I'm in love with this picture of my friend C, one of a handful of photos that I took on Friday at my middle son's preschool closing circle...with a new lens. I'm not sure what I was thinking, test-driving something new on a big day, but I pushed myself to do it. And you know, the photos were ok. Some were even good. But I had worked this lens up in my mind to be the be-all, end-all, everyday workhorse lens. It was going to make eyes pop and skin glow. Every shot would have perfect depth, glorious bokeh, romantic lustre. It was going to be magical. With that lens on my camera, I could walk into any closet in my house and find myself in photographic Narnia, so to speak.
Instead, it was fine. Very serviceable. I did get some very pretty pictures of a couple of friends. But I realized that, just like with any other lens, I am going to have to use it over and over and over again before I gain expertise with it, discover its own little quirks, and learn what sweet notes it can play.
So of course, today I wanted nothing but to use it. And I wanted people to use it on. Not my family, not those same old boring people. I wanted to learn to be brave and point my camera at strangers' faces, and to figure out how to squeeze a perfect photo out of this lens, and I wanted to do it NOW.
Thing is, I don't get to do it now. I spent the whole day resisting the rest of my life and wanting to do something else. How very non-transcendent. I have kids to wrangle, a marriage to attend to, sleep to get, books to read, bills to pay, laundry to fold, bathrooms to clean. That makes me sound like such a domestic drudge, ugh. I have this uber-enlightened post-feminist husband, I'm not at all alone in the child-rearing and housekeeping. But there is just so MUCH of it. And I don't want to do ANY of it. I want to sleep late and be alone with my thoughts and putter around in my studio and let my distractions take me wherever they want to take me right when they seize me, without any of the other stuff getting in my way. Preferably while some understanding person silently brings me cups of chai and a soft sweater, then leaves me alone to pursue my process.
And that's when I realized it. I'm an artist. Oh, it makes me cringe to type it, it sounds so arrogant. I don't feel like an artist. No, scratch that, I think perhaps I feel exactly like an artist, but what I mean is, I think I suck. I think I lack ideas, and lack expertise. There's also this splinter down deep in there somewhere, this awful shard of something, that says that I'm not allowed to identify as artistic. That it's laughable. That what I write or photograph or daydream or otherwise create is thoroughly mediocre and banal.
Where are the tweezers? How do I pull out that splinter?
I'm wondering, how do I become the artist I want to be? (And what do I want to be, anyway?) Can I learn to see differently? Can I make my visions more original? Can I find better ways to organize my thoughts and create better products? Can I figure out what to do with the things I create? Can I stop comparing myself to people who are better than I am, and just love what I do, without so much self-flagellation? Can I say "fuck you very much" to the voice in my head, the voice that sounds very familiar, that mocks me when I face a blank page and takes me down a notch when I want to share something I made? And if all of that is possible, how do I do it while also washing dishes and remembering to write thank-you notes and getting down on the floor to play and filing the taxes and listening to my husband talk about his day?
How do you live the life you love, while liking the life you live?