Occasionally someone will ask writers if they have any creative outlets in addition to writing. There was a time when I'd have said no--when I'd have found the question vaguely puzzling. Isn't writing enough? But nowadays, I am delighted to exclaim that yes, in addition to writing, I'm also an avid digital photographer. (At left: flowers in the Lied Jungle at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha.)
Digital's important. I never got that interested in film cameras, and would often allow the pictures I took to languish undeveloped. Why bother, when all too often they would be blurry, overexposed, or afflicted by those fat, pink blimplike objects that haunt photographers who can't keep their fingers from straying in front of the lens. And we won't mention the time I tried to photograph Neuschwanstein and got so excited I snapped a shot of my eyeball instead. (At right: jellyfish in the Scott Aquarium at the Henry Doorly Zoo.)
But something happened the first time someone put a digital camera in my paws. Suddenly I got it. Maybe it was the immediate gratification (and immediate feedback) of being able to see the photo within seconds of taking it. Maybe it was the sensation of viewing my subjects on a screen--after all, both as a writer and as a longtime television addict, I relate to things on screen. (At left: alligators lurking in the Kingdoms of the Night exhibit at the Henry Doorly Zoo.)
I've also found that, like gardening, taking photos is an excellent balance to writing. Both are nonverbal and get me out in the fresh air when I've been hunched over the computer too long. And when you've been beating your head against the wall over flat sentences, uncooperative characters, and a plot that doesn't seem to be going anywhere, it's a wonderful break to pick up the camera or stroll out the door with a shovel and do something else for a change. (Penguins at the Henry Doorly Zoo. Which was, incidentally, where I first got the idea for The Penguin Who Knew Too Much, the book that's coming out in August.)
I'm in draft mode now, trying to turn out a certain number of words every day, and when I finished Wednesday's quota and sat down to compose something for the Femmes blog, my mental pen seemed to run out of ink. It's usually not hard to say something about life, or writing, or both; except when you're working toward a deadline, and it feels like all you're doing is writing and you can't imagine anyone would want to read anything about that. (At left: in the desert habitat. Can I say a word of thanks to my friend Lori Hayes, who for the past several years has taken me to see the Henry Doorly Zoo when I came to town for Mayhem in the Midlands.)
So I pulled out the pictures I took while I was visiting the zoo in Omaha. It has nothing to do with writing, unless you're curious about what writers do when they're not writing. And I guess some people might be: Kent Krueger organized a panel about that at Mayhem in the Midlands, "The Me You Never Knew," in which the panelists--Margaret Maron, Nancy Pickard, Sharan Newman, Ellen Hart, and I--talked about things other than our current book. Made a nice change from the usual panel. Just as my photos make a nice, restful nonverbal change from the daily routine of writing. (At left, a fledgling hawk. Also from the zoo, of course.)
And now back to that draft. Thought if you're not ready to get back to your routine, check out the full album of pictures from this year's zoo trip.