Meanderers Get There, Too

The bad news is, I only have 30 minutes to get this post done before it is late. Honor system late.

The good news is, the reason I’m on the verge of tardy is because it was Writing Group night and so I opted for writing/writer talk with my trusted crew over hours alone on the couch with my laptop.

Aside: The fact that I had to choose between time out with friends and time in with my writing reminds me how challenging it is to be a writer with a full time job that’s NOT Jackie’s Own Writing. So a round of claps for all of you writers out there kickin’ it like me and writing on the sly, in the afters and befores. And a shout out to my super husband, Alex, whose patient steadiness makes it possible for me to be this I’m Up I’m Down I’m Here I’m There writer.

And that reminds me . . .

Today’s Think Kit challenge was to get out of our own heads for a minute and interview at least one other person about his or her most memorable moments of the past year. One Drew DeBoy texted the aforementioned Alex–MY Alex–for his thoughts for Drew’s post.

And so now it is Blog Wars and I had to email Amelia, Drew’s significant other–and a buddy of mine, too!–to see about gettin’ some thoughts on the year.

I ALSO wanted to ask Amelia because, as you’ll soon discover, she’s had a pretty amazing year. Probably because she’s a pretty amazing person and you should definitely learn more about what she’s up to.

And now’s the part where I shut up and let Amelia take over.


AMELIA MORRIS: 2013 turned out to be quite a year on the art-front. I received an Emerging Artist Fellowship through the Arts Council of Indianapolis, was finally able to purchase equipment to help my practice grow, and even had a couple exhibitions either as a solo artist or showcasing several photographs. All this activity probably makes it seem like I really have this artist career thing figured out–I know what I want and I’m pushing myself HARD to get where I want to be. Well, I really don’t have it figured out. It’s not that I don’t know what I want (in a really, really vague sense), but the deeper I get/the more recognition I receive, the more I end up questioning myself. In this part (and really most) of my life, I prefer to meander instead of drive, to test many options instead of diving into a committed decision.

Amelia, center, during an open portfolio walk-through at Photolucida.
Amelia, center, during an open portfolio walk-through at Photolucida.

The most intense art-related experience this year was my participation in the Photolucida portfolio review festival in Portland, Oregon. Long story short, it’s basically five days of career speed-dating for photographers. A selected group of photographers spend 20 minutes at a time with publishers, gallery owners, curators, and collectors, sharing their portfolios with the goal of getting something from the meeting. I won a highly coveted scholarship to be able to attend, and while grateful to have the opportunity, I worried that perhaps I wasn’t the type of person who should be there . . . this didn’t feel like the type of place a meanderer should be. I was surrounded by older, mid-career photographers, photo educators from well-known schools, the published, the recognized. They could be an intense bunch. There were warnings not to stalk down the reviewers in their hotel rooms or slip them notes under the door of bathroom stalls. There were reminders that being here didn’t guarantee that you’d get a show or have a major gallery purchase a print, but I could feel the tension from the collective group. On the second day of reviews, I remember walking into my hotel room, sitting on the bed, and bursting into tears. It wasn’t that I had had a particularly rough review . . . it was just suddenly TOO MUCH.

My final review of the five day festival was with the editor of a small-run photography publication. At this point in our experience, we were both pretty drained and, for whatever reason, we were able to be quite frank with one another. I remember throwing my artist statement spiel out the window and telling her something along the lines of, “I didn’t come here expecting to be heralded a genius and find myself published or get a dozen exhibition offers. I just want people to look at my photos and tell me what they think. If something happens, that’s great. If not, well, that’s fine, too.” It was a relief to drop some of the faux-confidence and be totally honest with both her and myself.

Later that evening, the reviewers and photographers had a chance to mingle at a small cocktail party. As I saw reviewers I had talked to, I thanked them for their time and input. I finally ran into my final reviewer, and she told me, “You know, I get a lot of business cards at events like these. I was packing up my room and throwing away cards I wasn’t interested in, but (she pats my arm here for emphasis) I’m keeping yours!” She went on to tell me that I came to the review for the right reasons (not expecting too much and being open to whatever would happen), and that she really wished more people had the outlook I had on the whole process. I really needed that validation. Being a meanderer really wasn’t so bad after all.

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