More Thoughts on Balancing Life

Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park;  Mount Desert Island, Maine

Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park; Mount Desert Island, Maine

 When you assess your own life, consider it with the eye of a gardener.
Underneath the surface lies rich, fertile soil waiting to nurture the seeds you sow.
Even more than you can imagine will grow there if given a chance.
― Steve Goodier, Author

As I re-read my post from yesterday on balancing my work, personal and creative lives, I realized that the 31 Days Challenge is causing me issues with balancing the personal and creative parts of my life.

One of the goals that I set on at the beginning of this was to develop a body of work for my own future reference, something which I feel I’m accomplishing and very well too – I’m satisfied with it so far.  But some things are missing, gone by the wayside, as I post daily this month:

  • Evening yoga / stretching
  • Sitting quietly to reflect and contemplate
  • Getting other things done (the piles are getting big again)
  • Following up on E-mails and correspondence

I plan to finish out the 31 Days.  Already I’m enjoying referring back to some of what I did, whether to encourage myself or remind myself of my goals.  But it takes me 1 to 2 hours each night to write out my thoughts, pick & process photos, and edit it all to my satisfaction.  A few nights, I skipped my yoga / stretching when I realized I could do one or the other, but not both.  I need to be careful to not be doing that very often.

Sitting quietly to reflect and contemplate has – unfortunately – been a bottom priority for me, even before I started this challenge.  It frustrates me, because it’s important and I enjoy it.  I need to make this a higher priority AND actually do it.  My personal journals fulfill this purpose for me also, but that’s fallen off this month.  There are several things I need to puzzle out and I’m not getting it done.

As for the other chores and follow-ups, they’re not usually fun and it’s amazingly easy to find ways to avoid them.  But given enough time, they drive me nuts and interfere with nurturing my creativity.  It’s like the day I cleaned the house instead of working on pictures.  My energy was high that day and as a result,  I resented cleaning the house far less than usual.  It would have been a shame to sit and work on pictures, when I actually wanted to clean.

How is this nurturing my creativity?  As I’d doodled this out, I realized I needed to list it and refer to it when setting my priorities / expectations at the end of this month.  Although I’m enjoying posting daily, most likely I will blog less frequently in November.  For now, my priority is to post daily as I nurture my creativity by discovering what works and what doesn’t.  These other needs will have to fit around that.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Categories: 31 Days, Creativity, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Working A Day Job – Part 3

Looking to the east in Richmond, Virginia

Looking to the east in Richmond, Virginia

It comes the very moment you wake up each morning.
All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.
And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back;
in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view,
letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.
And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings
and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I certainly do not exist from nine to six, when I am at the office.
― Wallace Stevens

Today, I am finishing my series on how my day job nurtures my creativity.  Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

Balancing Work, Family and Creativity

There are times work consumes my life, other times it is family at the front.  Creativity hovers around the edges of my week day life and tends to get the leftovers from me late in the evening.  I have to be careful to nurture my creativity, to focus on it and it alone for at least a short period each day.  That’s easy to say, harder to actually do.

Lately, I read more and more that it is impossible to balance one’s work and personal life and not even desirable.  I disagree.  We need to be passionate about what we’re doing at work, but so often it seem family and creativity lose out in that scheme.  I use routines to help me get things done quicker and I try to remain aware if I’m spending too much time with one thing or another.

Each day though, is a balancing act to keep work, family, and creativity in balance and I cannot nurture my creativity when my life is consumed with one to the exclusion of the others.  So when I’m working a lot of overtime, my creativity will suffer.  Overtime doesn’t go on forever, but I need to plan ahead of things I can do anyhow or accept that my creativity will be on hold for a while.  Sometimes I’ll spend 30 minutes a night editing photos or listening to a course on lynda.com.  One year end, I took my camera and tripod and did night shots from the window of a conference room while everyone else was eating supper.  The photos in this post are from that night.

9th Street over the James River in Richmond, Virginia

9th Street over the James River in Richmond, Virginia

Wallace Stevens

In both Part 1 and Part 2, I used quotes from Wallace Stevens.  What really caught my attention in Daily Ritual: How Artists Work by Mason Curry, was that Wallace Stevens worked a full-time job practicing insurance law.  Stevens wrote poetry as he walked to and from work, jotted notes all day long and walked for another hour during lunch.  I was envious that he could arrange his job around his poetry!  Yes, times were different in the 1930’s to 1950’s than they are today in that regular hours were kept and when you went home, you were home without further interruptions.  But still, being a lawyer at anytime is a challenging profession with many demands.

Stevens also was not immune to the conflict of balancing his personal life and creativity.  The Poetry Foundation, in its biography of Stevens, notes that following the birth of his daughter, there were nine years of “unproductivity”, and Stevens “found that parenting thwarted writing”.

