Create: Five Months In (Seven if we were paying attention.)

Five months into the pandemic of 2020. Not much has changed. Few concrete plans, many doses of misinformation, racism, lunacy and corruption all on display for the world to see. But we knew this would be the case, so now what? Well, we have two choices. Fall prey to the mayhem or forge ahead as individuals, and as a collective, as best we can. This can and does feel like swimming upstream, but I think life in general can feel that way from time to time.

Looking west toward the Jemez.

A few days ago, on a short hike, my wife asked “Are you happy?” It took me about a quarter of a mile to respond. My internal voice said “Absolutely,” but my C19 voice said, “not so fast.” But the more I thought about it I realized I was happy but with contingencies that are outside my control. But what I also realized was that there was a lot INSIDE my control, and for that, I am happy.

This was what I would call a typical week and yesterday was what I would call a typical day in my life as a Blurb worker. Over the past week I’ve given two one and a half hour talks to workshop programs, programs FILLED with mostly prosumer photographers who want to get better at photography and bookmaking. I have knowledge in these areas so I share whatever I can to make their journey more enjoyable.

Yesterday I scripted, wrote, shot, edited, uploaded, and archived two YouTube films, somewhere around forty-five minutes of motion content. I also wrote two blog posts for Blurb, another post for this site, and recorded an hour-long podcast. In the middle of all this mess were three hours of conference calls. This might seem like a lot but it isn’t when you work for what is essentially a technology company. This is what I would call average pace. The past five months have actually been even more work, mostly six days a week. I’m not complaining. C19 rewrote the rules so we needed to adapt and in turn, so did I.

The purpose of this post is not to tell you I’m so great, so wonderful. Not at all. What I am telling you is that I am focused and I am driven to do what I can do in regard to bettering the overall situation. I could sit around and complain. I could sit around watching the news. I could sit idle, do nothing, ponder an uncertain future, think about myself OR I could just get on with it, and make the best of a situation that seems dire.

I spoke about this in a recent film but I think one of the things that made me a better person was quitting photography. As a photographer, it is VERY easy to sit around thinking about yourself all day every day. Photography can be brutal as a career and photographers are notoriously vicious behind each other’s back. And, you are judged each and every time your work goes out into the world. Quitting allowed me to take a step back and wonder “Oh no, was I doing that?” In fact, on the same hike with my wife, I asked her this very question, “Please tell me I wasn’t one of those people.” She didn’t reply. (This might have been her normal ignore Dan methodology.)

My job at Blurb is about YOU, not me. And I’ve been in this mode for almost eleven years. This was a real change, and one that has had plenty of tough moments when sometimes the people I feel like I’m trying to help are turning around and biting my hand, but I get it, at least to some degree. All those realities I mentioned above, compounded by the phony and destructive need to be tied to social media and not everyone I encounter is pleasant to work with. I’ve been called names, put down, threatened, accused, and belittled more times than I can count. If you think I’m joking I am not. That is just part of doing business in the role I currently assume.

For this reason I think I have adapted to C19 life relatively well. We are isolated but we are busy with more tasks than we can handle, and the work I’m doing seems to be having a positive impact on those around me. I see and read this on my YouTube channel, my comment section on this site and via email and direct messages. Is what I’m doing changing the weather? No, not at all, but at least I’m not contributing to the problem, at least I hope not.

So if you feel like things are at an all-time low, and they just might be, instead of lashing out, getting angry or spending MORE time surfing the “news,” try another technique. Read, write, shoot, make a call, write a letter, etc. I just found a new writing project by writing a letter to a friend, thinking I was purposely writing something bad only to realize I might have accidentally written something somewhat good. Who knew? Also, do something physical or adventurous, as long as you can do it safely. I love to fish, canoe, hike, run, cycle, etc. I actually think many of us feel a sense of guilt, or outright fear when it comes to doing these things but we should not. What happens when you fish? Often you are DEEP in thought about things totally unrelated to fishing. Where do many of my ideas come from? From my time on the bike. The physical suffering allows my mind to drift to a particularly vivid place where creative ideas flow. What is the worst thing I can do? Sit around in a negative space, and no photographers I don’t mean THAT kind of negative.

Whatever it is you do, do it. Whatever is you feel, feel it. Add don’t subtract. What can we do as individuals? That’s a tough one, but instead of pondering how inconsequential that answer might be, just go ahead and make some moves.

