Monday, September 26, 2022

September Light

The leaves are still on the trees, but the light has changed. The sun stays lower on the horizon in the mornings, and the afternoons are bathed in a golden glow. Not surprisingly, the flowers have slowed down as the plants slowly fade. I am happy for the relief from constant gardening - having a few more weekday nights and weekend hours free has been wonderful. Instead of taking on more projects, like home renovation or sewing, I've spent a lot of that time watching book reviews on YouTube and knitting socks. I typically have many projects in the works, but frankly, I just need some rest!

With my second job slowing down (just in time, because my regular job has sped up), I want to use my non-phone camera more. In years past I have taken thousands of pictures; that number has since dwindled to a few hundred per year. Sure, I could wait until the new year and make this a resolution. There is no reason to not start now, though.

I didn't have plans for this post other than to share some of the recent photos I'd taken, so perhaps here is a good spot for a social media tangent. Nothing I have to say is new, because we've all read the articles and have experienced ourselves what social media can do. I recently read Stolen Focus, which is the book I had hoped Digital Minimalism would be. This book explains how our focus has been collectively eroded by several factors, including social media and the constant stream of content. I feel this myself. I used to be able to spend hours reading, but now I am interrupted by my own drive to check a notification or Google something I must know the answer to right then (most recently: ooh I wonder if Teecino has any new flavors out). I find myself racing through books in order to move on to the next one instead of taking time and savoring the words. While Digital Minimalism took the more common line that we should, and can, take personal responsibility for our use of digital devices, Stolen Focus outlines all of the external forces that make this nearly impossible.

It has been interesting seeing these social media issues play out in the artist community. Artist Ohn Mar Win recently posted about a sabbatical she is taking. Another photographer I followed left Instagram at the end of last year and has since decided to give up her content-creating business entirely. Anne from My Giant Strawberry has written several posts about this issue; in the linked post, she links to even more stories of artists who have left or are taking a break from Instagram.

The constant demands on time and attention are some reasons for these reactions, and more recently Instagram's shift to video over images. The algorithm rewards frequent posting of a certain type, and that has led to less engagement for many creators. For people running creative small businesses, the constant stress to hussle more and produce more has increased stress, taken time away from actually being creative, and for many, led them to close their small business.

I want to focus on doing things that I love, just for the sake of doing them. I will never be a professional artist, but I like painting. I have no desire to start an art business or attempt to be paid for my work. In fact, I once had an art Instagram account that I have since deleted. We are so conditioned to feel like we should share anything that we create, and every photogenic moment, that it seems radical to fight against this.

Yes, I understand the irony here - I am posting this on a public blog. However, no one is ever going to find this by scrolling or being recommended it by a machine. I'll stay in my semi-hidden corner and enjoy it. I'm not writing for likes or attention, but for the ease of putting photos and words together. I suppose I could go back to the scrapbooking days and write this all out by hand and print out all my photos... but that would take so much time.

I'll write more in praise of day jobs later, but for now, I do wonder what will happen to the majority of those who use content creating as their sole source of income. Peak content will happen, if it hasn't already.

And now, for books! Last year I read The Authenticity Project, and when I heard that Clare Pooley was coming out with a new book I immediately put it on hold. This is the story of a group of unlikely friends, who all meet in the same train car while commuting. It's a little bit similar to the premise of Pooley's first novel. It ended up being a cute, light story that was not a romance (although it contains a bit of romance) which is somewhat rare. I had fun reading it and it made me think about all the subway riders I used to see pre-pandemic. I wonder what happened to them?

Sometimes you stumble upon a book that highlights the exact phase if life you are in, and I'll Show Myself Out was that for me. My kids are (thankfully) out of the baby years, but it wasn't too long ago that I was there. Klein tells it like it is and doesn't write nonsense like "enjoy it while you can" (because it's not possible to enjoy being sleep deprived). I thought she was very funny, which is good because she's a comedian, although there is just a touch of rich lady showing through. 

Oh, The Shell Seekers. This is the fiction book I have been waiting for. At its core, it's a multi-generational family saga. So much happens! It flips back and forth between the present and the past, mainly during WWII in England. The story of the Keeling family is complicated and full of plot, but the best part of this book is its inherent coziness. There are endless cups of tea, cottages, and gardens. This is a book to sink into and be immersed in another world. I am not finished yet (it's 630 pages), but I already can't wait to read more by Rosamunde Pilcher. (Side note, the 1989 movie version starring Angela Lansbury is on YouTube, but it is so painfully 80s I don't think I'll be able to watch it.)