I laughed at that.  Parenting, as rewarding as it is, does thwart creativity.  There are simply too many things to do, too  much fatigue, and too many demands when children are little.  So while he didn’t find his job to be limiting to his poetry, apparently fatherhood was.

BB&T Building (corner of Byrd & 10th Street) in Richmond, Virginia

BB&T Building (corners of Byrd, 9th & 10th Street) in Richmond, Virginia

Summary

Today, work weeks are much longer and the stress is much more intense.  I can sympathize with Wallace’s quote that his life ceases to exist during the workday.  It does, but as my other two posts discussed, there are also benefits for it.

Mason Curry, whose book Daily Ritual: How Artists Work started this train of thought, had a great article on-line with Slate.  He talks how having too much to do is a motivator, encouraging him to buckle down and get things done.  He shares how Toni Morrison worked full-time as an editor.  She was also a single parent, raising two boys.  She attributed her productivity to not doing anything else in her life except write after tending to her responsibilities.  Other authors are discussed as well, with how they did or did not work around their day job.

My job both decreases my creative productivity and makes my creativity easier.  I don’t have the time to devote to it that I’d like, but I have opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise, from business travel that lets me explore new areas to learning technology to keeping balance and prioritizing my time wisely.

There is no one single answer, but since this is how my life is for now, I remain focused on how having a day job nurtures my creativity and work with it.  I’m happier if I can balance between work and family, if I’m grateful for what I have instead of what I don’t have, and I try (as best as I can) to be open to all the possibilities I have at work and at home.

Click here to see my additional thoughts on balancing my life.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Categories: Virginia, Work, Richmond, Creativity, Write 31 Days, 31 Days, Night Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Stained Glass in Maine

During my recent weekend in Maine, my daughter and I went into St. Saviour’s Episcopoal Church in Bar Harbor.  She waited patiently as I oohed and aahed over the stained glass, then proceeded to take a bunch of pictures.  According to its website, the church is the “oldest, largest and tallest public building on Mt. Desert Island”.

I offer a selection of those photos as my interpretation of this week’s photo challenge on refraction, which Wiktionary defines as, “the turning or bending of any wave, such as a light or sound wave, when it passes from one medium into another of different optical density”.  These windows were so very detailed that the light coming through was a jumble of bright colors.

I’d like to blithely expound on how this nurtured my creativity.  Well, it didn’t.  I found it frustrating and time consuming, although the end result was quite good.  I think once I get over being frustrated, I’ll be happy for the time I spent on it, but I’m not quite there yet.

Processing these took most of today.  The top 1/3 of several of them were overly dark, I think due to eaves on the outside.  Once I got them looking good, the backgrounds lightened up and the wood paneled walls showed up as maroon noise.  Ack!  My favorite boy toy made several trips upstairs to answer questions and teach me how to use layers and masks in Photoshop.  I got it figured it out too!  So that’s good.  I just wish it wouldn’t have taken so much long.  As is typical with the learning curve, it took me as long to do the first one as it did to do the rest of them together.  Of course, I was doing laundry too, so there were interruptions to hang up and put away clothes.

The pictures were a challenge to take, which is why they needed so much processing.  Thankfully my photography has improved enough that I could switch to manual mode and use spot metering to determine the optimal settings.  However, anything that was lightly colored was blown out (i.e., it showed no detail).  I had to keep slowing down my speed to darken the photos.  Worse yet, I had no tripod and wasn’t sure the church would like me setting on up anyhow.  So I hand held as best as I could, increased my ISO, and hoped for the best.

Below is how it looked before I processed it.  Everything is crooked (something I do too frequently).  The panel of three also has keystoning.  The left and right windows leaned in and while it didn’t look bad, I used transform in Photoshop to straighten them out.  And oops, I also included what my daughter was doing as I took pictures.  She was so intent on her phone, she didn’t notice me taking her picture with my cell phone.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

 #write31days

Categories: 31 Days, Maine (Acadia National Park), Photography, Photoshop Elements, Weekly Photo Challenge, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Got Rust?

Yesterday I nurtured my creativity taking a completely different type of photography.  Instead of nature, I took industrial shots – rust to be specific.

I’m taking a class on close-up photography from Bryan Peterson through the Perfect Picture School of Photography (PPSOP).  Bryan Peterson is also the author of the book, Understanding Exposure.  I got a lot out of the book for both basic and advanced techniques for using the aperture, time, and manual settings on my camera.

Last week’s assignment was to take close-up nature shots using macro photography equipment.  I posted some of my homework here.   The beagle head shot was done with a macro lens.  Isn’t the detail incredible?  I used both a 100mm and 180mm macro lens for those photos.

