Photo (and Poetry) Blog

It Was A Hand In The Darkness And It Held A Knife


I finally found some time to listen to Neil Gaiman talking to Tim Ferriss in ”The Tim Ferriss Show” (a podcast that I highly recommend, it’s one of my favorite podcasts). The interview is almost two hours long and I wanted to have time (and peace of mind) to really enjoy it. And take a lot of notes.

It’s always such a pleasure listening to Neil Gaiman’s hypnotically soothing voice talking about his starting out as a writer, creativity and writing, books, his friendship with Terry Pratchett, fountain pens (he writes with a fountain pen) and the New York Fountain Pen Hospital (yes, there’s such a thing, the place to go if you want to buy a new fountain pen, or repair the one you have).

I have included below a few points that have resonated with me. It wasn't easy, I could have gone on much longer but wanted to keep the lenght of this post manageable.

* About Ian Fleming’s writing process (yes, James Bond’s creator), who didn’t like writing. His method? Lock yourself up in a not too good hotel, in a not too good room in a town you don’t want to be in (as to avoid distractions and getting comfy), and just write ”like a fiend” until you’re done.

* Most important writing rule: you can sit here and write, or you can sit here and do nothing; but you cannot sit here and do anything else. All you are allowed to do is absolutely nothing, or write. You give yourself permission to write or not write, but you end up writing eventually as doing nothing is boring and your wandering mind will start sparkling ideas. Not having to write takes off some pressure as well.

* On first drafts: nobody is ever meant to read your first draft. That is just you telling the story to yourself.

* Setting up a Groundhog Day: writing (a novel) works best if you can do the same day over and over again. Figure out a daily practice that works for you, and repeat that day, every day, day after day after day. Austin Kleon used the same image in his new book ”Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad”: every day is a Groundhog Day. 

You can read the whole podcast transcript  (and, of course, listen to/watch  the podcast) on Tim Ferriss blog.

Neil Gaiman Quotes from the Podcast

All I’m allowed to do is absolutely nothing, or write.

What I love about that is I’m giving myself permission to write or not write, but writing is actually more interesting than doing nothing after a while. (…) I think it’s really just a solid rule for writers. You don’t have to write. You have permission to not write, but you don’t have permission to do anything else.

Part of what I discovered, particularly about being a novelist, is writing a novel works best if you can do the same day over and over again. The closer you can come to Groundhog Day, you just repeat that day. You set up a day that works for yourself. (…) I would do that day over and over and over and over. 

 I also think that the most important thing for human beings is to be aware of the change. The biggest problem we run into is going, “This is who I am, this is what I’m like. This is how I function.” while failing to notice that you don’t do that anymore

The biggest thing, looking back on it, that I learned from Terry <Pratchett> was a willingness to go forward without knowing what happens. You might know what happens next, but you don’t know what happens after that, but it’s okay because you’re a grownup and you will figure it out. 

Bonus: listen to Neil Gaiman’s audio books read by himself. Such a joy! My favorites: Art Matters (this should be handed out for free in all schools, by the way!), The Graveyard Book, and Coraline.

Complete with: Tim Ferriss interview with  Amanda Palmer (singer, songwriter, playwright, author, director, blogger and Neil Gaiman’s wife); and Austin Kleon’s A Portable Routine.

Wondering where the post title comes from? It’s a line from one of Gaiman’s old notebooks that eventually become the beginning of The Graveyard Book; Gaiman talks about its genesis in the interview.

Yesterday’s over, tomorrow may never come, there’s just today and what you can do it with it. - Austin Kleon

Haiku Tuesday: Beads Of Dew

Golden Grass - Mihaela Limberea Blog on

Beads of dew, play about

From one grass leaf to another.

by Ransetsu

Translation by Asataro Miyamori

Catching The Heart-Beat Of Life

Pen on notebook

The secret of it all is, to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment - to put things down without deliberation - without worrying about their style - without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote - wrote, wrote. No prepared pictures, no elaborated poem, no after-narrative, could be what the thing itself is. You want to catch its first spirit - to tally its birth. By writing at the instant the very hear-beat of life is caught.

