Geoff Dyer, in his eclectic and wide ranging book on photography, includes a fresh observation from Dorthea Lange, the brilliant photographer of Depression era Americans. She said,’ to know ahead of time what your looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting’. For her it was good to work ‘completely without a plan’. To thus photograph ‘that to which one instinctively responds’.
I love her insight that to plan ahead means that you are then working from a place of your preconceptions. Which raises the question of what is the option? Can we really make our way in life by trusting and following that to which we intuitively are drawn? As I reflect back on my life I realized that contrary to my belief in the primacy of planning and strategizing, almost all of the significant moves in my life (work, relationships, hobbies, places) have been when I have either not had a plan or I was grabbed enough that my preconceived idea of myself or where I was going dropped away.
Maybe this is heart over mind? But my sense is it is more that I either had an open mind or the natural enthusiasm transcended or side tracked my vision or goals or thinking. Which reminds me of the lyrics of “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” which contain the famous Lennon quote “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”
An irony in the Lennon reference is it wasn’t Lennon who first said that, the expression can be traced back to a 1957 Reader’s Digest article, which attributes it to Allen Saunders. I guess a mildly humbling reminder that when we are following our instincts, we are not alone. And more importantly for me, whether it’s a design or imagining my future, the far richer and more meaningful path has been to let go of much of my thinking about what it should be like and stay tuned for what life offers up that resonates. And when my knickers are in a twist about anything it’s a good time to step back and wait for a new insight.