racking focus

In film, to rack focus means to shift focus from something in the foreground to something in the background. I am a writer and a filmmaker. I imagined the movie, wrote the script, gathered the supporting cast and called out the word, “Action!” and took it. My world came to life – this house, this marriage, this family, and this career.

I am the filmmaker of my life.

To someone else, the world plays out as a different movie. But I can only see it through the lens of my own experiences and memories. Despite a few missed cues, a couple of retakes and some errors in continuity, I have been content with the picture that’s played out before me. The foreground is lovely and crisp. In fact, for a long time it was so sharply in focus that I was able to successfully ignore something that lingered in the background — something slightly out of focus, but there nonetheless. It was my novel. It was lingering there in the background, waiting for me to shift my attention, waiting for me to rack focus.

I kept my gaze on the foreground, as fleeting glimpses of characters and odd snippets of conversations flashed in my periphery. That novel was pulling, edging in, beckoning. It is that tug of a deep desire to fulfill a life long dream that can seem like a flick of dust caught in the corner of your eye. I could hear it in the confident hum of the twin-engine plane flying over my house on a summer’s eve — in that sound of freedom and exploration. I could feel it in the words of Henry David Thoreau who wrote,

Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.

The filmmaker inside me was urging me to rack focus — to turn my attention to those characters, listen to those conversations, lift those dreams from where they’d been left to fossilize, and turn them over in my hands, take a closer look and unearth what was there. I did. Now that novel is written and another is beckoning.