Thursday, March 19, 2015

Merry-Go-Round Tour 2015/3: Hobbies and Writing

     Somehow I just keep getting later and later. I set alarms and they don't go off. I put the information on notes on my desk and the cats sleep on them. At some point, I'll get this into my brain again.

But writing and hobbies. . . .

I am a photographer. I can't think of a better hobby for an author because it does two things that helps with writing. First, the obvious: You look at the world and analyze it when you are doing photography. If you want pictures of a nice storm, you have to understand weather well enough to get out there at the right time. You need to know where -- and when -- to go to find certain kinds of birds, too. You need to be aware of light and color (even if you are taking black and white photos) -- and that doesn't take into account all the camera settings like shutter, aperture and ISO. Photography takes a lot of attention to get somewhat good at the work. It takes a lot of practice.

Taking pictures can also provide you with a wealth of inspiration. Take pictures of buildings and of roads. Take shots of newly blooming flowers and dead trees. Build up portfolios of things to look at and describe. Yes, you could do the same by grabbing pictures here and there and dropping them into a Pinterest page -- but you won't have the same connection. A picture came help you recall the sounds, scents and the feel of the breeze as you stood there.

What is the second thing photography does for writers?

Photography takes us away from the computer. Even if you're doing nothing more than taking shots of the cats in the house or birds in the yard, often you have to move away from the spot where you are likely to spend far too much time. Photography allows you to focus back on the real world, and in a way that can help you appreciate some of the small things around you. Subtle colors and unusual shapes catch your attention. Light reflecting through a glass of iced tea becomes wondrous.

You might take the photography a step farther and (back to the computer) start looking at some of the wonderful programs out there that can help you transform pictures into new forms of art. If you are lucky enough to have a skill at drawing and painting, the computer-based programs probably won't interest you, but for the rest of us they allow artistic freedom.

I've met many people who limit their photography to 'important events' and family shots. Back in the age of film-based cameras, this could make sense. Each picture cost you back then, so you might have been more careful. Now you can practice and experiment and take thousands of pictures and it cost you no more than the original camera investment. Most cameras come with CDs that have all the programs you'll need to get started, and if not, there is always the very nice Picasa program from Google.

I take pictures every day. I have a Picture-A-Day Blog that just crossed 3000 pictures and I only post pictures taken on the day of the post. (If on vacation and post later, I'll note what days the pictures were taken on to fill in the spots.)

Go to zoos, too. They're great for science fiction and fantasy writers as well as for people writing in locals they're not used to. The zoo I love (Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, about 100 miles south of me) has a wonderful indoor jungle as well as a desert. The aquarium is full of alien creatures.

Get a camera, use it often, and explore your world. You might find it makes you a better writer.


Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

Photos are a great way to build up stock for our covers, too. (Note to self to take camera more places.)

Unknown said...

Good post, zette.
I agree with Deb, pictures I take and that my husband take have been used to illustrate blog posts and covers for my books.

Fun and useful.