This week’s assignment was to take close-up industrial shots, again using macro photography equipment.  All of these shots were taken with a 100mm macro lens.

Of course, since I mostly take pictures of nature, dogs, and my daughter, I was a bit stumped for where to go for these kinds of photographs!  My favorite boy toy suggested Hollywood Cemetery, which is where I took the gate latch and the fence.  While out during my lunch walk, I realized that Brown’s Island also had several things to play around with.  I didn’t want to just throw the camera up and take pictures.  I wanted the pictures to have some technical difficulty and in some way, be visually appealing to me as well.  I was happy with the results.

My favorite boy toy also suggested that I use every aperture in a series so that when I began processing my work, I could see what I liked best.

That was a great idea and I was actually rather surprised at the outcome.  I thought when I did the rivets, I’d like something that showed them all in crisp detail.  I didn’t; I liked it better when they were mostly out of focus.  I did that to an extreme with the fence post, but not as much with the bolt and washer.

I used my tripod to ensure that once I got the composition I wanted, I could quickly cycle through the aperture settings on my camera.  I cannot tell you how MUCH fun it was to get that camera lined up along that fence, leaning way over to keep the angle so extreme, and mashing my nose against the back of my camera to see what I was doing.  Yes, I’m being sarcastic; I need to keep up on my yoga if I’m doing to be doing that.  It would also help to be a few inches taller.  That reminds me, I have to get some Windex and get those nose prints off the LCD view screen on the back!

I also had a joke on myself.  After shooting the first section of fence, I decided to try another one in different lighting.  I got it all set up, started clicking away, and realized that my car was in the background.  I wasn’t too nuts about the fencing (it was too recently painted, so not enough rust).  I moved on to another section instead of moving my car.

The class itself is still in the first few weeks.  I’m not sure yet what I’ll get out of it, but the discussion of equipment the first week was really good.  Since I have access to two good macro lenses, I’m doubt I’ll buy a whole lot more gear.  But it was interesting to hear all the kinds of equipment that is be used to take macro photography.

If you’re interested in learning more about close-up photography, this is a good place to start.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

 #write31days

Categories: 31 Days, Photography, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Working a Day Job – Part 2

Gazebo at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, taken earlier this year.  The sky really was that blue that day!

Gazebo at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, taken earlier this year. The sky really was that blue that day!

Yesterday, I began a discussion on how working a day job nurtures my creativity.  Today, I want to explore more of this:

Exposure to New Technology

My day job uses technology nearly all day long, from complex tax software to Microsoft Office and other specialty pieces of software.  There’s usually very little training for this – my co-workers and I struggle together to learn it and explain it to each other.  We have to learn it – there’s no choice – and learn it well due to the constant pressure of getting more done with less and less resources.

This model serves me well as I nurture my creativity.  What I don’t know, I can figure out.  For Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, I can take classes on lynda.com or ask my favorite boy toy.  For my blogging, there are extensive forums and help content to explore or I can search the Internet.  This is all similar and familiar to what I do at work.  Those same problem solving skills that I use to do my job effectively and efficiently are the same ones needed to use technology for my creative expression.

Above all, I know I need to just experiment.  It’s the best way to learn technology, as long as I’m careful to not wreck whatever I’m working on.

Business Knowledge

Another intangible benefit of my day job is the overall business knowledge it gives me.  It’s not a perfect knowledge, but I’m way ahead of the typical artist.  Although I do not sell my work, I understand there are costs that should not run amuck (i.e., keeping a budget).  I understand taxes, forms of business, how to read contracts, and the politics of the business world.  Well, I do sometimes.  Other days, I wonder what exactly I do know!

Still. . . the point is that my day job gives me constant exposure to the business world.  This helps me when I’m looking at the differences between wordpress.com and wordpress.org (.com is free and therefore does not allow advertising as compared to .org which allows you to accept advertising dollars, but you are responsible for everything from spam filters to firewalls).  It helps me when I’m reviewing my homeowners insurance and how it covers my camera gear, which is why I use a personal articles policy instead.  It even helps when I’m comparing different models of computers, their costs and what the warranties are providing.

How does this nurture my creativity?  I have to spend a lot less time on the mundane, administrative stuff.  There are less missteps and I raise more questions quickly.  My decisions are not perfect, but I struggle less to reach them than the artists my husband knows who do not have this background and are not married to someone who does.

