He Lived Long, and Prospered

I was at the annual Rainforest Writers Retreat, writing in the lounge this morning, when K.C. Ball walked in and announced that Leonard Nimoy had passed away.

I was probably about 7 years old when I first saw a Star Trek movie. I remember my Aunt was a big science fiction fan, and she thought I would love it, so one evening while she was over, the family watched Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t the strongest introduction to the world of sci-fi that I could have had, but it worked. I can’t remember whether I enjoyed the movie or not, but it definitely planted a seed.

That movie was my introduction to Star Trek, and by extension, science fiction and the world of geekdom. So when I’d heard that Leonard Nimoy passed away, it hit me harder than I expected. I thought about my life, and all the other lives he’d helped to change. Particularly for those of us who didn’t always mesh well with the rest of humanity—because we were shy, or socially awkward, or saw the world differently than our peers—Spock was kind of a reassurance that there was a place for us.

More than any other crew member, Spock adhered to his personal values– and even if he occasionally (rarely) went astray, he recovered. In a way, he was also the conscience of the Star Trek crew—when the rest of the crew were overwhelmed by emotion, or anger, or pain, Spock was there, reminding them of what was logical, of their purpose, of their identity and goals. He kept them grounded amidst the messy business of day-to-day life, and occasionally, interstellar enemies.

Spock was also eminently quotable, distilling tough, complicated subjects down to simple truths that got to the core of the matter—a talent shared by Leonard Nimoy.

Perhaps that’s one reason his death is such a powerful emotional driver—there are so many lines that tug at our heartstrings as we remember him. Even Leonard Nimoy’s final tweet was appropriate for the situation:

When I get home from Rainforest, the first thing on my agenda is watching Star Trek II, so I can have a good cry.

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2014: The Good, The Bad, and The Crazy

Back at the start of 2014, I had just quit my I.T. job a few weeks prior, with the goal of making enough money by the end of the year that I wouldn’t need to go back to I.T. I had several ideas I wanted to pursue, from photography to writing to hypnotherapy, and entertained high hopes of working on them all. In retrospect, it was a bit naive– I think if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that starting a new business of any sort takes a hell of a lot of work, and that splitting your attention across multiple ventures in this regard is kind of a good way to ensure that none of them get off the ground.

This year has basically turned into a year of photography for me– which is different than I expected (I had hoped it was going to be a year of writing), but I don’t regret it. I’ve enjoyed my photography, and I feel like I’m close to being able to do it professionally– in fact, I am doing it professionally, just not often enough that it makes for a viable career yet.

Setting career aspirations aside, I’ve accomplished a lot of things that I’m proud of in their own right. I finished my Journeys in Seattle project over at my photoblog, successfully doing a new photo expedition in the Seattle area every week of 2014. I got involved with Go To Games, and went with them to several conventions both inside and out of Seattle.

And of course, I went to Nepal for a month, and got to visit Hong Kong and Seoul, as well. That was something that hadn’t been on my radar on January 1st; the opportunity arose mid-year and I decided to take advantage of it. I’m really happy that came along; it’s the sort of experience that can to benefit you for the rest of your life, in real but often intangible ways.

In the writing world, I managed to get a new novel written, and am most of the way through the second draft. I want to continue working on that, but I’ve found that writing needs to be something I pursue for fun, not for a career– at least, not now. The fact is, I don’t have any idea which of my various writing projects might translate to commercial success (if any), and so for now I need to pursue my writing without worrying about that– otherwise it’s almost paralyzing, as I wonder how I can most effectively use my time, from a monetary perspective. Should I focus on Project A, or project B? Will drafting project C pan out? The fact is, I don’t know, and don’t have enough information to even make a guess. I need to be able to work on project A or B or C as my creative muse sees fit, and then once I’ve finished a couple projects, then I can see and learn how they pan out from a moneymaking perspective. But needing them to make money is a bad idea, and isn’t beneficial from a creative perspective– I had thought it might be, in terms of being a good motivator, but that hasn’t panned out.

Career consideration aside, though, 2014’s been a good year for me, personally. I find myself in a long-term relationship– which is certainly something I didn’t see coming when I was planning my “break year” eighteen months ago, but is nevertheless a welcome surprise. In addition to going to Nepal, I got to take a backpacking trip to Canada, vacationed on the Oregon coast with my Dad, and went on quite a few hiking and camping trips to places I’d never been before. My depression flared up occasionally, but never cripplingly so, and I feel like I’ve generally gotten better at handling it when it does. Granted, working for myself meant that I could devote energy to myself and take breaks when I needed to… which is a luxury I may not have in the future.

I’ll post another blog in the coming days with my goals for 2015– posting more on this blog (as opposed to my photoblog over at Journeys in Color) will be one of my goals, particularly as it relates to current events and social justice issues.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year! And best wishes to you and yours in the coming year.

