Illustration by Julie M. Elman

Allow me to confess. I am jealous of you. If you’ve ever published your beautiful work in a magazine or edited a TV show or received an award, I am jealous. I’m, of course, happy for you, but if I’m really honest, I’d have to admit that I’m really jealous, too. In fact, I once came across a video of a childhood friend being interviewed about his new book on investment banking, and even though I’d rather have a month of root canals than sit through a lecture on Series A funding, I was even jealous of him.

I’m not…

Illustration by Julie M. Elman.

It’s the end of 2020 as I write this, and I am exhausted. I’m sure you are too. By just about all measures, this has been a horrible and overwhelming year. And yet, with all the time spent alone, there’s been an unspoken expectation that we should somehow be more creative. I know I’ve certainly tried.

In March, illustrator Julie Elman and I began an Instagram project, @whenthisisover. People from around the world shared with us, in photographs and illustrations, their plans for a post-pandemic life. It was heartening to bear witness to the hopes of so many. But by…

from quinn_emma

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.

– Frederick Buechener

But I am afraid.

And I know you probably are too. It feels like there is no certainty anymore, not for us, not for our families or the ones we hold dear.

We wash our hands until they are raw. We spray our doorknobs with disinfectants and some of us pray, though it’s been so long we have trouble remembering the words.

But in these times let’s not forget hope, that one day this too will be over and that we will all reunite…

Creativity is not a light switch. Unfortunately, you can’t just turn it on when you need it and then flip it back off when you’re done. Sometimes it feels more like a weather system that blows into town without much explanation. Then, just as mysteriously, it heads back out to sea. So the question for me is, what can I do to foster more of these visits? What actions can be taken to encourage creativity to make more house calls?

illustration by Julie Elman

With a new year starting to unfold, now is probably a good time to revisit some of the habits that…

If your creative process is anything like mine, then you know what it’s like to feel stuck. You’re halfway through an edit or an essay and suddenly — nothing. For me, that’s where rumination begins. As the drummer Questlove writes in his book Creative Quest, ideas need an opportunity “to settle in. Take root, flower, bloom, grow, dangle.” The unconscious needs time to tease out the knots. And you have to then pay attention in order to be aware of those new connections as they present themselves. The filmmaker David Lynch compares the process to fishing. …

For the past five months, I’ve been editing the first hour of a four-part series on veterans in America, and the project has changed how I zoom in on images.

Previously, I would set a keyframe at the beginning and end of an image, increasing the size of the latter by 10 percent. This would make the photograph zoom in over the course of its duration.

The problem here is that although the image increases in size, its center remains the focal point, and in most instances, the dead center of a photo is not where the most important content…

I love being a freelance editor; I also kind of hate it. If you’ve ever been a freelancer yourself, I’m sure you’re familiar with the ambivalence. Case in point: Nothing beats the comfort of sitting in a café, sipping a cocktail on a Wednesday afternoon, knowing you have a month of work lined up starting next week. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is locked away in tall buildings, and you feel like you’ve somehow gamed the system. But the same situation with nothing on the books? Well, that’s an invitation to a panic attack.

In 2017, I left a…

illustration by Julie Elman

Limitations exist in even the best projects. As an editor, here are some of the most common I encounter:

The interview is shot with only one camera.

There are no cutaways.

Archival material doesn’t exist.

The director doesn’t have a vision.

Photographers, no doubt, have their own recurring obstacles. And we’ve all struggled with production shortcomings that result from financial compromises.

In 2005, I was eager to direct a short film I wrote but lacked the requisite money to hire a cameraperson, rent lights or pay for pretty much any of the items necessary to actually produce a movie. So…

This is a revised list that was originally published on Medium and then edited again for the March/April 2019 Issue of NPPA’s News Photographer magazine. Credit and thanks to Julie M. Elman for the wonderful illustrations and editor Sue Morrow for the inspiration and support.

In October of last year, I was invited to Western Kentucky University’s Mountain Workshop, where I coached a team of video producers. This essay is an abridged version of my evening talk, in which I passed along some advice I wish someone had told me when I started.

Mind the Gap

When it comes to encouraging beginners, no one in my book beats Ira Glass, radio host of This American Life, who by his own admission was a terrible storyteller at the beginning of his career. This passage comes from a video interview titled “Ira Glass on Storytelling 3.”


Eric Maierson

Writer & Filmmaker

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