Sometimes it’s hard to find a peaceful enough state of mind to shift gears into creative thinking. It’s easy to read motivational quotes and seek out the advice of others making life and photography seem so damned dreamy and perfect but there is a simple, under published truth to the matter which is that it is not always that easy.
There are periods of time where I feel as though I am walking through thick mud, each step a long, focused movement and eventually my shoes stick in the mud along the way. As time passes things get messier as I stumble forward still looking to seek out beauty with a mind distracted by simply staying balanced and upright. A beauty that is so easy to idolize in retrospect or from someone else’s point of view who may not have been quite as preoccupied.
“Photography is about life, people, light, and chasing down the joy in discovering a vitality hiding behind each new story, moment, or shared experience,” says the collective hopeful and unafraid of the world (including myself at times).
I work in an industry that is unpredictable and my schedule shifts on the fly from day to day so free time often comes at unexpected junctures and it makes planning time off tricky. Some days I wish with all my being that I will find a creative spark hiding in between pragmatic thoughts of cables, video resolutions, or the shade of purple that makes a client happy but try as I might I often find no room left when my body is drained and ready to collapse at the end of a day. After which comes another next morning and I wake again trying to sort out a healthy balance between day dreams and the obligations of reality.
I’m writing today because I know I am not the only one who struggles to find time to set aside for creativity. Even with all of the hopeful organization and time management in the world there are still unexpected distances I am forced to navigate and this often leaves me combing through my destiny like a blind man feeling his way around a photograph. It’s slippery, and I often fear that if I can’t get a firm enough grip the whole lot will come to its inevitable collapse wherein I look back 10 years from now and regret not doing more to fight to keep my creativity alive and burning.
Yet, despite these fears, when the black is as black as it can get and my eyes can barely hold their own weight after a long day, I am sometimes able to find bits and pieces of my devotion to creative thinking tucked away in an old song that once moved me through trying times, in flipping through an old book of photos, or recently, among the pages of a good novel. The funny thing about the present or the uncertainty of the future is that yesterday is always there to remind me that no matter how far removed from times of unhinged creative freedom I may be, there is usually a way to unlock that door my mind and seek refuge.
It seems ironic that I am finding creativity in writing about a lack of it but this isn’t all that surprising. In facing something I struggle with using writing as a means of escape I often feel the muddy clot in my mind loosen and wash away. Writing often brings with it a certain degree of mental lucidity and an excuse to clear my mind of other stresses to focus on one specific task. It’s therapeutic, both while watching the ink dry on a page as I write by hand or in the hypnotic rhythm of typing on a keyboard. Gathering up the best words to describe a feeling often seems to reorganize my mind and refocus it so even at times when I have absolutely nothing at all to say I start writing words on a blank page in an effort to untangle my thoughts. An idea crossed my mind recently to try and write short fictional passages, tiny stories, as a means to clear my mind and nudge it into a creative space.
When it comes to photography there is an entirely separate set of complications in locating that “on” switch while my mind is lost in the shadows of a stressful mind. With photography I not only need to focus my eye to see light as exposure and shapes as composition but I have to be physically present within a beautiful moment. I have crossed this topic before on these pages and have been slowly picking away at a dedicated writeup for what feels like ages now. To capture beautiful photographs one must exist within beautiful moments. This is not always practical or possible when, for instance, I am back and forth within the same venues from day to day, I commonly run out of fresh places shoot and can not always afford the time to go exploring.
Inspiration is a fickle thing, and unfortunately life has no pause button, so one must be vigilant. I often think to myself that I am “doing my best” to accomplish the lofty goals that I create but I have recently been considering what my best really is. Any time I catch myself browsing around for a new pen, camera lens, or record I double back and imagine what I could have accomplished in the time spent “researching” for some future purchase to aid a future project. Daydreams are a blessing and a curse. Some of us live in the past, others are perpetually stuck in the future, lest not we forget the present for it is what dreams are made of. That is, if you’re doing it right.
I have come to discover that it is all too easy to overthink and in turn loose focus of the act of being creative due to that hopeless search for the best tools for the job. It is sometimes all too tempting let the idea of perfection get in the way of thinking creatively. Finding the perfect app, having the perfect workflow, using the perfect camera, these things can end up making me second guess myself all too often. Relax, simplify, and move forward. I can’t count the number of times I have felt pangs of regret for not focusing free time on chipping away at a project rather than planning for them. You have no idea how often I have the thought, “if only I could focus all of my time and energy to fiftyfootshadows, then I could do something really great,” forgetting that there is plenty I could be doing to facilitate forward movement if I didn’t do so much second guessing.
Which brings us back to time, oh time… so fragile and misunderstood. There is a heaviness to each second we live and the weight can feel opaque and haunting when we are too exhausted to focus on being happy, yet when we manage to get our sails set straight into to the wind it quickly becomes a breeze that cools our impositions and leaves us having to anchor ourselves down to keep from cruising right passed all the best bits. The only way I have come up to manage the curse is to be aware, even if that simply means stopping something important for a few seconds and taking one deep, satisfying breath.
I wrote this at first out of a personal meditation in DayOne so the conclusion may not be one of any grand opulent revelation. It did help me focus on a few things by writing out my frustration and observations though, and as mentioned above, writing can be surprisingly effective for cleaning out the cobwebs. Now tell me, should you have an opinion on the matter, how do you manage to stay focused and inspired amid stressful days? Feel free to use the comments or link back here from your own site with thoughts, I would love to hear them.