I had lunch with my very-soon-to-be-very-famous artist friend Mark Flood today.
This month was National Novel Writing Month, but you notice that this is the first I’ve mentioned it. Notice, too, that I haven’t mentioned even a thought of participating this year. There’s a reason. Actually, there are a number of reasons, but most of them don’t matter much. Two, really, pushed me toward not bothering to try, though. First, November is the worst possible month to try and write a large volume of text on any subject, really. I mean, even if I hadn’t hosting Thanksgiving, I’d still have a lot of social obligations, not to mention the fact that I usually get snowed under with work in November, too. But, also, really, it’s been so long since I’ve written fiction regularly that going from zero to fifty in a month, well, let’s just say that fifty thousand words takes some working up to.
But, there are other things, too.
I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I have no talent drawing or painting, so, you know, art, at that point, becomes a bit of a challenge. That was probably about when I got interested in photography. I guess it seemed like an easier way to make something beautiful. Well, and there were more likely to be gorgeous women involved, too. Naturally, that’s always been right up there in importance with art. Women and art, almost the same to me, really. But, women are almost as much of a mystery as darkroom technique, so photography fell by the wayside, too. Not so much women, though, I probably should have chosen to do things in the other order based on how things worked out later. Hindsight is 20-20, right?
In any case, along the way, there was always writing. I always had writing. Until, one fine day, I grew up. I embraced the fact that I was a professional network plumber. I owned the idea that what I was really good at was making networks and servers run, talk to each other and do tricks. In short, as the title says, I am a network geek. And, that particularly lucrative pursuit slowly replaced my writing time.
Now, I’m not crying, okay? I mean, it paid the bills and it paid a lot of bills toward a pretty comfortable lifestyle, so I’m not knocking it. But, I do miss that dream of being an artist, or writer, or at least a photographer. Well, the more time I spend with Mark, soaking up the bits and pieces of his artist’s life, the more I hunger for that old dream, that time before I was a network geek when I was just a guy trying to pay the bills while I wrote. In a way, I’ve come full circle. Back to art and women. Well, full circle in that I desire both, but have neither. And, yeah, it seems like there’s a story in there somewhere.
Part of my problem with writing is that I’ve got it in my head that I should be writing science-fiction or fantasy, but when it comes out it comes out something entirely different. I’ve never set a story in the far future, or even the near future. Only once or twice, a couple truly horrible attempts, did I set something in the past, or a fantasy past where the rules were significantly different from now. I’m not sure what that all means, except, of course, my choices of subject matter seem to limit my output. I suppose the obvious answer is to write a different kind of story, but, then, obvious answers have never been my forte. I suppose that explains a lot of my problems with women, too.
I was thinking about all this after lunch with Mark today, because of a tribute article I read about Bob Carlos Clarke. He was a photographer and he took a lot of provocative photos, but he also had a number of famous friends, most that he met through his photography, many of whom he used as subjects for his work. Of course, he also took a lot of pictures of very attractive women, which has been, naturally, a dream of mine since, well, since about the beginning of puberty. So, yeah, portraits and black-and-white pictures and lights and lenses and art and famous friends and women and all that has been swirling in my head. Somehow, the photography is easier for me than the writing right now, so I pursue that.
I have no illusions about “making it big” or ever even selling my work, to be honest, but when I watch Mark, I see the obsession with getting the message right, with having to produce his work and I recognize that with my own obsessiveness around photos. I can only imagine what I must seem like to an observer while I’m setting a shot. And, of course, when I show someone a shot, there are almost always at least a dozen more that are slightly different that I discard.
Look, I don’t know what it all means. In the words of some poor slob in some movie that I can’t remember, we’re all just delivering pizzas. Or in my case, I’m just unclogging network plumbing. I love art, but I’m just doing a job like everyone else.
And, some days, that’s just not good enough anymore.