Zen emphasizes practice over theory. I plucked this sentence from the introduction to one of my latest book purchases — Zen Camera: Creative Awakening with a Daily Practice in Photography by David Ulrich (published by Watson Guptill, 2018). Taking photos is something I adore and which has been a part of my creative life for a long time. I have a Nikon DSLR, but use my iPhone camera an awful lot. Taking photos isn’t always about which camera I’m using. It’s more about documenting a moment in which I felt something, in which whatever was in front of me made me stop for its beauty or question its existence (or mine) or feel its power and poignancy. My family, I’m pretty sure, gets tired of me photographing every single Christmas, birthday, wedding, birth, and family dinner, but I never get tired of the results: a record of life on this earth that makes me feel all kinds of emotions. A record that, maybe, will make someone else feel all kinds of emotions, too. Those are the same reasons why I write.
But all that isn’t why I picked up this book. As a writer, I practice putting words together daily. I also practice yoga. I practice cooking. I practice playing the guitar. There are all kinds of things I do on a daily or near-daily basis that amount to a practice of some sort. And none of these things would be successful if I only did them in my head, as theory. Theories are meant to be proven, over and over. My creative work requires that I keep practicing, keep looking for new ways to turn whatever I’m working on around and see it from another angle.
I’m excited about Zen Camera because I want a summer project that gets me outside but still connects back to what I do as a writer. Taking photos has always connected, and having a little bit of an outline nudges me in some new directions. Last week, I said I was loathe to schedule anything in the summer. This is why: I want room for creative work that takes me outside. Here it is. Creativity needs a branch to light on (Ulrich, page 11). Yes, it certainly does.
The next issue of Gyroscope Review is coming out on July 1. My co-editor Constance Brewer and I have been working on the production since I returned from Switzerland. It’s going to be a beautiful issue, complete with a woodblock print by Constance on the cover. It’ll be available on Amazon. It’s the perfect summer read.