For those of you just joining us, welcome back to The Waiting Room, a series of essays solicited from the team at Heather Elder Represents that share insightful and sometimes hilarious tales about a learning experience with the agony that can come with waiting — stories of learning, adjusting and sometimes even appreciating it.
It is my hope that as we all keep navigating through the unknowns, that you will feel inspired by, and even draw strength from them. We truly are all in this waiting room together!
Kate Chase, Creative Strategist, Guest Editor
Ten Feet is a Win
By Hunter Freeman, Artist
Shortly after I was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy, we were given a lecture on the basics of survival. In the event of going down behind enemy lines and having to get back to my own lines, there were several important things to be learned. First, we should know that the Navy was going to do everything it could to get us back. Secondly, we should try to get back. I remember one really important thing from that discussion — to give ourselves small, achievable goals. If we were tired and exhausted, we should pick a spot that we knew we could get to, even if it was just ten feet. Then, pick another spot ten feet away and get to that. Then, keep doing that.
What that little bit of travel does is this: It gets you ten feet, and, more importantly, it is a success on which you can build another success — another ten feet. Every one of those ten feet is a win and is celebrated, however briefly.
Little successes turn into bigger ones over time.
I’ve never forgotten that. Combining those successes with patience nourishes a sense of accomplishment and confidence. Before you know it, you have gone a long, long way.
I had a practical demonstration of this in my own life. The first time I lived in Colorado, I did a lot of backpacking. One weekend, I left work late to join my friends in the mountains, who had gone ahead that Friday morning to get to “Twin Lakes.” I arrived at the trailhead near dark but decided the only way to catch up with them was to hike as far as I could that evening, bivouac, and then catch up the next morning. Disappointingly, the trailhead was actually an unblazed trail that was only marked by bits of orange surveying tape and wound through the trees. Using my flashlight, I followed the markers — not easily — and made my way to a large clearing around midnight, where I rolled out my sleeping bag (inside my bivouac bag) and immediately went to sleep. I was beat.
I woke up with the early rising summer sun, ate the rest of my gorp, drank some water, and headed out. I met up with the permanent trail — thank goodness for USGS topo maps — and began the slog uphill. I was several miles away from where I needed to be, and after a couple of hours, I was as exhausted as I have ever been, before or since. That was when I remembered that bit of advice in survival, and I followed it almost literally. I believed I could only make it ten feet, so that’s what I did. I went up the mountain, ten feet by ten feet, for the next couple of hours. I got to the sign for Twin Lakes and looking up the next rise, there were my friends, waving. It was all I could do to get up the next twenty feet to them, and I remember telling them all I wanted to do was eat and sleep. Re-hydrated camping food never tasted so good!
Small achievable successes, combined with patience, turn into great progress. I’ll always remember that.
Walking Into the Unknown
By Cade Martin, Artist
Waiting. I’ve always assumed that I am good at waiting.
As famed British novelist Edward Bulwer Lytton (or was it Bruce Lee?) once said, “patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is concentrated strength.”
We do that as photographers. While I am always doing the doable by self-assigning myself projects, it’s often a state of perpetual waiting and moving towards an opportunity. While working, I’m waiting and engaged in capturing the proverbial “decisive moment” in time.
But usually, that waiting is active. For a recent collaboration, I learned a bit more about really waiting. The premise of this personal project was that I photographed something I was inspired by but, unbeknownst at the time, I wouldn’t see or have a clue about the final product for nearly a year.
As a rule, the finished product of my commissioned projects are often a collaboration. It’s always a game of ideation ping pong, a creative back and forth as I work with my post-production partners and clients to get to a shared final vision, albeit with a deadline.
But this waiting was a waiting unlike any other.
I couldn’t stew or spark or tinker. The finished product, while collaborative, was mine, his, ours, in a way that expanded my idea of my own work in an unexpected way. I have always trusted my creative partners, but I am so appreciative of the perspective gained through this unorthodox partnership that I can’t wait to share where both of our work was taken in the best kind of unexpected directions. But you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer, please
But it was the waiting that was the hardest part.
And I’m grateful for that waiting, which felt hard as we are in this current hard time. There are things to find and learn. I am always going into places sight unseen and asked to create. There is always uncertainty in these situations, but I have always called them visual scavenger hunts offering the ability to find beauty and comfort in the unfamiliar. I can still do that, do the doable.
For a few years now, I have been working on a personal portrait project of creatives and communicators in the Mid-Atlantic region. Over the last couple of months, I have taken the opportunity to circle back to ask what the creatives are doing now. During their times of waiting, how are they feeling, how are they sparking creativity in this current, uncertain reality? This has become The Creative Now series. Reading how they were coping really helped me with my own moments of how to do less. Not always easy in an industry where we’re all moving at warp speed.
But I have certainly enjoyed being with my family over these last couple of months, but I found that I gained that quarantine 10. “How did this happen!?” Horrified, I immediately gave myself the goal of losing 10lbs in a week’s time. I made weight in eight days – a reminder that I need to have goals. Thank you, Peloton. You didn’t think I could do it, Jane Fairfax!
See you next Saturday with Chapters 8 & 9 from Missy Hunter with her Running Into the Unknown and Lauranne Lospalluto with Diving Into Everything. Come join us in the waiting room!