Craft is craft is… life?

My husband’s on his way back from NYC tonight following five intense days in a Jay Maisel photography workshop. He’s feeling that strange combination of exhaustion and exhilaration, sadness and joy that comes from a really good immersive experience. I recognise the symptoms: it’s the same feeling I come home from Surrey with every year.

What I realized reading his blog about his time there, though, is that the post-immersion haze he’s experiencing isn’t the only similarity between his photography workshop and my writers conference. The mechanics of photography and writing may be different, but the awareness – of self and of craft – that elevates your work in either medium from the everyday to something special are the same. And ultimately, the same things apply to life itself. Not sure what I mean? Here are a few of the ideas that were reinforced for him this week, taken from his blog:

1. If there’s a nervous feeling about the quality of any picture, it’s probably warranted.

2. Who cares how much effort it was to take a shot if it’s bad?

3. “If you’re not your severest critic, you’re your own worst enemy.” Jay Maisel

4. “What’s all this shit in the corners? You’re responsible for every square millimeter of your frame!” Jay Maisel

5. I’m learning to let go, and to truly have fun, and take the chance to either succeed gloriously or fail gloriously.

Take the photography context away, and every single one of those applies to writing, to cooking and housekeeping and parenting and to doing whatever job it is you do in life, don’t you think? I do.

They’re all part of my writing life, that’s for sure. If my gut tells me something’s wrong in a scene, something’s almost certainly wrong. I’ve had to kill more of my darlings than I care to remember, scenes I loved or even whole chapters, because of number 2 on the list. And so on. You get the idea.

Number 5…. phew. That’s a biggie. It’s what we should all strive for in work and in life, but it’s bloody difficult to do, risking failure for the chance of success, let alone having fun while we do it. But if we can manage to let go and take the chance, we’re in for a hell of an interesting ride. And isn’t that the point?

photo credit: Martin Chung, NYC, October 2009

photo credit: Martin Chung, NYC, October 2009

photo credit: Martin Chung, NYC, October 2009

photo credit: Martin Chung, NYC, October 2009


  1. A Novel Woman
    Oct 18, 2009

    Another excellent post! And I can really relate to the shit in the corners remark, in so many ways….

    • Kathy
      Oct 19, 2009

      Yep, that one was what made me think of the application to housework. *g*

  2. Rose
    Oct 26, 2009

    Excellent post, Kathy.