Notes from the Edge of Winter

Despite the fact that yellow leaves are still clinging to the tree outside the bathroom window, winter seems to have officially arrived in Seattle, to judge by the dusting of frozen white stuff on the ground outside. I’ve spent a large portion of Thanksgiving weekend curled up inside with a book, after spending Thanksgiving Day itself having a slightly non-traditional dinner of ham_sIMG_5226 with the girlfriend’s family. Her family lives in Poulsbo, which meant we had to get there via the Bainbridge Island ferry, and on the way we were treated to an impressive display of light and shadow among the clouds and shore.

Since then, though, it’s been a quiet weekend. I did open a new prints store for my photography, located at Redbubble, and so far I enjoy the layout and options more than the prints shop over at my primary site, Journeys in Color.

So in the holiday season, if you’re looking for interesting gifts for folks, please consider stopping by either of my prints shops. In addition to prints and posters, I also have phone, tablet and laptop cases for sale; travel and coffee mugs; greeting cards; postage stamps; and more. And feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.

In addition to prints and merchandise, I’m also running a sale on my photography: 40% off portrait and headshot sessions that are booked before the end of the year. You can buy them for yourself or for someone else, via gift certificates. I recently took some new author photos for writer and editor Jennifer Brozek, and I’m pretty happy the results. (You can see one of the pictures we took on her front page).

I’ve also finished editing the photos from my Asia trip. I’m still deciding what to do with them, but you can see them online here, divided into galleries for each location. Some are also available as prints in the Journeys In Color print store.

Amidst the big photography push, I’ve found it hard to focus on my writing, although I did dust off the steampunk novel that I completed earlier this year and began editing it again, in preparation for sending out some agent queries. The NaNoWriMo work I’d intended to do on my 44,000-word Nepal journal didn’t manifest, again, largely because I’m focused on photography, but I’d still like to turn it into something people might read.

So that’s my November update. If entries here seem sparse, it’s mostly because I’ve been photoblogging a lot. But my “Journeys Around Seattle” project that I’ve been doing over there will also be wrapping up at the end of the year– which means it’s about time for me to have some end-of-the-year reflections, as I figure out what my agenda will be in 2015. Because to be honest, I’m really not sure at this point– an abundance of ideas, a lack of decisiveness.

I find myself in the midst of Interesting Times. Stay tuned.

Ten Years Ago Today

On August 12, 2004 I reached the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in Maine, after hiking for five months from the southern terminus in Georgia. You can still read the whole of my journal from the trail... I posted it as I went, from whatever public libraries I could find in towns along the way.

At the time, I was mostly just relieved to be done, but since then it’s become an important bedrock of personal strength for me. If I can complete a 2200-mile, five-month hike, I can do a lot of other things, whether it’s travelling to other countries on my own, or moving to the West Coast, or starting a photography business, or dealing with chronic depression.

To this day, I’m a huge believer in challenging yourself, in stepping outside of your comfort zone, in reaching for crazy and far-fetched dreams and goals, even at the risk of embarrassing or expensive failure. Hiking the A.T. may have been the first thing that really taught me that, even if it took me a few more years to recognize the lesson.

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On the 1-Year Anniversary of Mom’s Death

I’ll be at RadCon, a sci-fi convention about three hours east of Seattle, at the time this post goes up. Just a sign of how life goes on, I suppose.

But I’ve scheduled this post a couple days in advance, because I feel like February 16th is an important memory to mark. And I suspect on Sunday, my mind will be more dwelling on Mom than on a science fiction convention. Even one that I happen to be attending.

One year ago, on February 16, 2013, at 8:00 pm, Mom passed away from very aggressive, metastatic breast cancer. In fact, we had only stopped the chemotherapy less than a month earlier– and afterward, the cancer took only a few short weeks to end her life.

For me, it not only meant losing my Mom, but it was a very personal reminder not to put things off, to try exciting things and take risks now. Which is partly why I’m at RadCon, practicing photography and networking with writers and other creative professionals, in the hopes not just of making new friends and having a good time, but being successful and maybe even making a living doing things I love.

I’ve posted the video below before. It’s a short memorial video I made with a few pictures of Mom’s scrapbooks; a little side project that kept me distracted while my brother and I finished sorting through her affairs and her belongings.

Next week I’ll be back to photos and con reports, I promise.

Six Weeks of Freelance: The Good, The Bad, and the Lazy

It’s been six weeks since I started working full-time on my own projects. (It’s been almost three months since I quit my job, but it’s only been since the New Year that my travelling has been over and I’ve really buckled down to work.) I’ve already had some successes and failures; places where I’ve done better than I’ve hoped, and places where I need to try harder.

Photography’s been a big highlight so far. As I noted in my last post, I have a page up at www.journeysincolor.net. Since then, I’ve created a Facebook page, and a few weeks ago, I attended Portland Comic Con in a semi-official photographer capacity for Go To Games. And that opportunity only came about because I had gone to RustyCon the previous week, and happened to strike up a conversation with Ashke, a cosplay model who was working the Go To Games booth there.

