D.T. Pennington

Writer – Photographer – Creative Coach

Notes on Disinspiration Pt. 2


This has been a strange year. We all have tough days and weeks. A pallor sets in over things and blocks the brightness and, well, you just get to be in it. That’s been this year, all of 2023, to this point. It didn’t help that we lost a dog back in January right after the turn of the calendar, and that made everything a bit sour since then. With work, I’m stuck between wanting to help people sell more of what they’ve got, and wanting to rip people out of the grips of the endless consumerism that has driven us all batshit.

You know the mental health stuff. The head meds and the quitting the bottle. My body is sore all of the time, and nothing quite feels right. Yet, when asked, I can’t help but say “I literally have nothing to complain about.” Even though I do, we all do. But what are you allowed to have grievance over in a world that livestreams its misery? What should you do when you know the bad guys are going to win like they always do?

For now, I suppose, I stop watching the news. And while I craved a cold beer the other day after I worked on the truck for a few hours, I managed to resist, cutting out the booze has helped. I don’t necessarily feel better, but I do feel a different kind of not great. What do you call that?

In my last missive to you I dropped the idea of “disinspiration.” Dis-inspired. The stuff coming in just wasn’t cutting it. I think this is a matter of flow state. Two ways about this:

  1. I told you how I was going through a lot of my old hard drives, and in them are a ton of old photos I’ve taken over the years. Quite the shutterbug back in those days. Now? Not so much. Maybe I tell myself that I have the camera on my cell phone, so I don’t need to carry the Sony – but then the camera just stays in the pocket and at least with the Sony people expect you to shoot something with it. Anyway, I found a few of my favorites I’ve forgotten about – I’ll attach a few below.
  2. Something I haven’t done since college: draw a naked woman.

Well, I tried to draw a naked woman, rather.

I come across this event listing for a life drawing session hosted in one of the local galleries of the main drag around here. A few models, a few hours, bring your own stuff and just…draw. I paid the ten-dollar donation at the door and settled into a plastic folding chair and away they went. The model I sat near was a young woman, pretty, fully nude with all the hair right where it should be. She had to be a dancer with a stomach like hers, and her pale skin was littered with tattoos. The evening started quick – several two-minute poses to get the gestural movements down, then slowing to ten, then thirty, then an hour-long pose.

I wasn’t great at it in college, and I’m likely worse at it now that I’m well out of practice. What I had never realized is how much of an experience it is. You’re in a room with other folks, all of you minding your own, eyes glancing between subject and page as you smudge graphite around the page. The only sound is the ambient music in the corner (was it, perhaps, the Patti Smith/Eno collaboration?) and the scratching of pencils. Naked women at the center of attention (there were two), but far from sexualized. Instead, you had to break their bodies down into the general shapes of skin under light and then build them up on the page to resemble something like a human figure. Not necessarily the one on the platform in front of you, but the one that exists in the space between subject and page, the one that is stretched and distorted by your brain.

A collection of artists, sitting in an art gallery, making art out of a person with art painted on her skin. Meta. Right?

Two and a half hours vanished as I sat in the lower level of the gallery. Just, vanished. I hadn’t felt anything like that in a long, long time – the thing they like to call the flow state. I had nowhere to be, my phone was in the truck, and there wasn’t much else to do but scribble on the pad for a few hours. Of course, there was plenty to hold my attention, but in this case there was only ONE thing to keep my attention – different than our world that is full of a million things a moment trying to grab your focus.

It made me think of my writing lately. The flow state isn’t there. Everything I put to the page is a chore (this letter, you’re very welcome). I used to love this – weaving together little stories with the idea that I’m holding someone’s attention. But as I asked before: what is the writer if no one reads?

Maybe I’ve been writing the wrong thing for too long. All the marketing stuff and breaking down the psychology of language in layman’s terms so someone on the other side of the world might make their sales quota for the year. Like an engine running too long on the wrong fuel – it’ll work in a pinch, but eventually the gaskets will give out.

The evening of figure sketching, the hours I can spend editing video or working with photos -maybe there is still an element of novelty to it, but these seem to be the few things that I can really lose myself in.

Perhaps, then, this is what it is to simply live. Create, yes, but continually create into something different. More? Improved? Of the moment?

This world is changing, can you feel it?


P.S. As promised, some of the old photos I favored: