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Friday, 17 March 2023


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If its ok to say so... you are GOOD at short form writing. You get to the point and you pick out the diamonds shining in the muck... that is why i have been reading you for nearly 40 years now.... just get back to work :)

You are too hard on yourself. Yesterday’s post was fine. (Btw, your father sounds like a more extreme version of my own father. It’s just who he was, so I try to not make the same mistakes myself.)

Your ideal job would probably be as an opinion writer for the NYT. Send them some long responses to articles and see if there’s an in 🙂.

I've been reading this blog for a while, including the trials and tribulations of writing a book... and the one constant in my mind was - why? Other than the overwhelming thought process that seemed to always end in the soup of "that is what I am supposed to do", I did not see the need for the torment that seemed to come from quiet times - "I should be working on my book!"

I hope that this decision, this revelation to give up the long-format, would be a level of freedom for you, a breath of fresh air, if you will...

I, for one, applaud your decision to give up and carry on without that burden...


I think you could and should put together a select group of posts from TOP and some of your earlier writings, do some editing, make a book of 250-300 pages, and publish it as "Essays on Photography," "TOP Posts from The Online Photographer," or something like that. I would buy it in a heartbeat.

Well, now you have a bunch of book starts that you can reclassify as blog material, and when you are short ideas, just copy and paste a relevant section, tidy it up, and post.

I'm not sure if you listen to Brooks Jensen, but he seems to be the master of organizing and reusing his photo catalog. Your blog writing catalog has just grown.

I too once tried to write- "a book." Went strong for about two weeks, and then, and then... the void.

Decided I still hadn't done all that much of what I already had been doing. May try again should I become physically incapacitated. For now, there's only so much time left.

I used to be a journalist. Most of my fellow journalism students and later my colleagues wanted to be writers and write books.

I, on the other hand, never felt ‘I had a book in me,’ and thus never shared that ambition.

Sometimes, when I get an idea about a largish topic, I’m more inclined to think about it as a TV production, rather than a book.

Then again, I still don’t feel that I want to be a writer.

Mike, I, for one, compliment you on reaching your decision. Wisdom in one’s old age doesn’t always come easily, but it comes nonetheless (most times). You excel at short-form writing (as we all can see here day after day). We all greatly enjoy your musings, as well as your technical pieces. Please just focus on keeping us happy?

No pain, no gain. Might be true, but it might mean you're on the wrong path.

Contrary to the feedback you are referring to, I enjoyed yesterday's post. This blog isn't just about photography, it's also about you, and that's not a bad thing, even if it isn't always your intention.

I enjoyed the Diane Arbus articles. Her work is uncomfortable for me to look at, and her end makes me sad. She affects me more than most photographers, and I suppose that says something about me. She should be remembered.

By the way, thank you for introducing a new word to my vocabulary: "contumacious."

Hi Mike,

Quick line to throw a different perspective on your dilemma.
Is the aim to write something long form and have it published, or just get something published?

Give up on the former if you want, but the latter could still be an option, in terms of collected essays, articles, writing etc.

You may not have them all now, but as per previous discussion, doesn’t mean you can’t plan to write a series of articles over a couple of years, with a view to a ‘collected writings of’ being published at the end of it.

It’s a way to get to your end goal incrementally, and you get TOP feedback on your writing as you go ;~)

As owner of a blog, you are at liberty to write on various subjects that come to mind.

It is not your duty to please everybody.

Under the personal circumstances that you live alone with only a dog for company, I think it's only either polite or nice for others to give you some slack or discount.

I can't believe no one else has suggested this before (or maybe they have), or that you haven't though of it yourself.

There is so much in what you have already written over the years, not just on TOP but elsewhere, that could be edited into book form, not just one, but a few or even several. Think A.D. Coleman's "Light Readings" (but easily more readable, relatable and informative).

I'm thinking of your writings and musings on photographers, both those you have known or met, or have already done research about. Or "Ten great photographs". Browsing your "Categories" list should help you find more groups of posts that could be combined to make a book. (Just looking at the list as I write this: Photo industry; Photographic aesthetics; Photojournalism.) And I have no doubt you would (would, not could) easily come up with additional material to both add to the material or tie the pieces together.

You've done most of the work already. Don't let it get lost in the Internet Archive (the "library stacks" of the internet). In book form, they'd make great gifts, and find a home on library shelves. (I think Mark Twain may have really been thinking about libraries: the rumor of their demise has been greatly exaggerated.)

(Technically, you would still be adhering to your declaration of giving up book writing, as this would really be a different project, made up of material you've already written.)

Please give it some thought.

