Seems like only yesterday we were all freaked out about the Y2K fraud.

And we have made it 12 years into what was called the new millennium, to find that it is pretty much like the old millennium… with a few tweaks.

This is New Years Day.

A time for many of us to take a look at what we did, and where we are going and how we might get there. It is simply, in reality, a day like any other. We humans like to apply distinguishing characteristics to things that really have none. It gives us order. It gives us a base from which to set contexts that we so very much desire.

So a few hundred million of us have made new years resolutions. We have decided from this Tuesday on, we will do the things we do with a different twist or maybe stop doing them altogether and do something new instead.

And a handful of us will, and most of us wont.

I read on Facebook that a New Years Resolution is a To-Do List for Wednesday.

Yeah, probably. I don’t know.

I don’t make NYR’s, as I know my capacity for changing more than a few things overnight is beyond my ability. I can focus on changing a few things and when they are changed, I hope they are catalysts for more changes.

I hate static statism. Standing still is not my style. I will cut through backstreets and make my way through uncharted suburbia instead of sitting still in traffic. I hate standing still.

So I try to move forward. Or at least move… heh.

I have been thinking a lot about what I will be doing this year of 2013, and how it may differ from last year, and what the momentum challenge would be to veer course. In fact I wanted to have my plans formalized way before today. And as of today they are still undergoing some transitions and finishing touches.

Life has a funny way of inserting itself noisily into any semblance of order one may wish to construct around one’s plans.

But before we look forward to LE in 2013, I want to look back and think about what I did wrong, and need to fix this year. I think it important to know what the path has been in order to construct a new and better one going forth.

Last year I focused on some things that will not get much attention this year, and I let some things slide that will get more attention.

Distractions: oh lord, do I get distracted. I have been so scattered that at times I was not sure what project I was working on and for who. Too much outside crap was allowed to seep into my daily work life that should have remained in a different part of my day. Too often I was irritated or involved deeply in things that I was not, nor will not be, able to change.

And that led to too many non-productive hours and days. Days that are lost forever to me. Days that I ‘could have’ written a couple thousand words. Days that I ‘would have’ taken some photographs if not otherwise distracted. Days that I ‘should have’ used for more productive and creative endeavors.

Yeah, I coulda, woulda, shoulda…

Three of the most lame, stupid, debilitating and devastating words we can ever use.

Could. Would. Should.

In fact they have no meaning. They are nearly singular in their insipid nothingness. There is no action applied to them. They are of no value in describing something. They are not something we can hold, or share. They are words of false self-redemption – a chance for us to change what is not changeable by going back in time and… and… and what? What do we do when we ‘could’ something?

Right now, take a moment and ‘Should’ something. Or ‘Could’ something. Go on, I am right here with you trying to figure out how I can ‘Would’ have something.

What action is required to ‘could’? What steps do we take to ‘should’? How will I know I have ‘would’ and it is complete?

Terrible words. Destructive words. Specifically damaging in the combination of the word ‘have’.

Think about this statement: “I tried to do that, but I could have lost my perspective if I would have made that change.”

Wow… what a load of shit. What they are really saying is, “Naww, that seemed too hard, so I didn’t give it a shot.” There is no other explanation since the could and would are not words that have any meaning in the real world. Those things might have happened, but more likely not. The person is obviously aware of the challenges to perspective that may arise and they are can be prepared to deal with.

I said those words too many times last year and I know better. Hell, I used to teach this stuff to people. I ‘shoulda’ known better than to ever let those words creep into my life, and yet… they did. No concentrated amounts of ‘shoulda’ gonna change that.

Banishing them is the action step. I cannot should have done anything.

I simply didn’t do it. Saying I could/would/should have has no bearing on the outcome, does it?

It didn’t get done. Or it was done and finished in the fashion it was. Nothing I can say now can fix, alter, edit, change, manipulate or otherwise transform what was done. I can add some ‘coulda’ with a dash of ‘woulda’ and guess what. It is still what it is.

Think about how it affects your photography. “I should have put a light back there” is meaningless. You cant’ because you didn’t. There is little knowledge, but a fine mea culpa for the crappy shot. How about “Next time I will put a light back there, to allow the texture of the background to show and increase the dimensional property of the photograph.” Great. Do that. Next time. No coulda woulda shoulda gonna make that photograph better, but making changes that are actionable, like ‘next time’ and ‘will’ are solid reinforcements for making a better photograph.

(And personally, I am not fond of the critique that starts out with “you should have…” Hey, buddy… you were not there. You do not have any idea what I was trying to do, nor whether your idea is a good one given my sensibilities and overall vision. Go ‘shoulda’ somewhere else. It is meaningless as a critique, cause there is no should… only what is.)

Meaningless words that crept into my vocabulary way too much. I will no longer go there.

Instead, I am going to get more done. I am going to own what I do, and press on. No excuses. No distractions that are easily explained away by meaningless words.

(It is possible to go into a long diatribe about the word ‘try’ but that little bastard deserves an entire article on it. Most insidious, self-destructive and ultimately limiting word ever… ‘try’… I call bullshit on “try”.)

Going forth there will be far fewer distractions. More jazz, less news. More poetry, reading and writing. No more ‘coulda’, ‘shoulda’, ‘woulda’ and a hell of a lot more “hey, take a look at this.”

Are you being held back by using these three words? They can be comforting when we do not think of what they really mean, but that comfort is false, and the destruction is real. Every time we use one of those words, we have endeavored to remove our responsibility for what was created and moved it another dimension… or something.

Change the words we use, and change our own world. Change our own world and see what incredible results we can achieve.

Think about the words you use to describe what happened. Are you cheating yourself of the joy of responsibility by using words meant to mitigate it?


Enabling Change… four books I recommend to photographers (and none have pictures in them).

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