7/15/12

By the way...

I failed to really mention what the original motivation for my last post was before I went off on my little tangent: the crux of work/life balance for me, always and obviously, is the effect it has on Edie and June. My fundamental struggle (and, yes, what much of my photographs have been about, a blessing and a curse) is how to not fail them. I think I'm a good mother mostly, but when I'm like this I fear the main thing they hear coming out of my mouth is "hold on." That I'm only half present with them because I have so much going on in my brain, that they're yelling in my ear while I'm picking at the guitar or clicking the shutter. My goal today is to answer when they call, and really see them when I'm with them, and to refrain from using TV as a babysitter this coming week. Here's to you, Buddha.

Am I making sense?

My work/life balance is really suffering lately. It feels crazy to complain about being obsessed with taking pictures when I've written so much about struggling with my "fallow" periods. With apologies to my believing audience I must say I think astrology is pretty much baloney, but given there seems so be no explaining when I happen to be fixated versus when I'm in the doldrums maybe I should chalk it up to the phases of the moon. Generally there seems to be no why or wherefore to my moods, all PMS aside.

I write the above because a bit before last week I was in a fairly stable state of what I like to think of as "elated working mode." Then, bam, I fell down a crevasse into "screaming ego" working mode. What I mean by that is it seems when I'm on the cusp of really getting to the core of a series my ego/gremlin, with its insecurities, superiority complexes and general attempts to distract, roars up. Maybe there's a non-astrological explanation after all...

Being in the core of creativity, really lost in the flow, means the gremlin is often forgotten. I think there's a certain power that comes from finding your voice, feeling the truth of your images, feeling like a tiny corner of the universe has been lifted and time has less authority. And in psychology they always say that when a person is about to have a big breakthrough their ego is afraid it will be exposed and dispensed with, and comes up with every trick it can think of to ensure it isn't buried. As a result a good deal of diversion gets thrown into the mix: obsessions become worse; past hurts feel real and threatening; any compulsions seem impossible to stop. Fear is very present--the fear of being judged or abandoned or misunderstood. It's the easy path in many ways (what James calls "Path A"), chewing over regrets or rejections, a familiar and habitual state to embody.

Conversely, this can also be a motivating thing: within the insecurities is an absolute need to make pictures because a certain fire is burning. It's like a desperation to understand, and the art is the potential key. Or I suppose it can feel like the only way to deal. In particular I find myself turning back to making self-portraits joined with writing like I did for The Ten blog many months ago here.

I'm not sure I'm making any sense--I've read more self-help books than I care to mention--but my overall feeling is essentially that making art is powerful, and power for some people (me) is fucking scary. Obviously we need our egos, and they're not the devil, but they don't always have a place in that deep-down flow of creating.

So back to work/life balance: whether I'm joyfully immersed or making pictures as a way to cope with my OCD I have a hard time focusing on the day-to-day of what needs to be done. I don't empty the dishwasher so then I can't load the dirty dishes. I have piles of laundry waiting to be folded, not to mention put away, so the kids never have underwear in their drawers. I don't answer emails. James picks up the slack and I feel guilty that he's pulling more than his weight. I also play guitar and it's a similar situation: the girls will be fighting, cranky because they need dinner, or it's time to get bedtime rolling, and I'm staring at tabs, ignoring it all. Let's put it this way: they're watching way too much TV and eating way too much macaroni and cheese and mom is seriously distracted.

Look, I recognize that I'm sounding quite victimy here. My complaints are, I don't know, fairly self-indulgent and also potentially humble-braggy. I'm afraid to hit the "publish" button. Honestly I'm not entirely sure what I'm trying to say except that writing is another part of this whole puzzle, and I feel compelled to get it all out there, to type away in my robe at 12:25 PM when I should be showering and getting my act together. But you know what I really need to remember? Time is not my enemy and it will all get done, it always does. And feeling nuts never lasts forever.

7/9/12

Thinking about submissions

When I stare at my work for long periods of time while trying to select images for juried show submissions it becomes more and more difficult to "see" my photographs. At a certain point I have no compass from which to gauge my own personal reaction to the layout of the pieces. In some ways I think this is why I often wait until I'm down to the wire to get my act together--when I have to work under pressure there's less opportunity to obsess over minutia, or to continually rearrange the order of the pictures, or to try to decide between one photograph and another, going back and forth and back and forth.

As the years pass I've continually made an effort to decide what to show based not on some notion of what a juror might respond to but on what I respond to (which is not easy. At all.) Still, there's sometimes an almost desperate feeling that comes over me: what if I substitute these images and get rejected, whereas if I'd only submitted those other ones I would have gotten in? It's a game of "what ifs" that is completely and utterly ridiculous--and somehow very seductive. Stepping back is a tough one--sometimes it has to be as simple as throwing in the towel for the day and returning fresh in the morning. Sometimes that next day brings no clarity and I just have to settle for what I think is my best, or even sometimes what I think is "good enough" because my eyes are crossed and my brain is fuzzy.

Today I've been twisting my head into knots working on my Critical Mass entry because I've never made it past the finalist round and this year is the first time I'm not going to use "Life is" for my submission. It feels like a risk because it could either finally bump me over that elusive edge to get me into the top 50, or it could be the thing that lowers me a peg to not even making it to the finalist round. A big comfort for me is reminding myself as often as I can that it's about the process of making and editing my series, and that submissions are an excellent tool to use as a means of organization and study. When I can lose myself in the process I get into the flow of moving things around, pondering what the work is about and with every entry hopefully finding ever clearer ways of saying "this is it."

On another note, I always like to include an image with every post, so below you can see one of the shots I took in Iowa--it's a page my dad found of his baby footprints taken by the hospital when he was born. It might still need some tweaking, but that could just be me obsessing again. Habits are hard to break!