This blog, like so many, is ultimately a vanity project. Look, over here! Look at what I’m doing, listen to what I’m saying! Isn’t it interesting?
I think it is. I think every life has interesting stories to tell. But it takes skill and practice to become good at framing a life’s stories in interesting ways. Fortunately, after this many years of trying, I’ve learned a few things along the way about how to do that.
I took an online course last year about how to write about your life. I’ve been writing about my life here here for years, but I wanted to be better at it. One key, the course said, was to make each sentence interesting. The other is to be bluntly honest about your life, telling stuff that scares you for anyone to know. Wow, hs it ever been easier to focus on making my sentences more interesting. It’s much harder to tell life secrets. I’ve gingerly shared a little scary stuff lately. I’m not sure how I feel about having done it.
But here’s the key secret I’ve learned about making things interesting: it needs to be about you, the hearer or reader. You need to see yourself in what I write, or learn something valuable from it, or feel deeply touched by its universal humanity. Preferably all three.
I have to work pretty hard to do that. I know easier ways to get your attention. My favorites are to post a pretty photograph or write something that tickles your nostalgia. But those are cheap thrills for both of us.
I share a lot of photographs here because I’m interested in photography and am trying to be better at that, too. Judging by your response, you find my photography posts to be interesting. I get a lot of nice compliments from you about my work. That feels good.
Photography and writing about my life are similar in that both are about finding interesting perspectives. And both involve a lot of experimentation to find those perspectives. Some things just don’t work.
Because I take so many photos, I can choose the best of them to share here. If you were to follow me on Flickr, you’d see that I take plenty of uninteresting photos. I dump into Flickr every photo I take that wasn’t an abject failure. More than 10,000 of my photographs are publicly available there.
I share a small percentage of them here. This is where I curate my photography. I don’t enjoy that luxury when it comes to my writing
While I can take and upload a photo in seconds, it takes considerably longer for me to write a post. And I keep a regular posting schedule, which sometimes makes this blog a beast that needs to be fed. So I post nearly everything I write.
Your response, or lack thereof, tells me whether my posts are interesting. The series I did about songs I sing in my car didn’t work. I can see it in the stats — few of you read them, and fewer of you commented on them. One of those posts got just eight views!
Fortunately, this blog is just a hobby. Your response to my work affects only my ego. But this is ultimately freeing, as I can openly try new things. I’m free to fail hard.
And so, my advice: if there’s something creative that you want to do, just do it. Critique your own work, of course. But also put it out there into the world for others to see, and then pay attention to and think about the response you get (or don’t, which is also instructive). Keep experimenting and sharing the results with the world.
I’ve laced this post with uninteresting photographs I’ve taken with my film cameras lately. Sometimes the subject is simply uninteresting. Sometimes I didn’t frame the subject in an interesting way. Sometimes my mechanics were off and it robbed an interestingly framed, interesting subject of some of its interestingness. Sometimes I just wasn’t feeling very interested on the day I took the photograph, and it shows.
But through trying things and seeing how they turn out, and paying attention to the feedback I get (or don’t get), and weighing what I think and feel about the outcomes, I get better. So will you, if you try it.
Last updated on 28 February 2020 by Jim Grey