfinished pieces. I look at the titles, think hmm, maybe I have something to say about that now, open up the document, read what’s there, type some words, run out of steam, sigh, close. Repeat repeat repeat.

I changed the title of this blog to The Dark Slide, naming it after a column I used to write for a magazine. I thought, yeah, I’ll do me some stuff and publish it here for those people who said they missed reading about my antics. But all I’ve done is reprint a piece from another magazine, nothing fresh. I have been busy of course.

At the library there are the usual interesting patrons and their unique viewpoints. The person who promised us big money when her judgment comes in so we can build a better library. The guy who thinks the words, “we’re closed” means a leisurely trip to the bathroom followed by the slow slow shuffle out the door. The woman who defines the task her dog does to help her with her disability as, “being cute.”

Project-wise I have been obsessively driving up the coast to a particular spot to photograph a group of rocks. Really, they are pretty special rocks, especially when I dress them up in taffeta and organdy. After months of gathering supplies and breaking out in a cold sweat when I thought of all the things that could go wrong, I actually produced a copperplate photogravure, and it wasn’t an abject failure.

Prior to the gravure, I played with photopolymer film and photopolymer plates. I understand a little bit about the printmaking process–enough to get a passable plate in-between head-scratching failures. I never knew I wanted to do printmaking but it turns out it is pretty compatible with photography. I originally picked it up because I thought it could be a fun way to make a base image on which to build with gum or platinum or crayons.

In an effort to reclaim the traditional male territory in the garage, Sir is building me a darkroom. Or arranging for it anyway. Identical twin contractors are coming at the beginning of August to pick up the project and finish it. Sir conveniently forgets that not all the garage equipment will fit in the tiny new room, and has been annoyed with me several times over the same issue. I guess I will put off telling him I am planning to sell the press I have upstairs and get a bigger one to be store in….the garage.

With all this stuff going on, I thought it would be simple to pound out a few paragraphs about some issue near and dear to my photographic heart. I come up with something–using digital positives, for instance–and go gangbusters on it for 3 dense paragraphs, and then, well, there’s nothing more to say. How about the images I intend to do in gravure? Once again, so much to say for a few minutes until there isn’t. I don’t know if it’s because all I’m really doing is talking to myself and once I figure out the conundrum there is no point in persisting, or it is because I am still in the middle of a process and without a conclusion there is no beginning either.

Maybe it’s because I am having a kind of writer’s identity crisis. Up until a year ago, all the public writing I had done was an important part of a friendship that has ended. There is no longer feedback, suggestions, expectations, deadlines. I can do what I want, which turns out to be a somewhat uncomfortable position. Most of what I have written for the past several years is tongue-in-cheek, even while I envy and admire those whose talents are more literary. The trajectory launched during that friendship has fizzled, and I find that perhaps what I have to say isn’t either funny or serious, it just simply isn’t.

Perhaps I ought to be more optimistic and consider that the position I am in is one in which I am defining for myself what direction is right instead of living on the accolades and opinions of someone else. After all, new directions have been taken, new friends have been made, new discoveries about myself and my abilities have occurred. Maybe my writing will catch up just as soon as I stop trying to impose my will on it in an effort to reproduce the type of expression that was right for a different time.

Next column: sports.

One thought on “The anti-column

  1. The pressure of having a deadline, rather than being at our own leisure, can make us more self critical and determined to transcend our previous excursions in writing. This year I have written much less since I stopped contributing to 52rolls. Writing every week meant that I traversed mundanities, had moments of insight, and sometimes said little more than needed to expose my daily experience. For 4-5 weeks now I have been stuck on a phrase that came to me in wandering the forests and shorelines. I want to build around it but am finding it almost impossible. Words will come eventually when the type is ripe, or I might just surrender cursorily. Looking back on pages written in the past sometimes I find it almost impossible to believe that I authored that passage. Enjoyed reading your anti-column immensely enjoying your self doubt which is only ever cast in the shadows of assurance.

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