Test Of Time

Words come and they go. They show my age, my level of understanding, my grasp on my own perspective. I’ve written a lot here over the years and come in and out of popularity only to see these pages sit dormant for nearly a year now, or has it been a year already? I would check but it’s not really all that important. 

When I sit down to write now I find myself awash in trepidation that I am no longer able to craft sentences together in any sort of meaningful way; and if I’m not looking at a camera reading this as a script while music gently plays behind me to the intercut backdrop of photos of of a city timed to the sound of an old camera shutter, will anyone actually hear these words? Is your perception of what my voice must sound like enough? This is, of course, all nonsense. I’m not sure if I even believe this excuse anymore. I feel like the last several times I have posted have been about this same thing. I have anxiety about sharing* but I want to start sharing more again. Then I don’t. It’s a self defeating problem and I’m sort of tired of writing about it.

Saying it out loud makes me feel trite and somehow disingenuous despite my willingness to admit I have been frozen with creative block for what feels like several years now. Fact is that it’s less about fear and more about giving my mind space to create. My routine, if you could call it that, leaves me little to no time to reflect. There are no longer quiet moments during my week and if there are I want only to rest. Work continues to gets pushed a little earlier into the mornings and then a little later into the end of the afternoon so as soon as 5pm hits my anxiety shifts home as I wait for the message “thoughts on diner tonight?” to vibrate in my pocket as it burrows its way into my soul just a little deeper. By the time all of the check marks are checked my brain has thoroughly checked out and the thought of writing or sharing from any genuine place of mindfulness feels all but impossible and sharing little quips often end up feeling rushed or tinted with some sort of temporary frustration rather than joy. 

It’s no ones fault. Work is busy because running a buisness will always be this way. Especially in this climate, if you’re not on, theres no money coming in and if theres no money coming in then the bills don’t get paid. Diluting my work load means hiring more people, means getting more work, means working more to get the work, means… It sounds simple, just take one day off a week, or two? Yet see above. It will settle, one way or another I know it will. Yet this is why, when I do somehow get an hour two during a morning that doesn’t start as soon as the family is off to work and school, my soul begs to simply sit silently for a while. Without rest there is no reset. There is no room for the  contemplation of beauty. Some days I do try, I pull out a camera when I notice morning sunlight peering through the window of our rarely quiet house that I think deserves my attention but then when I reach out to absorb its calm my vision is hazy at best as I try to compose and consider anything beyond the sound of a shutter. A sound that once brought such joy as it passed through my ears yet recently feels like a mere echo of some past effort, not the benevolent connection to an art form that I love so dearly. 

I recently traveled solo for just over a week and it felt like somehow I was cheating. I could never settle into the fact that it was real or that I deserved it. I only felt this anchor of home pulling every ounce of myself toward the center of the earth. I continuously thought to myself, I can’t afford this time, I can’t afford this ticket, I can’t afford this rental, I can’t… Though through that doubt, here’s what I remember of that trip offhand; I got off a plane after a half night of sleep, made my way into a car and drove for hours and hours, as far into nothing as I could get, to one of my favorite places. I parked the car and watched as the fine desert sand settled around the car after driving down a dusty narrow dirt road. I turned off the car, opened the door, and starting walking, watching each step I took in the reddish sand and the footprints being left behind until I was at the edge of a large bellowing red rock canyon that I swear had held its breath as it waited for me to return to this spot after so many years away. I looked out across vast desert canyons and cried big ugly tears as I felt the overwhelming weight of silence fully envelop my awareness and then, nothing. Or everything. I don’t really know. The moment I arrived back home after this trip I was not actually home, I was moving again, and the view of my memory of this place was already hazy and muddled by the focus needed to work, work, work. 

The first thing out of anyones mouth while I was traveling and once I returned was “ok now you had your chance to relax you should be all better now”, or “ready to work” or something along those lines. How lucky I was, how fortunate, now that thats out of your system… Why then do I look back on that trip taken so recently and feel as if it was but an echo of some past vision. As if I never left the front door of my house and merely had this dream as I was tucked away hibernating. 

So when I sit down on a day like today to write I do all I can to listen for those echos of what’s left and write them down before I hear my name called out again for this or that, and thats okay. Despite the sour taste of what I wrote above I don’t resent my “adult” life, it simply is, and I do find joy within it. Though sharing any of this here makes me equally anxious knowing family or friends will read it and make their own assumptions of what it means or what their part in these feelings are when in fact this is simply a meditation, a way to connect with anyone else that resonates with this sort of feeling. When my mind does calm down enough to see through that haziness my memory does crystalize and I feel excited about the photos that I have taken recently, absent minded or not and lately, for the first time in a long time I feel the itch again to pull photos and words and paper together again and create something or share what I have already created (looking at you pile of cassette tapes, lathe cut vinyls, and zines).