Walt Whitman on writing from the upcoming ”Walt Whitman Speaks: Final Thoughts on Life, Writing, Spirituality, and the Promise of America” (to be published by the Library of America in April). 

The New York Review of Books published the introduction (in a somewhat different form) in the April 18th issue; a good read that you can find here.

There Is No Time For Despair

Gornergrat, Switzerland by Mihaela Limberea

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. This is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge - even wisdom. Like art.

Toni Morrison

Photography Is About Protecting Memories

IMG 8129

Remember that time you made a photograph of an iconic place - oh say - maybe Notre Dame and some know-it-all said something like "What a cliche - that's been done to death - everyone has that shot." Well - not any more. Photography is about protecting memories. Yours included.

Scott Bourne (@ScottBourne) in a tweet about the Notre Dame fire.

Haiku Tuesday: Cherry-Blossoms

IMG 5175

The messenger, before giving the note,

Handed me branches of cherry-blossoms.

by Kikaku

Translation by Asataro Miyamori

Frida Kahlo: The Woman Behind The Legend

Found on the world wide web: the life and art of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in a four minutes video from TED Education. The animation is exquisite. 

Lesson by Iseult Gillespie. Animation by Ivana Bošnjak and Thomas Johnson.

Spring Is Like A Perhaps Hand

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Spring is like a perhaps hand

(which comes carefully out of Nowhere) arranging 

 a window, into which people look (while 

people stare 

arranging and changing placing 

carefully there a strange 

thing and a known thing here) and 

changing everything carefully 

spring is like a perhaps 

Hand in a window 

(carefully to 

and fro moving New and 

Old things, while 

people stare carefully 

moving a perhaps fraction of flower here placing 

an inch of air there) and 

without breaking anything.

 e. e. cummings (1894 - 1962)

The Snow of Cherry-Flowers

The Snow of Cherry-Flowers

Ah! the snow of cherry-flowers

Will bury the great Buddha’s lap.

by Kikaku

Translation by Asataro Miyamori

On Seeing In Photography

336A5741 Snapseed

I’ve mentioned in an older post that ”seeing”, really seeing what you’re looking at, is an essential skill for a photographer. For any visual artist in fact. Some people may have been born with it, while some may struggle. No fancy equipment can compensate for its lack though. The good news is that you can train it, as any art student can tell you.

And this is not something you’d turn on and off; it’ll change the way you look and see the world. For example, this black & white abstract photo ...


… converted from this.


It’s part of a sun screen structure on a terace in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Marrakech. 

We’ve been away for ten days in Marrakech, on vacation. I didn’t plan on any photo projects, but I always have a camera and a couple of lenses with me, even on vacation. As you know, the best camera is the one that you have with you. 

We’ve arrived early at the hotel, courtesy of Edelweiss and favorable winds, and the hotel offered us a suite with a terrace and a pool to freshen up and relax while the villa we had booked was being cleaned up.

 As soon as I stepped out on the terrace and saw this pergola, I knew it would make a perfect abstract photograph. I can’t help it. My husband was checking the view, trying the pool and ordering drinks, and the only thing  on my mind was to figure out the best angle for the composition I had in mind.

I’ve ended up spending the remaining hours taking a lot of pictures, from various angles, while my husband did what we were supposed to do on this trip: relax.

But in the end it was worth it.

A Prayer in Spring


Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;

And give us not to think so far away 

As the uncertain harvest; keep us here 

All simply in the springing of the year. 

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white, 

Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night; 

And make us happy in the happy bees, 

The swarm dilating round the perfect trees. 

And make us happy in the darting bird 

That suddenly above the bees is heard, 

The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill, 

And off a blossom in mid air stands still. 

 For this is love and nothing else is love, 

The which it is reserved for God above 

To sanctify to what far ends He will, 

But which it only needs that we fulfil.

by Robert Frost (1874 - 1963)

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