Interesting Mike. The good thing is you won’t be beating yourself up for not completing your attempts at writing a book and likely have more energy to write what you are good at, short pieces like this blog. All that said you probably should keep the door to a book ajar in case you do find a topic that you can take to the finish line. Meanwhile I anticipate enjoying reading more of your short form work

RE yesterdays post. Meh. If it gets people commenting, then they're thinking. And getting people to think, instead of just endless consume, is in itself a major minor triumph. Well done you.

As for quitting? I never gave up smoking for years, because I figured winners never quit. Ends up I was wrong. Sometimes winners quit one thing. Then go on to persist somewhere else. A better place to persist.

Forest for the trees. T.O.P. itself is just chapters dare I say a couple of books at least.

Good move to remove that albatross. But I was looking forward to the story of your Xander. Could it surface in another form perhaps?

Re: Yesterday’s post. As I read it, all I could think of was it sounded like a whole bunch of “shoulda, coulda, woulda” about what mighta been. I’ve been reading and enjoying your excellent writing here and other online sources, as well as in magazines, for several decades now (early 1990s, a review of the Mamiya 6 was the first). Sometimes you get on a path I’m not interested in. But, hey, it’s your blog - you do you. I just come back the next day. Or the day after that.

But this ongoing self-flagellation that’s been going on for years over writing a book… Just always struck me as “I’m a writer. Writers write books. I should write a book.” Not very convincing, either to me or you. The real pursuit of excellence isn’t about meeting anyone else’s expectations or definitions of who we are - that is the road to perdition.

I do hope this article is the end of this book thing. It’s time.

I suppose you could always go the the other extreme and try writing drabbles? ;-)

Life is the art of recognizing blind alleys. Turning around to find a new path is part of the process.

I don’t know, seems to me there’s value in the attempt. Attempting to climb Mount Everest is still more than most of us will ever do.

I could say a lot more, I think these things, but seldom say it because others do a much better job commenting then I do. But I will say this, in my humble opinion, you should not close doors to what you can do. Your a excellent writer, there is still a book there. Now maybe, just maybe, your afraid of failing? You’ll write a book and it doesn’t sell? Could happen. But so what. If you fail so what?? I think, personally, you’ve succeeded at so much already!
You’ve got many years ahead of you. Your blessed with good health, just do what you want, and don’t worry about consequences. I’m old, and I still look forward .

Mike, you have written a few books already. They just need to be compiled.

From a young old wise man: "If you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what's next." -Steve Jobs

If you ever do get the urge to compile a “best of TOP” book, get a co-author or editor to do all that work. In fact, just pretend that you have passed and it’s completely out of your hands. Return from the dead for final approval and book signings.

The featured comment by "Another Mike" is so kind and true. I echo it heartily. On the topic of motivation, may I recommend The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman. Great book, funny and insightful.

Like several commenters I think some of your other, now abandoned*, writing projects could fit into your blog. The “the second volume a selection of 60 or 80 pictures” of your “"Classic 35mm Photography" seems made for a second section of TOP which I assume could be done in the same way that Thom Hogan has various sections to “bythom”.

Couldn’t your “Xander story” be published as chapters in another section? I seem to remember that some quite well known writers were not above serialising their work, C. Dickens, A.C Doyle etc.

Other sections might be formed from existing threads in TOP. Perhaps one for the Baker’s Dozen series for example.

* I fully expect that this “abandonment” will in turn be abandoned and the long form writing will beckon again, to the detriment of your blog ㋡

My first impulse was to write this as a comment:
To the best of my knowledge, Leonardo da Vinci carried the Mona Lisa painting with him for years, always touching up the original painting. (Talking about not finishing things…)
Albert Einstein had to be helped by others, with the mathematical aspects of the Theory of Relativity.

Despite these “shortcomings” wouldn’t you agree that they were at least “moderately” successful in what they accomplished?

To end, my wife is a nurse in a prestigious university hospital. A while ago she provided me with a solution to this type of problem.
It is a….little book which was recommended by some of the doctors she works with.
It’s titled “The OBSTACLE is the way”. The timeless art of turning trials into triumph. By Ryan Holiday.

I would be delighted to talk about what specific solutions you may wish to consider. Perhaps you should make a few more posts about this issues

In the late 1990s I moved for a year to Prague. My Czech was embryonic at best and I struggled with pronunciation. I disliked most expats I met. I was working in a darkroom and furiously photographing for myself, so there wasn’t that juch spare time. But when there was, I read À la recherche du temps perdu. I finished it. I agree with Alain de Botton that it was life changing. But I am persistent, and have a PhD, probably the greatest endurance test one can set oneself. I later bought a beautiful 6 volume boxed hardcover set of À la recherche for my wife, but, to my knowledge, she has never opened it.


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