In 2014, I made my first resolution. Correction: I made the first resolution that I actually followed.
It wasn't about losing weight or exercising, or finally cleaning out the attic. I wanted to take better photographs, more photographs, decent photographs in manual setting. So I started taking my camera wherever I went. On certain assignments, ones not destined for the front page, I stopped calling the staff photographers for the newspaper I then worked for. If it wasn't hard news, like an immigration protest for example, I shot the story myself. Mostly this meant food photography.
I recipe tested for stories published in the paper's weekly food section, and styled and shot the process in my home. The experience was mostly positive: a few blunders but overall educational and transformative.
I'm shooting a little lower for 2015, but with a lot more heart
With last year's success, I've decided to set some small challenges that I think will add a little happiness to my life, rather than a new skill set. I could aim high, maybe learn to code or something similar, but I've got enough on my plate this year in terms of projects and deadlines. What I need is a little peace, increased calm. Here's how I plan to accomplish this.
I was born a reader. I turned the gift on full blast around middle school, reached new heights in high school, and remained a regular consumer of words well into my 20s. At 24, I married a woman who is not a reader. Book nerds would say this was a mistake, but I argue the contrary. Without this social extrovert in my life, I'd likely have no friends, and certainly would not possess the inquisitive journalistic skills that are my bread and butter today. Throughout our marriage, I tore through a reams of non-fiction and dramatic stories, often staying up after my wife fell asleep to indulge in bibliophilia.
With a kid in the picture, reading has become next-to impossible. Sleep is of the utmost importance. Quiet moments to crack a spine are quickly broken by a cry, shriek or toddler's song. It's easier to just swipe away on a smart phone screen than scan lines of printed text. Working late at night, I can write with vigor, but reading puts me fast to sleep.
Regardless, I'm determined to make books, especially ones with NO ties to my writing and research, a larger part of my life. Even five minutes on the potty will be used to finish off a chapter begun while frying eggs earlier that morning. This I swear.
The above picture shows all the books currently in process in my brain; some have been in a holding pattern for months. You'll notice a quarterly magazine from the summer not yet opened, and another from the fall with only front-of-book articles read. The thick Absaroka from Collective Quarterly is a new purchase. Call it market research.
You won't find anyone who would describe me as an un-involved father. It's impossible. I work at her school, make her breakfast every morning, and am an expert tickler. What I've moved away from, though, is getting on the floor and making and rough housing and dreaming. The stress of freelance life - never being off the clock - keeps me checking my phone for emails or clacking away at the keyboard while she watches something like Daniel Tiger for an hour. I promise to unplug more (again!) and make art and pretending and fighting off pirates and ballet dancing in dress-up clothes. More hikes in the woods. More crafts. Pictured above are carousel crafts, as she calls it, made by my daughter and her mother.
I out-work people. I do. It's something I pride myself on. In any situation, you can get ahead by working harder than the person next to you. Stay later. Make one more phone call. Re-write it one more time. With that said, I feel like I'm coming out of a winter doldrum, a bare period. After a few bumps in the road last fall, and some emotionally crushing personal losses in the winter, I lost my drive to create and have mostly been coasting.
Thing is, I'm much happier when I'm hustling. Nicer. Better. Vibrant even. Finding a balance between this resolution and the second will require some thinking, but it can be done. I can always work more efficiently, work less but with greater focus. I'm going to decide what are the important, personally fulfilling projects that need attention and completion, and I'll just focus on those. I can pay the bills slinging Negronis and Old Fashioneds. I'm confident. I promise myself this.
Any resolutions, personal or professional, guiding you this year?