I Have Money To Spend

One of the really great benefits of a day job is having money to spend on my photography and writing.  I don’t have an unlimited budget, but I am able to buy cameras and computers when it’s time.  Three years ago, I upgraded from a top end point-and-shoot camera to my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel.  It’s been a great camera and I’ve taken many wonderful pictures with it.  But a month ago, I wanted a better camera, something with a full frame sensor that would improve the quality of my shots, especially when I was processing night shots or something noisy.  After a short deliberation, I replaced my Rebel with a Canon 6D, and upgraded to an “L” lens for my main zoom lens.  This was a big step for me, but I’m glad that I could afford it.

Likewise, it’s been nice the last few years to take some vacations.  For my boy toy and I, they turn into photography trips.  That’s okay, I enjoy shooting pictures with him even though he rolls me out of bed before daybreak to go chasing the sunrises.  I’m glad we could afford those also.  For more on how we share our passion for photography, click here.

Having money to spend on my creativity is huge.  So many artists struggle with having the financial resources to buy what they need.  I’m glad I don’t have to do that.

More Tomorrow

That’s enough for today.  Tomorrow I will wrap this up and share about Wallace Stevens. Here is a final thought from Wallace Stevens, an observation on the beauty around us:

Beauty is momentary in the mind –
The fitful tracing of a portal;
But in the flesh it is immortal.

The body dies; the body’s beauty lives.
So evenings die, in their green going,
A wave, interminably flowing.
― Wallace Stevens

Click here to see Part 1 of Working a Day Job; click here for Part 3.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Categories: 31 Days, Beauty, Creativity, Work, Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Working A Day Job – Part 1

Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine.  Taken at 7:30 am.

Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine. Taken at 7:30 am.

“I find that having a day job is one of the best things
that in the world that could happen to me,” he once said.
“It introduces discipline and regularity into one’s life,
I am just as free as I want to be and of course
I have nothing to worry about the money.”
Wallace Stevens, American Poet, as quoted in
Daily Ritual: How Artists Work by Mason Curry

It’s not a surprise that working a day job interferes with nurturing my creativity.  I need it – predictably – to pay the bills, provide benefits for my family, and to foster a valuable career.  I’m thankful to have a good job, although it hasn’t happened by accident.  God has blessed me richly with my employment, in addition to a lot of work and hard effort.

But how do I reconcile the two – my creativity and my employment, especially when I’m working a lot of overtime?

There are several ways I frame this up for myself, to keep myself encouraged when it seems my photography and writing are far from me in my daily life:

  • My commute to work is short.
  • I’ve learned discipline.
  • I am exposed to all kinds of technology.
  • I have a highly developed business knowledge.
  • I have the money to do my photography and writing.

My Commute Time

I have my daughter to thank for this one, when one day during year end close, I was complaining about all the overtime.  She pointed out how short my commute was by today’s standards.  Most days it’s 30 minutes one way, more or less.  If I lived closer to her in Atlanta, my commute could easily stretch to 1 to 1.5 hours one way.  If I lived in the Chicago suburbs and worked downtown, it would be the same between the train ride and walking from the train station to and from work.

So while I work a lot of overtime at various times during the year, I’m not sitting in the car in traffic.  My field requires large amounts of overtime, which would be worse if I worked in consulting.  My overtime is fairly limited by comparison and a short commute makes it easier on my personal life.

I’ve Learned Discipline

Do I feel like being at work every day?  No, of course not.  But I show up, regardless of how I feel about it.  People depend on me and it’s part of the job.

Nurturing my creativity is the same.  I don’t feel like going out to take pictures some days.  It can be a fair amount of work and effort to show up when the light is right, especially if that happens to be 5:30 am or 9:30 pm (sunrise versus night photography).  That picture above?  I took it at 7:30 am.  By then, my daughter and I had been up for over an hour, having dressed for a cold morning, driven to Acadia National Park, left the car and walked the path to that part of Witch Hole Pond.  The path was uphill most of the way to the pond too (but very worth it).

It’s easy to be undisciplined with my hobbies – to keep reading, watching television, or even cooking another meal instead of going out to use my camera or sitting at my computer to write or process pictures.  It’s even easier to decide I’m too tired to learn something new or try another technique and keeping doing the same old things.  I wrote more extensively about this on the post, Creativity versus Craft.

But if want satisfaction, I have to be as disciplined as I am at work.  Well, okay, maybe not quite as disciplined.  It’s supposed to be fun after all and not another drain on my emotions!

But I have to show up, learn, push myself to do new things, and most of all, just be there.  Just like today – I’m up early before work to write this, having worked late again last night and then gone to bed early.

So I think I’ll stop here and write about the rest of my points in my next post, as well as share a little more about Wallace Stevens who is quoted above.

Have a good day!

Click here for Part 2 of Working A Day Job.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.

#write31days

Categories: 31 Days, Creativity, Maine (Acadia National Park), Write 31 Days | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.