People say I’m a renaissance man. As a matter of fact, I do own a puffy shirt, which I break out once a year when we go to the Renaissance Faire. (You know you’re a renaissance insider when you spell “faire” with an e.) But when people say someone is a renaissance, uh… person… it has something to do with being able to do a bunch of different things. Michelangelo was a sculptor, painter, and architect – the renaissance triple threat. I’m a church historian, musician, and photographer. I probably don’t need to point out the obvious difference between Michelangelo and me, but I will anyway. He was really really REALLY good at all three of those things. Me, not so much. In fact, I may have become exactly what my father warned me about – a “Jack of all trades” – and you know the rest of that expression: Jack of all trades, master of none. Well, I suppose I’m good enough at one of the three to make a living, so no harm done.
But I was thinking about this the other day, and asking myself, “What makes me think I’m any good at photography?” I mean, I can’t take pictures of people to save my life. But I can take some pretty interesting shots of landscapes and architecture. But what is that? The visual images are already there – it’s not as though I created them – I only snap the shot. I only saw what was already there, so why should I get any credit? The answer with which I consoled myself was this: It takes some skill to frame the shot creatively. That means not only choosing what to include, but also choosing what not to include.
So then it occurred to me that this is very much like the process of writing books or writing songs. I never have too little material, I always have too much. It seems like I can see all the great stuff out there, but the trick is to have enough discipline to edit. My problem is, sometimes I can’t see the difference between the great stuff and the mediocre stuff. So for me, writing, songwriting, or whatever I do, has been about cultivating the discipline of editing.
They say Michelangelo never thought of sculpting as creating something. Rather, he could see the finished image already in the marble, and his job was to take away the stone that didn’t belong. That’s a great concept. In fact, we are God’s living stones – and I wonder about the extraneous rockiness that God is trying to chip off of me. Am I making that task harder than it needs to be?
Sometimes knowing what not to say is more important than knowing what to say. I wish I had a dollar for every time I thought I was being eloquent, or clever, and then I wish I had just kept my mouth shut. You know, if you choose not to say something today, you can always say it tomorrow – but once you say something, you can never unsay it.
Blogs are a great example of this. A blog is not a diary, but so many people seem to think that blogging is simply other people reading your diary (as if they would even want to). But that’s a dangerous thing because a public forum like a blog is no place to test the air and see what it sounds like to hear yourself vent. I’m acutely aware of this, since (as you may know) I consider myself a centrist, and if I’m not careful, I could easily alienate people on both sides of me. So I try to subscribe to the rule that less is more.
In spite of that, I have been known to give in to the temptation to vent, and even when I’m not, my blog is still on the long side. I’m told a good blog is supposed to be about 500 words. Mine have been creeping up over 1,000 words. I admit that on occasion I have stopped reading an article because it was too long for the amount of time I could allocate to it. But on the other hand, when I read a blog that’s really only 500 words, I usually say to myself, “That’s it?” At the end of the day, I’m not convinced you can really say anything of substance in 500 words. So I’m stuck with this dilemma – try to make my blog shorter, so more people will read it, but risk that it loses depth; or stick with the longer format, remain committed to writing something of substance every week, but know that fewer people will read it. If you’re still reading this, I’d love to know what you think about that. Of course that will be a skewed poll, won’t it? I really need to hear from the people who stopped reading 300 words ago.
Next week will be the one year anniversary of my blog, and I intend to continue with some more thoughts along the lines of evaluation. So I remain open to feedback.
By the way, if you’d like to see some samples of my photography, go to this link and click on a location. Soon I’m going to be a creating a brand new website for my photography (to go with a new book coming out), but until then, this is it.
Thanks for reading to the end!