To think, I almost stayed home from RustyCon because I was tired. For me, that was an illustration of how important it is to always take advantage of every opportunity. RustyCon was an opportunity that created another opportunity. And okay, I hadn’t planned on going to Portland on four days’ notice, but when the chance presented itself I jumped at it. I’m looking forward to see how the contacts and friends I’ve made there will affect the rest of my year.

As for writing– ostensibly the reason I quit my job in the first place– I’ve done quite a bit, although it’s a lot harder to see the end of the tunnel. Whereas with photography, you can occasionally luck your way into cool opportunities and contacts, with the writing, there’s no substitute for sitting by yourself and actually doing a crapload of work first. At least, none that I’ve found.

The novel that I’m writing has proved itself a tricky bastard. I’ve been trying to outline it, because it’s mostly a mystery/thriller type novel, the kind which are often very structured. But by nature I’m a pantser; I prefer writing without an outline, by the seat of my pants. But I’ve already tried that once with the novel and hit a dead end, so I’m debating whether to keep trying or shelve it for a while and work on something else.

In truth, I’ve already shelved it, at least for now. I’ve started sketching out the details of a second novel that’s been in my head for a while, with an eye toward starting writing on it at the end of the month during a five-day writing retreat that I’ll be attending. And I’ve started working on a memoir/retrospective of Mom. I’ve written over 10,000 words of that.

It’s been a little difficult to stay focused, because I’ve moved away from short stories (which are a lot of work, but still offer the promise of near-term gratification) to long-form works, which require much more work before you can even start trying to succeed with them. So far I’ve been trying to stick to writing at least two hours a day every day, which I’ve been mostly successful at, with a few exceptions– like when I got back from Portland Comic Con and was in all-out photography and marketing mode for the rest of the week.

One area where I’ve really fallen down has been the hypnotherapy side of things– I’ve only taken a few tentative steps toward getting the website up and running, although I hope to have that ready by the end of the month. I suppose that’s partly because even though it’s the project that’s most likely to generate income in the short term, it’s also the one I’m most nervous about.

But on the good side, I do have two business LLCs set up now– one called Andrew Williams Hypnosis, LLC and the other called Andrew Williams Creative, LLC. It makes it easier to actually do business and make money, although it also reinforces the fact that I actually do need to make money this year, at least if I don’t want to go back to I.T.

So it’s been a year of ups and downs, both business-wise and personally. I’m pleased to have this opportunity, but I feel like I need to work harder to take full advantage of it. And sometimes I feel like the lack of imposed structure (like an outside job) makes it easier for my depression to flare up. But there’s nothing to do but keep up the meds, try to maintain a steady routine at the gym, and work through it.

Six weeks means the year is more than one-tenth over. Christ, where does the time go? Back to work…

“Journeys in Color” Now Up and Running!

I’m pleased to announce that I now have a dedicated photography website. You can see it here, at journeysincolor.net.

My photographic interests are fairly widespread: I originally got into photography to take pictures of backpacking trips, and add a visual element to travel articles and blog posts. Along the way, my interest veered in more of a geeky/creative direction– I like taking pictures of cosplay, and bodypaint, and all sorts of art and costumes. At any convention or event that I go to, I will usually have my camera slung over my shoulder, looking for interesting people or moments to photograph.

In a sense, I feel like it complements my writing. Whereas writing is language-based, and usually requires a great deal of patience before finally arriving at a final product, photography is visual, and usually requires very little time at all. With photography, I can see the results immediately, and whereas it might take me several evenings of work to polish off a short story (and far longer for a novel), in the same several evenings I can process, crop and edit a few hundred pictures, any one of which might potentially stand on its own as a piece of creative work.

So please head on over and check out journeysincolor.net. In addition to having some of my favorite photos, arranged by topics and subjects, I’m also selling prints, so if you have a blank wall that needs a photographic print or collage, maybe you’ll find something that suits your taste. There are also full-size digital downloads for a token fee, if you see one that would work well as a computer background, or would like to print a picture or two for your own personal use.

I also have a blog up at the new site, where I’ll likely be posting photo sets from various travels and conventions. In particularly, I’m doing a yearlong projects called Journeys Around Seattle, in which I’m planning to explore at least one new Seattle-area neighborhood, event, or festival every week, and post a corresponding photoset. I’ve already done two, one to Eastlake and one to Cougar Mountain. You can see all the blog entries so far here.

I’ll still be posting trip reports here, as well as the occasional photoset, but by and large journeysincolor.net is where I’ll be focusing on photography, whereas Off the Written Path is where I’ll be focusing on writing (and life, and whatever current events demand a reflective and/or angry blog post). I’d be interested in hearing your feedback on the new page, so feel free to leave a comment either here, or in the guestbook over there, with any thoughts, suggestions, or constructive criticism.

And if you like it, feel free to share it around. In addition to selling prints, I’m hoping to branch into doing some additional event photography this year, and I’m hoping that journeysincolor.net will be a first step toward marketing and establishing the business side of things a little more.