confessions / dayjob / distractions / writing

High Contrast

Thinking about black-and-white lately. Thinking in black-and-white. You know, there was a time when I almost didn’t become a writer… I was maybe going to try to be a photographer instead. Back then, I did not do digital photographs. Horrors. I loved it old-school, with the stink on your hands and the possibility at every moment for a terrible mistake or—if your mistake looked good—a miracle. You were never in total control. There were flaws. There were surprises. You were exposed in ways Photoshop makes impossible today. You could not hide. Photographing on film, and developing and printing my own images with my own two hands, felt honest.

"Times Square: The Night Fantastic" by Lillian Bassman, 1997

"Times Square: The Night Fantastic" by Lillian Bassman, 1997

I would have wanted to become a photographer like Lillian Bassman. I first discovered her photograph on the left in a fashion magazine. I tore it out and have since kept it with me, crumpled and crinkled and punched with thumbtack holes. I was looking for it the other night but couldn’t find it, so I’ll put it up here for safekeeping.

In my life right now are contrasts like a high-speed black-and-white photo. The deep, dark, warm comforting things you curl into and are grateful to have, and the hot harsh uncomfortable things you shrink away from. One thing that’s good is the writing. I’m grateful to be in that good place where putting words down on the page means everything.

This year has been a funny one. Has it been funny for you, too? Some of the best things of my life have happened—are happening right now—like they’ve saved up for 2009 to let it all out. What a year!

"Barbara Mullen, New York" by Lillian Bassman, 1950

"Barbara Mullen, New York" by Lillian Bassman, 1950

But bad things have happened too, stressful things, and there was a moment this week when I found myself in such a state of panic I thought I might bust open my heart from how hard it was beating, and another night when I completely shut down and had to sleep because being awake was too much to take. I caught a cold this week, coincidentally.

But, like I said, the writing’s going well.

In work news, however, after being in the publishing industry for about nine years, and working my way up from a cubicle, to a shared office, to an office of my own, to an office of my own with an actual window I can look out of… my company is moving buildings this month and I am about to be demoted back to a cubicle. Many people are losing offices for cubicles, so I shouldn’t take it personally. But I’m upset by it. The office meant something to me. It meant I’d gotten somewhere.

I used to think my job stuff was going pretty well and my writing was hitting rock bottom. But that’s no longer the case. I’m really happy with where my writing is. I’m thrilled to be writing this YA novel about these two sisters and their unbreakable bond. I’m thrilled to have written a book partly inspired by Rita Hayworth and see it hit the shelves in less than two weeks. This other stress I’m having, entirely unrelated to cubicles, does weigh on me, but it can’t take away the good things. I can’t let it.

That’s how life is: you lose some, you win some, yes? That’s the saying? There’s not too much middle ground these days, no grays. And sometimes I forget how much I used to love that.

"Night Bloom" by Lillian Bassman, 1996

"Night Bloom" by Lillian Bassman, 1996

6 thoughts on “High Contrast

  1. “you take the good, / you take the bad, / you take them both, / and there you have the facts of life…the facts of life…” –the lyrics to the facts of life.😉

  2. Hi Nova, thanks for continuing to visit me. I’ve been remiss, but I’m glad I stopped by today. I love this post. It hits home for me on so many levels: I, too, seriously considered and practiced the non-digital b-and-w thing. I, too, believe this was a funny year (more downs than ups, unfortunately). And, yes, cubicle-land; that is upsetting and I totally get you on that–I remember a publishing move and my demotion to a cubicle too…yucky. You have the right attitude: Don’t let the yuck take away from the good things — and you have so many good things!

  3. we’ve definitely had the kind of year…it feels like such a roller coaster. I try and just be flexible but it’s very hard…no shades of gray…all black and white…it is very emotionally taxing. I hope someday things mellow out for all of us!

  4. Pingback: And Then the Phone Rang « distraction no. 99

  5. Last year I lost my own office with a nice view for an open office with no view… I was upset for 3 months and I sometimes still miss my window where reckless birds came in fall and spring. Nice pix, thanks for letting us discover Lillian Bassman!

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