While sitting here I came across little outlines of ideas and feelings I wrote down while I was traveling and would love to pull from them and elaborate on those thoughts and rediscover them. I want to compile photos into zines, write more, create more. Always and forever these desires remain. If anything my inspiration has shifted away from fresh feelings of getting lost and moved into a new mental space entirely. Now its my family and my wife YoungDoo and her creative optimism that pulls me back from the depths of creative apathy. She’s gotten me to a couple of galleries and a museum showcasing fine art photography recently and that really send my mind spinning. I love that dizzy feeling of a new idea striking like lightning in a quiet mind. That glossy eyed stare as I am genuinely lost in thought. I can sense it there still inside of me, I just need to figure out how to coax it out.

At any rate, it’s good seeing you, dear whoever you. Till next time, for now, back to work, pretty sure someone just called my name in the other room… 

*I am pretty deliberate when I use the word sharing. This shift to the idea of “content” and “content creation” feels incredibly disingenuous. The term sucks the soul out of so many creative minds work and commodifies it into a disposable form of vacant, white noise for passive consumption rather than the deliberate, genuine love for something it often is. Don’t belittle your creativity by calling it content. It reduces it to pennies on a dollar of the platforms using you as you share yourself… but thats a digression for another day.

Comments

  1. kamadiva - August 3, 2023 at 4:37 pm

    John,
    Thanks for sharing your doubts and your thoughts on your creative block.
    Maybe reflecting on your intrinsic motivation for sharing and creating could help you? Maybe this blog isn’t giving you what you want/need anymore and that’s the reason why you can’t share your thoughts and photos the way you used to?
    I know life gets in the way, with the demands of the daily routine, work and family. But it could help to find 10-30 minutes a day to contemplate, to relax, to read or to sit in silence and to rediscover your joy in writing and creating. What inspires you today is probably something different than 15 years ago, when you started your blog. :) I remember you as someone, who was always inspired by the little things in life, other people and new experiences. So, maybe it’s time for new experiences and/or a new platform to share your thoughts and photos, a platform with more creative exchange and stimulation?
    I hope you overcome your creative block and that you find some new joy in your creative expression, without doubts and fears. :)

  2. Khürt L Williams - August 3, 2023 at 5:52 pm

    I understand. I was in the same boat a few months ago. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Amy Sakurai - August 3, 2023 at 10:06 pm

    Share as much or as little as you like. Never feel guilty. Time is precious, and you should invest it in those things that bring you joy.

    In the past year I have been struggling with work, bemoaning the insufficient amount I have of personal, quiet time – or recreational, project time. I would like to slow down. But things are coming to a head, and I’m moving up my timetable for retirement. So my time and my life will be my own next year. I can’t wait (but I have to).

  4. Khürt L Williams - August 4, 2023 at 6:36 am

    I hear you. It’s clear that you’ve been struggling to find time for self-reflection and genuine expression. The demands of work and family can often leave little room for personal pursuits.

    I was in the same boat a few months ago. I was burning out from work and family pressures over the last few years. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to recharge. I’m making changes that I hope will allow me time to do the thing that gave me joy.

    I can understand your hesitation and anxiety about sharing your thoughts and feelings. It’s not easy to put your emotions out there, but doing so connects you with others who may be experiencing similar challenges and feelings.

    I hope you can carve out those precious moments of solitude and reflection amidst the demands of life. Your voice and your art are essential.

    Note: Apologies. My original response was cut off when I accidentally hit enter and the iPad’s battery drained.

  5. Will Musgrove - August 5, 2023 at 5:03 pm

    John – I’ve followed your work for many years now and I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated your aesthetic. Seasons and rhythms of life will change, and I think every creative person has experienced this ebb and flow. I too have seen my creative time dwindle down to practically zero as I’ve chosen to prioritize work and family during this season.

    One source of wisdom and inspiration for me has been the book of Ecclesiastes; it gives an ancient perspective on the meaning (or perceived meaninglessness) of work and life in a world that never seems to allow proper rest. Perhaps something to read and meditate upon as time allows.

    Be assured that anything you do have time to create and share is appreciated, even if it is small or infrequent. Maybe it can be the creative spark for someone else going through a dry spell of their own – like me.

  6. Luc - August 8, 2023 at 10:52 pm

    I’ve been following you for years, mainly for the wallpapers. Today was different. You’ve put into words what I’ve been feeling for a while. You’re not alone and I understand what you’re going through.

    Thank you for saying this here, it really helped me reflect with you.

    P.S. This is also the first time I comment here, possibly in over 10 years of “lurking in the shadows” of my RSS reader. Thanks for the inspirational wallpapers over the years which I’ve had the honour to see daily on my devices.

  7. Ville - August 11, 2023 at 7:19 pm

    Good to hear from you.

  8. Sid - August 22, 2023 at 4:26 pm

    Super good to hear from you! Totally feel the sentiment of this article and it’s amazing that there are still place and people willing to share more than 120 characters about things and places.

