Do you know why I quit photography?
I started studying photography while teaching elementary school in Manhattan. I’d long been interested in photography, and since I was single (Erick and I had just started dating) in the Art Capital of the World!, I began taking photography classes at night.
My first love was the darkroom. I got such a high from the magic of the photo-making process: putting that little negative into the enlarger, bringing the image into focus, experimenting with just the right brightness and exposure time to make the best possible photograph, and then seeing the results emerge through the chemical baths. I could — and did — spend hours in the darkroom.
And I was pretty good. My first photography professor at NYU gave my printing skills high praise. So, after I took the major step of getting married, I took another major step: I quit teaching and enrolled in NYU’s Studio Art master’s program.
About halfway through getting my master’s degree, it became clear that I was a dinosaur. Digital photography was all the rage, and you had to be proficient in Photoshop if you wanted to be a marketable photographer. I had no interest in digital photography or Photoshop, which seemed more like computer science than art, but it was clear that film and darkrooms were going the way of the daguerrotype.
I completed my degree and freelanced for a year, but without joy. It’s hard enough to make it as a photographer, even if you love what you’re doing. Handing me a digital camera and forcing me to edit my images on a computer was the equivalent of making me write with my left hand. When we moved to California for Erick’s PhD program, I let photography quietly slip away.
I’m telling you this because I recently had a morning that gave me the same feeling as my first Photoshop class.
For the past couple of years, the thing that’s given me the most pleasure — after my family, of course (she said dutifully) — has been writing: writing for this blog, for On the Willows, and for The Addison Independent. I’m starting to feel like I can call myself a “writer” without apology. So I finally went to our local bookstore and bought myself a copy of the 2013 Writer’s Market, a massive reference guide to literary agents, publishers, and various publication outlets. (Don’t worry, I’m not getting any fancy ideas. But Stephen King, among others, says that all writers should own a copy). Our local library’s copy is either stolen or lost, so I’d been eying this book for months. Finally, with a bookstore gift certificate in hand and a baby arriving soon, I decided to throw caution to the wind.
Flipping through the first pages of Writer’s Market while Georgia snoozed in her stroller, I found a little essay titled, “Blogging Basics: Get the Most Our of Your Blog” by Robert Lee Brewer. Seconds into reading, I was horrified. Brewer’s suggestions included tips like:
-Use your name in your URL and as the title of your blog. (OOPS!)
-Find like-minded bloggers, comment on their blogs regularly, and link your blog to theirs. (Writing this blog is about all I can handle. I really appreciate it when other bloggers find me, like me, and follow me, but I’m horrible at returning the favor!)
-Use lists, bold main points, and headings — especially if your posts are longer than 300 words. (Triple OOPS! I’m making a bold list now, but I don’t usually employ lists or headings. And this is now word #590 of this post).
In other words, I’ve been writing this blog for two years, and I’VE BEEN DOING IT ALL WRONG!
Okay, but what does Robert Lee Brewer know, anyway?
So I got in the car, and on the drive home I listened to one of my favorite programs on VPR (our NPR affiliate): “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook. The day’s topic was social media, specifically (notice how I’m making a bold list here):
-Email is dead, going the way of the handwritten letter. (I still love the handwritten letter! When the Postal Service considered stopping Saturday delivery, it made me so sad: What would I have to hope for on Saturday afternoons?)
-Facebook is getting “musty” — it’s becoming so uncool that people’s PARENTS and GRANDPARENTS are on it; most teenagers use it only for study groups.
-The NEW new thing is chatting, specifically something called “Snapchat,” which deletes the content you send after it’s been viewed. (Erick and I don’t have Smartphones, and have no plans to get them. Our cellphones are the ancient kind where you have to push each key multiple times to get the letter you want, making even texting virtually impossible).
I felt like that same old darkroom dinosaur again. Here I am, blogging badly, and promoting it through outdated means like email and Facebook.
I’m always late to the party.
I’ve never been hip. Even — especially — during the decade when I might have reached my hip-ness apex, people who knew me will tell you that I was a NERD. So I don’t really care about keeping up with the latest gadgets and trends. What I do care about is being able to communicate; writing is a form of communication. I usually get frustrated with people who refuse to get email or cellphones because they fear new technology; I respect the many grandparents I know who embrace social media in all its forms. I always thought I’d be one of those grandparents.
But now, I don’t know. I’m starting to feel TIRED. Why can’t I just blog how I want, and send emails, and post to Facebook for the next decade, before I have to learn some new program?
I don’t have any answers; I just leave you with questions. Plus, this is word #988 of this post. What would Robert Lee Brewer say?