8 Comments on “Create: Five Months In (Seven if we were paying attention.)”

  1. I like this post and the message.

    In a conversation earlier this week, a friend (yes I have them, contrary to what you may think Dano) were pondering about where this year had gone. Both of us couldn’t believe we were close to the end of August already. A common thought for the two of us was that we hadn’t really been anywhere because of the lockdown and neither of us could believe the year was passing as quickly as any other year. And we realized that we were much more busy with work, but more importantly, with life and personal projects. It certainly has been my way to cope in the times we find ourselves in today.

    A lot of this year has been thinking about the future and more than myself. This isn’t always an easy task for any of us as you mention above. While photography still plays a large role in my creative doings, it’s not the end all. For the second time this year, I went into the mountains last week to decompress, escape some of the hellscape of CA at the moment and to be alone. Decompressing makes sense. The hellscape part makes sense but the being alone thing took some explaining to myself considering I’m alone these days 90% of the time and I’m not sure grocery runs count. And for the second time I didn’t take a camera at all. I took a book, a pen and a notebook. And for two solid days I read and wrote. A good process for me from time to time. This is directly related to COVID and looking at the world differently.

    Life as we once knew it is altered and I just have no desire to go back to whatever that normal was. I can control some slice of my own world, and with everything now uncertain, I’m focused there. This is also directly related to COVID and a different mindset I am looking to find… something a bit more positive despite the world we find ourselves in. It’s about all I can control.

    1. Hayden,
      Good point. Going back to what we had before. I don’t either. There were and are aspects I want to carry on but there is a lot of new that I’d like to engage with.

  2. This post reminds me of the teachings of the ancient Stoics. Things within/not within your control. A bunch of good articulations here Dan.

  3. Dan,

    Enjoyed your thoughts here. Obviously a polymath such as yourself is going to be hard to keep up with for us regular folks but, uh, I’ll file this level of productivity under “aspirational.”

    Curious that you could fit in 3 hours of conference calls AND get everything else done. What is your superpower, truly? Is your day loosely encompassing 18 hours of “on” time? Meetings were tough in person, conference calls, even short 30 minute ones leave me feeling lobotomized. To transition back to a focused groove…sometimes I can never get there again in the same day.

    I appreciate that you seem to be making a dent in things and obviously that feedback you receive from all the channels has got to be satisfying and motivating.
    My experience seems to parallel yours in that yes, there is more to do than time to do it, but the frustrating thing (more than just the workload) is that we’re in a hurry to nowhere. I see folks “killing” themselves to get something done that was not well considered to begin with and often just flames out-for a myriad of reasons. Perhaps you have more autonomy and can put your shoulder to the wheel for genuinely beneficial (tangibly so) projects. Most of us I think I simply playing the part in a pastiche of WWI trench warfare; screaming, bodies, chaos. The sense I have is that most places really just want lap dogs. Do as you are told, keep your insights to yourself. Rinse, wash, repeat….until you get the logo’d barometer for 25 years service and retire soon after.

    A good read. Always encouraging to hear about someone thriving in the new milieu.

    The quality of the output (in general)

  4. Dan,

    Enjoyed your thoughts here. Obviously a polymath such as yourself is going to be hard to keep up with for us regular folks but, uh, I’ll file this level of productivity under “aspirational.”

    Curious that you could fit in 3 hours of conference calls AND get everything else done. What is your superpower, truly? Is your day loosely encompassing 18 hours of “on” time? Meetings were tough in person, conference calls, even short 30 minute ones leave me feeling lobotomized. To transition back to a focused groove…sometimes I can never get there again in the same day.

    I appreciate that you seem to be making a dent in things and obviously that feedback you receive from all the channels has got to be satisfying and motivating.
    My experience seems to parallel yours in that yes, there is more to do than time to do it, but the frustrating thing (more than just the workload) is that we’re in a hurry to nowhere. I see folks “killing” themselves to get something done that was not well considered to begin with and often just flames out-for a myriad of reasons. Perhaps you have more autonomy and can put your shoulder to the wheel for genuinely beneficial (tangibly so) projects. Most of us I think I simply playing the part in a pastiche of WWI trench warfare; screaming, bodies, chaos. The sense I have is that most places really just want lap dogs. Do as you are told, keep your insights to yourself. Rinse, wash, repeat….until you get the logo’d barometer for 25 years service and retire soon after.

    A good read. Always encouraging to hear about someone thriving in the new milieu.

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