I think about writing a lot lately. I don’t know if it’s just from a need to somehow output my thought process to the world, maybe it’s an attempt to document fleeting ‘moments of clarity,’ or just the desire to try to focus my thoughts into something tangible (& coherent). I used to write more frequently in the past, but recently my fears of inadequately capturing everything I wanted to communicate kept me from ever finishing a blog, or certainly posting anything online for all to see.
However, I’m struck yet again by the same inevitable conclusions about how I function, my creative thought process, & what really is fundamentally important to moving forward & producing interesting work. It’s a vicious cycle that needs playing out over & over.
It’s no secret that passion is the lifeblood of a career. It’s the fuel for creating ‘art,’ & what keeps someone going when others might pull out & quit. Passion. I know that this is quite often lost on many trying to enter (or even those established) in the photography field, but I can’t imagine a more important lesson to be learned (& relearned) as often as possible. A rebirth.
It is logical & only natural that real life & all the other happenings that bombard us on a daily basis can serve to numb our senses & fog up this central point. Slowly it can wear our motivation down, & leave us feeling apathetic to the whole process. It’s only in those rare moments that we experience beauty do we remember that which brought us here in the first place.
I think it occupies more of my mind & life than I realize. I tend to feel stress, worry, & a ‘longing’ sensation usually without the direct connection to the underlying issue of ‘why.’ From making choices when I get up each day, to planning my week, or planning goals for the future … these are all ‘whats’, means to an end, things to do, but Why? Why am I doing … whatever I’m doing?
This blog is a reminder, mostly to myself, but hopefully to a few others that share the same experience. That one must constantly refill the ‘well of creativity.’ Think of the well as the source of sustenance for your passion, like water to life. Working hard, networking, creating, even just the desire to create itself, it burns fuel, it all drinks up the water. For some of us the well runs deeper than in others of course, but even amongst the best of us the resources are finite & need constant replenishing. It’s simple; the more water you gather & pour in, the more you can take out. Luckily, it will always rain again. So as long as you don’t run away & hide in a hole, life will invariably create opportunities to rejuvenate your passion. In moments of beauty … natural or man-made, through personal experiences or interpersonal relations, visible examples or just something felt by the heart … whatever stirs emotion or gives a feeling of appreciation, there are so many things all around us.
How someone uses these opportunities is really the main difference between us. It’s amazing how some float through life & think only of themselves. Lacking vision, their narrow field of view yields a minimal scale of possibility. Inversely, I don’t think it’s good to be high on life every waking moment either, but like anything else sustainable & ‘practical’ (if that’s a good word for it), a key requirement is balance. To use the experiences we’ve gained to find context, by sorting through the bullshit. To have the tact to recognize the resources staring us in the face, find the confidence to go after them, maintain discipline to stay focused, & then to effectively channel those resources to reach the loftier goals that may take more time or energy.
Personally, I have found there are a few basic things key to facilitating this process. It took me a long time to really recognize them. How I appreciate them has certainly evolved with time, & will continue to evolve.
Music for example, generates a dramatic change in my mood. Having a strong interest in finding new, moving music has kept me on track & brought back the spark many times. It’s a very personal experience. I know some people take much pleasure in sharing musical experiences, live performances, etc, but in my case it is equally (if not more important) to be experienced alone. Whether out on a long drive, walking the streets, editing photos, or while just browsing around the net for ideas, good music allows my mind to loosen up & catch on fire. Like it’s a soundtrack in the background of a movie called my life.
Nature is another critical source. It fills me with a sense of curiosity, mystery, & awe. We need to feel that there are things larger than ourselves, for some that need is filled by religion, but for me it’s a healthy dose of reality from taking in the complex yet logical order of nature. Getting away for a break is not only a chance to catch some fresh air & exercise, but it cleanses the mind of so much nonsense that’s built up in ‘civilization.’ All the superficial silliness & drama, the lacking aspects of human nature, man-made stresses, they all become a little less pertinent … so then what’s really important can come into perspective.
These elements are crucial to the mind, body, & spirit being able to moving as one. Only when all three are balanced & working together does someone reach their full potential. This again sounds basic & logical, yet amongst most people it usually fails to make the leap from a sound idea to use in practice. Particularly amongst those in my field, artists, intellectuals, driven professionals … it’s like their life is lopsided. All the thinking in the world can’t bring you to the same place as finding balance between your mind & your body, through physical challenge. We are susceptible to our biology. The body must be challenged to heighten the senses & speed the mind, forced by physiological necessity. The problem lies in that we are very rarely forced to do anything. We have complete freedom to live our lives as slobs, skip the daily run, or indulge our eccentricities, with perhaps only a lax consensus of pop culture pressure to judge us or force us to meet some perceived status quo. This freedom can be both a curse & a blessing. It takes a lot of discipline to seek, find, & maintain a balanced lifestyle. It comes from within, & it’s difficult to find people who truly even want that, let alone have the will to achieve it.
Equally important & requiring a similar balance is the relationship between the outside world & internal identity. Like the nature versus nurture argument, are we a product of genetics or of our environment & cumulative experiences? I personally believe it’s the combination of the two. When producing creative works, we pull from our experiences & what’s personally relevant. However, the effective communication of our ‘art’ sometimes requires us to understand the society, history, & context of the audience. Resonating images most often play on universal human elements we all share … primarily our emotions. Sadness, joy, love, there is no secret to what makes a still image ‘interesting.’ We use these emotions to create & capture story, painted in light. I don’t believe one needs to constantly objectify these things to create something moving … more often in my experience it just ‘happens’ – perhaps our decisions are guided subconsciously – but it doesn’t hurt to understand the recipe.
If you have something that you are passionate about, use it. If you were shaped by some childhood experience or trauma, or if you can infuse elements of your cultural heritage, draw from these strengths that make you uniquely you. Recognize that your perspective is possibly one of your best assets. If you can qualify your internal identity, you’ll be better able to merge your ideas with the rest of the world & produce powerful work with your own signature style.
To better facilitate these ideas, we need to consciously create the best environment possible. This could be achieved by choosing the most stimulating place to live (geographically or culturally), or simply surrounding ourselves with the right people. Whatever choices we make, try to evaluate how each benefits or hinders the creative process, & perhaps isolate yourself to a degree so you can better focus. Once there you must constantly refine & reevaluate, because we are not static beings. What we want & need changes as we evolve as a person, but it can be easy to get stuck running through the same obsolete motions.
The way I see it, we all have creative moments & ideas. The frequency, intensity, & quality of these moments & ideas can be defined as one’s natural talent. The ability to learn, adapt, & execute these ideas is the test of resourcefulness. While the realization & translation of these ideas into a perceptible reality is the measure of success. So if you find yourself feeling a bit low, uninspired, or lacking motivation, try to remember why you started in the first place. It’s simply human to struggle with this, but see if there’s something you can do to jump-start your drive & fill your well; it might be fairly obvious & there is always so much more we can do.
Take some time aside for self-evaluation & consider your perspective.
Take breathing for example. We all breathe. Yet if you are or have ever been an advanced athlete, practitioner of martial arts, or something intensely physical, you know the true power of breathing. For many ancient art forms, breathing is the foundation of strength to master the physical or control your mind. Considering this fact it can we said that we all breath, but we do not all breath the same, or more succinctly we do not all look at breathing in the same way.
I believe it is the same with anything else. It doesn’t really matter what gives you passion, only that you have it, & have the will necessary to keep it.