  9. John Carey - August 28, 2023 at 4:41 pm

    It’s amazing to hop on here and see so many of you leaving a comment, really warms my heart. I will always and forever be grateful for those who stop by and I will always drive to keep this space open for sharing and contemplation about life, photography, music, all of it. Not a day goes by I don’t think about hoping on and sharing something and one of these days I know I will be able to organize life enough to the point where I can make that happen again.

    Best, John

  10. Miłosz - September 9, 2023 at 8:18 am

    I don’t often open my RSS reader (because of the exact same reasons you spoke about above), but I’m so happy that I’ve just did.

    I feel you wholeheartedly. And thanks to the comments it’s pretty obvious there’re more of us. Let’s make the most out of this season in life and don’t feel guilty for not sharing as often as you think you should.

    Take care. We’ll be waiting for you.

  11. Cristi - October 8, 2023 at 4:39 pm

    Hello there,

    Life is just a fast lane for many people. I follow your photos and stories for many many years, but i only wrote this comment. For many of us, there is no stop, no rest, and that famous relaxation everybody says you should have felt is just an illusion. With family, newborns, full time jobs life really is just a fast lane and that little relaxing moment must be won in everyday small battles. In other words, we feel you. Take care!

  12. Leonel Martínez - October 29, 2023 at 11:53 pm

    Hello John,

    Just as someone else mentioned above, I’ve been following your blog for more than 10 years, always enjoying your wallpapers and finding inspiration in your thoughts and the stories you shared along the way. And yet, this post feels so different, so close to my heart that I too wanted to share a little with you, writing a comment for the very first time to tell you that you are not alone on this one.

    Routine is a sneaky devil that absolutely no one warns you about, but I believe we all need to find new meaning through it, slightly tweaking and twisting it over time in those everyday small battles Cristi said until we feel whole again. Of course it’s better said than done, but it’s worth giving it a shot to relieve the pressure on your shoulders. Life’s not always rainbows and butterflies, and it’s totally ok.

    Echoing another comment, share as little or as much as you feel like, because you can know for sure that we will forever be grateful for your words and your art.

  13. Jay Du - November 16, 2023 at 10:31 pm

    Hi John,

    Long time no see. I’m glad you’re still around – I know you are.

    Like many other readers, I’ve been following your blog for years. I was inspired in many ways by what you shared, how you see the world, and the way you live/exist.

    “The Seasons of a Man’s Life” by Daniel Levinson, one of my favourite books, talks about life transitions. It seems that no matter how satisfactory your current life is, in time its utility declines. The once-stable structure passes into a new transitional period. The seasons change.

    Reading your words reminds me of the constant changes in life. I can somewhat echo the need for inward turning to do the work of reappraisal and de-illusionment.

    Hope you will continue to find satisfaction in whatever you do. Till next time.

    Warm regards

    Jay, from Wellington

  14. Davi Andrade - November 23, 2023 at 1:21 am

    I needed some fresh wallpapers to make me feel better, so I decided to come here since your photographs are quite inspiring. Then I see your last post and I must say I feel a lot of what you described, and part of it worries me. Because I keep telling myself that I’ll find time to do the things I enjoy, but I feel like that moment never truly comes. I miss the days when I didn’t need to worry about work, about life.

    And yet here I am, using the little time I have to leave this message, reading the other replies also made me realize a few things. I’m sure you’ll figure out how to best handle these feelings, and I will use this opportunity to say thanks for sharing your work, your thoughts, I truly appreciate them.

  15. John Carey - January 1, 2024 at 5:23 pm

    I love that you all have continued to leave comments here. I feel like it’s a little notebook tucked away at a mile marker on a long hiking trail where passers by can leave notes of camaraderie as a means to remind us that were not alone as we navigate the busy passages in life.

    Thanks to all of you who still pass through. The way Social Media has been going these days I am starting to think there is still plenty of room for sites like mine online and always gets me thinking I should be back here posting when I am able to.

    Cheers. -John

  16. Abhishek - March 6, 2024 at 11:11 am

    Hi John, I am about six months late to this post. Six months is eons in today’s content-generation culture. None the less, reading it now feels timely and meaningful — essays like these are timeless and will outshine and outlive any content-creators drivel.

    I know the feeling of betrayal when taking a trip, the audacity of going away when you could be working, must be working! It’s not fun, and I hope you find some reprieve from that pressure. It might help to change your medium to one that has fewer restraints, like an unstructured journal, even if it is on the back of an envelope. You are drawn to writing, and are really good at it (which is why we keep coming back). This is why I propose writing by hand. It provides some psychological distance, and some slowness which helps the healing and mending. There is some research on this (Ethan Kross, James Pennebaker).

    PS: Its nice to know that, like me, someone else cringes at the word “content” as other people do when they hear words like “moist” and “gestate”. Have you seen Patrick Willems’s video on “content” ?
    https://youtu.be/hAtbFwzZp6Y?si=IcHEs9b70nexz8dQ

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