The One in the Pauses

This probably will not come as any surprise to you, but Anna and I have some pretty epic conversations about life, publishing, and writing. I'm so grateful to have her in my life, because, seriously, very few people understand what it feels like to work in publishing while trying to write your own books, and the juggling act that comes with desperately attempting to keep the two jobs separate. (Because it's often tricky and crazy-making and if you don't have someone else to vent to, or bang your head against the table with, the craycray can make your head explode.) I'm also lucky in that Anna is an astute editor and very patient with me when I go all, "TELL ME MY WORDS ARE PRETTY. ARE THEY PRETTY? ARE THEY OK? THEY'RE OK, RIGHT?" which... ummm... happened frequently after I sent her Black is the Color. Thank goodness she's around to say, "Okay, but here's the thing..." Anyway, at our last dinner conversation, we got to talking about how necessary it is to take a break from writing after finishing a big project. Obviously writing is an incredibly intimate process and everyone has a different beast to tackle when it comes to getting work done, but when you're coming off a project that's consumed your life for almost a full year and/or wrecked you emotionally and/or forced you to probe old wounds or ask yourself hard questions, the first thing you should do upon finishing is NOT dive into another project right away.

At least, that's how it is for me. After finishing a project, I tend to not write or read much of anything for anywhere between a week or a month or two. That's not to say that I stop thinking about stories or storytelling--I just try to give myself a little time to recover. Working in publishing means that I almost never read a book for pure pleasure these days. I'm either reading it as an author, or I'm reading it as an industry professional (trying to understand its place in the market, or figuring out what made it a success or sunk it, for instance). So in my R&R time, like I said, I don't tend to read novels. Instead, I try to take in stories in different mediums.

I'll go back and reread old manga or comics, marathon a TV show, catch up on movies I missed while I was trapped in my writer cave, go see a museum exhibit--if it's visual, and it tells me a story, I'm there. For reasons that still escape me, switching from written-word storytelling to visual storytelling helps me reboot my brain, and often brings about new ideas or characters or ways to frame a story. In comics and manga, I love the interplay of text and illustrations (this is also why my black little heart melts and coos when it comes to amazing picture books), in film, the way scenes are cut and arranged--I always seem to get a better sense of the character and emotion you find in a story's pauses when it's presented to me in a visual, illustrated format.

And I love the pauses--I love the unspoken, the quiet, the gazes, the imagination it takes on the part of the reader/viewer to fill in what's been left unsaid.

I am not--by any stretch of the imagination--knowledgeable about the world of photography, but as I've gotten older, I've grown to appreciate it as a storytelling medium. Because, to me, photography is in some ways about capturing the pauses of life, the unexpected, or the otherwise unnoticed. They're the perfect distillations of stories, told without words or movement.

I'm a sucker for old, WWII-era photos in particular, mostly because I romanticize the hell out of that era, whether it's merited or not. I genuinely admire that generation, and I'm fascinated by the lives they led and what they managed to accomplish. Their photos are the ultimate fill-in-the-blanks for me; the ones that leave me wondering, How did you get through this? or What thoughts were going through your head when you were forced to say goodbye? If nothing else, there's something achingly romantic to me about a proper goodbye.

Basically, this entry was just an excuse to post this amazing photo set of Soldier Farewells at Penn Station in 1944. :)

Here are two of my favorites. I love the contrast of their quiet, private world, with the activity and rush of life around them.

soldier2 soldier1

Life, Publishing, WritingAlexComment