Reader’s Question: What to do when other passions get in the way of writing?

Q: I have a hard time balancing my love of photography and my love of writing. Is there something else you enjoy doing that sometimes gets in the way of your writing?*

A: Um, yes! I had almost exactly the same problem. I used to spend a lot of time with darkroom photography in the days before digital. And while photography and writing are by no means incompatible—indeed, I took a whole class in college exploring the relationship between the two—there is a certain school of thought that says you don’t want to use up your creative energy on anything else but your writing. The poet Mary Oliver writes about how she always chose to do boring, crap jobs so she wouldn’t be too intellectually stimulated (or satisfied) at work. Here’s the quote I’m thinking of: “ I was very careful never to take an interesting job. If you have an interesting job, you get interested in it.”

For me, something was lost in the switch to digital, and when I no longer had access to a darkroom, I more or less let photography go. You can read about my nostalgia for darkrooms here. But that doesn’t mean you have to! See if you can find a way to bring the two interests together. One way is to do writing that complements your photography, another is to use photographs as starting points for writing, still another is to bring in what you know about photography into the world of your stories by making it important to one of your characters.

 *Question courtesy of the National Writing Project·and readers of for the National Day on Writing. Read highlights of the event in·this post·or listen to me and four other guests talk about the National Day on Writing for the NWP blogtalk radio program here.


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