May 3, 2012

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Guest Post: John Langford: Writing about writing about writing.

John Langford and I have known each other for years, but really only in passing. Roughly the same industry. About the same network. Never really connected as friends—until he moved a thousand miles away and started his 3 year trek around the world. Well, shit, now I gotta hang with this guy! Funny how that happens, no? The moment one starts to live their passion, new connections sprout. I started following his blog and corresponding through email/facebook, and have found that we share a mutual love for travel, creative exploration, and as you’ll read below, the art writing.


– Matt

cosmic candid camera

Writing about writing about writing.

I fell in love for the first time when I was 17.

She’s happily married now and lives in London, but we still exchange e-mails a few times each year and catch up on each other’s lives. I’ve been in love a few times since then, but my longest relationship is with photography, my constant companion for more than 25 years.

I feel so fortunate to have spent a quarter of a century being paid to do something I love. And now that I’m not doing photography for a living and just doing it for fun, I feel more creative than I ever have. No rules or regulations or art director standing over my shoulder wanting me to shoot it six different ways.

But this is supposed to be a blog about writing. I know nothing about writing except that it feels good. I love it. Just like I love mowing the lawn or washing a sink full of dirty dishes, there’s a real feeling of accomplishment when I look at what I’ve done. Although with mowing the lawn or doing the dishes, you know when you’re finished.

When I was In the eleventh grade, there was a girl in my English class named Georgia Hodges. She had thick blonde hair and straight white teeth and a dazzling smile, as well as other moving parts that a 16 year old boy couldn’t help but notice. I sat right behind her, but she didn’t know I existed. One day I glanced over at desk of the guy sitting next to me in class and saw that he had written the words “You’re my blue sky, you’re my sunny day” on a piece of paper.

After class, I saw him talking to Georgia as he handed her the folded up piece of paper torn from his spiral notebook. It wasn’t until years later that I found out that those are the lyrics to an Allman Brothers song. I don’t know if Georgia knew either, but she sure was smiling that beautiful smile of hers.

I’ve kept a journal for years. When I got rid of all of my possessions a year and a half ago, I found a box containing about 40 notebooks that I had accumulated over the years. I painstakingly scanned or photographed every single page so that I can keep them on my computer. Clearly I get something out of writing.

Why am I telling you all this? Because of the joy I’ve received from writing this blog. Having spent most of my adult life as a “creative”, it’s such a wonderful surprise to discover a new outlet for my creativity, and one that exercises a completely different set of muscles. I’ve found that it brings me as much pleasure as photography, and unlike the latter, doesn’t require any particular lighting or special equipment. What it does have in common with photography is the need to focus, to pay attention to detail and to have a clear subject in mind. And to get rid of anything distracting that dilutes or diminishes it.

Because writing a blog is still relatively new to me, I’m not bound by all the rules and regulations that a seasoned writer is. As an expert photographer, I found that often times I would rule out certain possibilities because, based on my experience, I was certain they wouldn’t work. But sometimes, because I’d run out of solutions or because an inexperience assistant suggest a naïve approach, I’d try them and find to my astonishment that something I was absolutely positive wouldn’t work, did.

That’s where I am as a writer. A beginner. I don’t know enough to know what writers aren’t supposed to do, so all possibilities are open to me. I’m beginning to develop a sense of style. And as was the case when I started taking photographs, I’m doing it for fun…for self-expression…for me.

And just like my ongoing trip around the world that has taken me through 24 countries in the past 20 months, writing is a journey with twists and turns and often unexpected destinations. I can’t wait to see where it goes.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” :: Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki

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Check out more of John’s blog entries and stories from the road(he’s in Panama at the moment) at

You can also find him on Twitter: @johnmlangford

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