Closing The Book

It’s been awhile.

Do Not Disturb! Author At Work. Recently I’ve had multiple questions on where I’m at on “the list.” They are casually referring to my Next List–a list that started with another 30 items in the bucket with another dream added on every time I cross an item off. It was a suggestion given to me that I ended up taking and running with which allows me to always have fresh goals and visions before me. Brilliant.

After sludging through another year and hanging on in survival mode, I found myself at a conference this last weekend that refreshed the spark that I thought had faded to ashes. Years ago on my original 30×30 list (my original bucket list of 30 things I wanted to do before turning 30 years old. My Maker blessed me with accomplishing 29 of those 30 dreams all before turning 30! I still pinch myself, but that’s a tale for another time), I had put “learn photography” on the list. Through a series of little and big steps of faith, I started my own photography business in 2009 that has had its ups and downs and twists and turns along the way. With the start of a new job a year ago that included a relocation and all the things that go with that, I set my photography business down and had put my efforts towards other endeavors and got distracted from the very thing that brings fulfillment to my world. Without realizing it, I also put down writing as well. Neither one was intentional, it just happened.

Fast forward to this last weekend and I had the pleasure of shooting an author’s conference where I was the sole photographer of the event and had the opportunity to offer customized portrait sessions for those ready to pursue bio portraits in the next step of their publishing journey.

I’ve been shooting this particular conference for about 5 years now and it’s always enjoyable to see familiar faces and catch up on trends in the writing industry. Figuring that I work in a newsroom as my day job, it may seem a little weird to some that I take vacation every year to do this, but I love it. Or I should say I used to love it.

This particular year I have to admit that for some reason I was less than pumped and couldn’t seem to rally any enthusiasm for what was ahead. I started feeling guilty knowing the probability of doing my clients justice was not looking good. Had I lost my passion? I went into it thinking maybe this had run its course and it was time for me to set it down. Photography, writing–everything.

Things do that sometimes. There’s a time and a season for everything and sometimes there comes a time to let things go. There comes a moment when it’s time to close the book. What once was exciting and passionate can lose its luster and it’s time to gently set it down and go in another direction. Some things just need to be retired.

Some things just need to be revived.

During the three exhausting days of the conference I found myself slowly seeing the creative spark get revived, even if it was just a flicker. There’s something about being in a room with other creatives who also have a dream and are actually doing something about it. We may not know what we’re doing all the time, but being around those who are showing an effort and a push to learn and move forward is quite refreshing.

I’ve had a second book sitting on my computer for over a year that is 3/4 of the way written. Honestly, I don’t know what to do with the ending and found myself stuck, much like in real life. Like a lot of things I don’t know what to do with, I set it down. Then I ignored it. Having a conference room full of people asking about your latest project somehow makes you face what you’ve been trying so hard to ignore. No matter how uncomfortable, I’m glad I went and I’m glad they asked. It forced me to face the truth.

The truth is I need to write. It’s a need that I have stifled and I have suffered for it. I also adore shooting people and have an inner need to connect with people through a lens. Something deep is missing when I’m not doing one or the other. Part of the reason I like shooting this particular conference and have done so year after year is the fact that I love reconnecting with the authors that have birthed their books and who now see their dreams in print and in full color. Being a part of someone else’s dream and helping them in some small way with their project is one of the very things that makes my heart sing.

Books to put on my author shelf

This year’s author pile.

For giggles, I took a copy from each of the authors I did photos for this last year and stacked them all together to create a display for what I lovingly call my “author collection.” Staring at the stack of books I felt an overwhelming mix of emotions–one was of pure pride for those that have seen their book dreams come to fruition, the other was guilt. Guilt that I almost didn’t go, guilt that I tried to get out of shooting the conference, and guilt that I had let my own dreams and passions get muted in the changes and upheaval of this past year.

I have another upcoming year of change and I am walking out of this last weekend with a thankful heart and a fresh determination not to let my future get muddied and faded with the busyness of survival. One day I will do more than survive…I will thrive again.  One day I will get to cross another dream off and add another thing to my Next List.

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Ashlee Bratton – author of the book “Life Before The Lottery: Living Beyond The Bucket” is a professional photographer, freelance writer, and (when she has to be) an inspirational speaker with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and master’s degree in business administration.

Along with completing 29 of the 30 things on her 30×30 list, her writing contributions include numerous publications such as Vail’s EAT magazine, creating a 56 page Visitor Guide for a mountain ski town, blogging and guest blogging, being featured in multiple newspapers and e-zines, and various other projects.

Currently, she keeps her camera in hand in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, is a complete and total foodie, and takes plane rides for fun. She likes things that go.


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