07-03-2007 10:42 AM - edited 07-03-2007 10:45 AM
Writing, for me, was never a career choice so much as it was an inner mandate of how to be in life -- how to define myself in the world, how to imagine other peoples' lives, where to stand, how to look at things; how to love and empathize and describe his condition of being human.
From the time I began to read, I wanted to write.
In fact, reading, for me, is an extension of writing -- it takes place in the silence of the mind, the same as writing does.
Fortunately, I seem to have a talent for written expression; but, more importantly, I seem to have the temperment. Talent is legion -- there's a lot of talent among us. But to sustain a life of writing requires a set of character traits which are rarer to come by. One has to be able to write through economic hardship. Sustain rejecetion. Sustain an idea over a long period of time. Sustain solitude.
I'm lucky that solitude fits me. I'm sometimes asked if I am lonely, or if writers, in general, are lonesome. (The suggestion, here, is that we may be social outsiders. Misfits.) And my answer is always, "I have a very interesting interior life."
But sometimes I wonder about the shape my life might have taken, had I not persevered with writing. (I'm sixty this year, so this seems an entirely appropriate existential exercise.) The answer is: I think I might have had a happy life as a photographer. (Maybe not as happy. But happy.)
My only child, my daughter Lara, is a fine art black and white photographer. (Her haunting shadow self-portrait graces the cover of The Shadow Catcher. Which I think might put us, as a mother/daughter team, in some sort of record book.)
My interest in photography may or may not have influenced her own life choices (okay: it did); but photography was always in our home -- pictures (mine and others'), books, technical handbooks, artist biographies. While Lara was growing up, I took many photographs myself and had the privilege of forming friendships with several major American photographers.
I can't remember when I saw my first Edward Curtis photograph; but although I don't remember the moment, I remember the effect: Wow.
Who was this guy? How did he do it? What sympathetic magic was at his disposal to allow him to expose these actives souls? What was he like in person?
Curtis lived in my mind for several decades -- always as a fascinating individual toward whom I was drawn, like an enigmatic figure you see from a distance, who holds the possibility for flirtation.
While I was writing Evidence of Things Unseen I was still living in England, and every time I came home to the United States to visit Lara in California, I'd buy another Curtis volume and dream about those Western landscapes once I was back in London.
Then in 2000, I moved to California. Arizona and New Mexico were suddenly within a day's drive, and I started to visit sites that Curtis photographed. I started to go where he had once stood.
And at those points, our lives intersected.
And The Shadow Catcher is, more or less, the story of how one life touches on another. And another. And an unseen other, after that...
Message Edited by Bill_T on 07-03-2007 10:45 AM