There’s this commercial I’ve been seeing that bothers me greatly. It is a commercial for a telephone (as most commercials seem to be these days). The commercial says that this phone is used to take more photographs than any other telephone. It features people in many and various daily situations, at work, play, recreation, family events, public observances and more, all of them snapping away at things with their little telephones, ‘recording the moment,’ I guess, or grabbing something to post on Facebook or Reddit or Pinterest or whatever. This they can do with a click, seamlessly, so in an instant everyone they know (and plenty of others they’ll never suspect) can see what it is they’re doing, or seeing.
It used to be there was something special about photography, even snapshots. We took photos at birthdays and on Christmas Day, we took photos on vacations. When people visited we sat them on the sofa or at the kitchen table and got out the photo albums. Now everything (everything!) is photographed and posted online. Something special has become tedious and mundane. I cannot recall the last photograph that I thought was special. People ask me to come and look at what they’re looking at on their laptop, which I find a bother. I don’t want to stand here leaning over your shoulder watching a slideshow of little or no consequence. There are a million photographs where there used to be one, and still it’s only that one that’s worth taking the time to look at.
When I first came to blogging I was surprised by how many blogs are dedicated to the photographs of their originators. Many people believe themselves to be photographers. In the end, of the hundreds of ‘photographers’ whose work I have looked at, I only follow two. Why is that? Because photography is an art, not a pastime. Just because you have a camera doesn’t mean you have an eye.
It’s much the same with writing for blogs. I am a librarian, and I read a lot. I am known as a literary snob. I think that writing is a very special skill and only a few people have it. It’s not just writing, but having something to write about. There’s nothing worse than the blogger who takes up the challenge of writing something every day. God save us.
For a long time writing instructors have advised neophyte scribes to compose a daily journal. Writing something every day keeps the writing muscle limber and strengthens the imagination. But one’s journal is not for public consumption. Some days, you just don’t have anything to say; you write about what you had for breakfast, what chores you ran that day, what the weather was like. Then you close your journal and hope for better inspiration tomorrow. This self-censorship does not figure in the work of many bloggers. I have read 800-word pieces about how sad someone is today; I have read pieces overflowing with purply gilded adjectives about a walk in the woods in which nothing happened aside from one foot being placed in front of the other while all about nature glowered. If that’s all you have to say, then why not just enjoy the walk?
My subject is the seasons, and obviously, the seasons are all about us. Sometimes they are tiresomely literal, as in the showers of April, the flowers of May, the many-colored leaves of autumn. But sometimes they jump up and surprise us, like this summer is doing in the American Midwest, with its cool nights and rainy days, especially following last summer which broke all kinds of high temperature records. But do I need to write about that? Like you can’t see it as well as I can? And if I have nothing to add, no particular insight, isn’t writing about it little more than small talk?–how about that weather!
So I have been enjoying the summer, spending time working on my lawn and garden, sitting on my porch on cool mornings reading, not writing too much. In the end, isn’t experiencing the seasons more important than struggling to come up with something clever to say about them? Can you ruin something by pretending to a deeper understanding of it and trying to render that understanding to other people? And is this all a rationale to excuse myself for not getting down to work and finishing what I’ve started?