Trying to Learn to See

During the last few years I’ve taken on a couple of different hobbies. These have been writing (as evidenced by this blog) and photography. Since starting these hobbies I’ve found that while in some ways very different, they are also very similar.

They are both deceptive hobbies. When you’re on the outside they seem like such easy ventures. You put words to paper or a screen and “voilà!” Or you venture out and purchase a DSLR and you’re pretty much ready to start your own photography business. Well it’s not quite that simple, or at least I haven’t found it to be that simple. Maybe some people do, but I’m certainly not one of them.

Another area that they are very similar, and where I want to focus on, is they both require an ability to see the world around you. This may sound like a rather obvious statement, and to some degree it is, but it takes a good deal of intentionality to actually perceive what is going on at any given moment. It is one thing just to see what is going on around you on a surface level and a whole other thing to see what is going on underneath, to sense the stories that are taking place around you as you live your own.

We have two fairly young children and it is easy to rush around through life focused on the needs and wants of those children. You may see other people and events going on around you, but often I find myself so focused on making sure our kids aren’t in anyone else’s way and actually content themselves, that it can be hard to really see what is going on with the people around you. I don’t think I’m alone in that reality, and we’re not even people who have super busy schedules three-quarters of the time.

However, in both writing and photography it requires being able to see. To perceive not just what is on the surface, but also what is going on behind the surface. To be able to weave a tale out of interactions that may on the surface seem mundane and average. To see more than just a pretty setting, but also see the emotion and mood that can be produced from such a setting. I know this, and I wish I could say that I’m good at this, but I’m still very much trying to learn this.

In some ways it is hard because so often I am at home with the kids, and even if I went out with them I feel that I would be needing to focus too much on them to really see what is going on around me. I want to see, but this is no easy feat. It takes an intentionality that is difficult and that life doesn’t always easily allow. However, I do think that being able to see, both what is going on inside myself and around me will make a better writer and photographer out of me.

Even beyond this though, it would probably make me a more thoughtful person and Christian as well. It is so easy to focus on the externals or the momentary glimpse of a person when we see them out in public. We make our decisions about them and move on. We only see the outside.

I don’t know, I guess I think that having eyes to see what is going on around me in a deeper sense is something I want to work on. Maybe it won’t make me a better writer, after all that’s not all there is to writing, I still have to communicate what I’m able to see. Maybe it won’t make me a better photographer, there are skills there too beyond just seeing. I hope that it will, but if at the end it just makes me willing to stop and see the people around me better, then it will still be worth it.




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