Hello, Life Experiment #3 (plus an update).

laser cut cubes

In this Year of Experiments, the past month was about Creating Order, and in fact, some order has been created, though–as The Organizer warned me there might be, lots remains to be done.

Here’s what my basement looked like then.

The Organizer takes stock










Here’s what it looks like now:

As they say in 12-step programs, it’s about progress not perfection.

That being said, here is what I’ve found: Order is calming. Order is freeing. Order is something I want. Order is also, as one friend noted, always a work-in-progress. It’s a habit, not a goal.

As it happens, the same is also true of the act of forging human connections–the focus of Life Experiment #1, where I connected (or re-connected) with 30 people over the course of January. Much more to be said about that, but for now, just to note that this practice also underscored for me the importance of habit.

So here’s the bottom line: where I started envisioning this Year of Experiments as consecutive, I’m increasingly starting to see it as cumulative.  Spending some time–in this case, a month–consciously focusing on a quality that enriches my life is sort of like planting a seed.

And now for Life Experiment #3, which is about seeing more (and seeing differently) and framing (and re-framing).  Or to put it in concrete terms, during this month, I’ll be taking at least one photograph each day.

There are a bunch of reasons I settled on this particular Life Experiment.

For one thing, I got a new camera a few months back, and I’ve yet to really use it. For another–and this is a big one–I’ve just started co-teaching a photo and writing workshop for foster kids and am awed by what I’m reading and seeing. I won’t say much more about that–their stories are theirs–but this is another way to connect with what they’re doing.

I also know from past experience that using a camera opens up the world in new and unexpected ways. Years ago, I spent some summer weeks at the Maine Photographic Workshops (now Maine Media Workshops), and I recall a pervasive sense of heightened awareness. Thought it occurs to me that this may not be saying much–I am someone whose boyfriend once shaved his mustache for her as a birthday gift (It was not my favorite look) and I failed to notice. That is until he told me that the mysterious gift he’d been hinting at for hours was “right under your nose–or rather under my nose.”

So clearly, I can use some practice with this seeing thing. As always, you’re welcome to join me. I hope that you will.

Copyright © Amy Gutman. All rights reserved.

11 thoughts on “Hello, Life Experiment #3 (plus an update).

  1. Very inspirational thoughts about the experiments, I’m a recent follower
    after your father mentioned that you blogged I looked you up. I really like the theme of Planb as well, it fits so well with the times. All the best with “classes” for the kids, it seems to me it’s a little like a giving advice to a newbie in AA, who get more from the advice?

    • Many thanks! I’ve gotten so much out of writing the blog, and it means a lot to know that people are getting something out of reading it.

  2. Amy, I love your idea of a Year of Life Experiments. #2 about order is resonating with me. Check out one of my latest posts (http://bit.ly/AFd65H ) on organizing my closet and my mind and you’ll see why. And I’ll be interested in seeing how #3 goes and look forward to your photographs. I just got a new camera also and am still experimenting. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Mary–and I just read (and commented on) your organization post, which I really enjoyed reading. Also noticed a number of other enticing posts, especially the one about women-led start ups and Shutterbabe (obviously very in sync with this month’s Life Experiment) Look forward to returning to read more!

  3. @Anne C.J. — Thank you! Your photos have definitely been an inspiration.

    @Anne F — Yes! What I’m aiming for this month is more attentiveness, though. Also to learn to use this new camera. My cell phone pics of a jaw-dropping full moon were . . . disappointing. (As in, what is that bright pinprick in the black space, and why did you photograph it?)

    @Laurie: Yes, yes! I just emailed you. Let me know if you didn’t get it. (amy@planbnation.net)

    @Sarah P–So lovely to see you here! Being a slave to order is something that (for better or worse) I do not grapple with. Slave to chaos? Sounds familiar. I’m hoping order & I will develop a working relationship. Also, on another topic, big congratulations on your book (Julia’s Child, everyone), which I’ve been hearing great things about on Twitter. Added to my to-read list. :-)

    @Cathy: Thank you! And hope the pickling (and all else) is going well.

    @Marion: As always, thanks for being such a supportive presence. You’ve been with me from earliest FB days as well as earliest blog days. Very grateful for that. :-)

  4. When I first started photographing a few years ago (after abandoning it when a photojournalism class in college sucked all the joy out of my interest), I heard several photogs say that they were good because they could “see light”. I bought that at first, not seeing it for the pompous remark it is. While light is key in photography, what I think it really does is open your eyes to the world in a different way, just as you anticipate it will. Have fun with your experiment. I hope you post some of your work here.

    I’ve done the same daily since the beginning of the year. For the past month, nearly every day the photos were taken on the same five mile stretch of greenway that I walk. Every day I see something new.

  5. Amy, do you ever review books? I noticed in this piece that you spoke of working with foster kids. I have a book about fostering and raising a severely traumatized child. It’s been getting some stellar reviews but very few sales. Might you be interested? It’s RAISING ABEL written with the pen name Carolyn Nash. It’s on Amazon. You can see some of the reviews there. I’d be happy to send you a copy with no obligation.

    I’ve just been laid off from my 11 year job and recently started reading your blog. Rings so true. One of the reasons I’m taking things in hand and trying to get the word about my book out.

  6. The greatest cool thing for me about the advent of cell phones with cameras has been that I always have my camera. Sure it’s great for snapping pictures of the kids, but I’ve gotten into the habit of stopping and taking pictures of a pretty sky, a neat railing, a lovely flower. It has given me something very big even though they’re just ratty, muddy cell phone snaps.

  7. I love order! But sometimes I am its prisoner. For years I thought “I cannot finish this book in a messy room.” And, lo, I did not finish the book.

    I’ve gotten better now. I can ignore visual chaos, if not auditory chaos.

    Even order has its downside.

  8. Wise words, powerful pics! Congrats, Amy, progress not perfection. I’ll resonate with that one!

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