Autumn Swans | Why distraction is great for your creativity

Sometimes we just need a simple distraction. A way to get out of our own heads for a bit to regain focus. As photographers and creators it’s easy for us to be influenced by the big names we see on social media that preach “The Hustle” mindset. The, ABC mindset (Always Be Closing) for the older generations. And without a doubt that drive, the hustle, the good old fashioned hard work…well it’s often the recipe for reaching your goals.

The problem I have with it is that we view these influencers via social media, which means we see a highly curated view of their hustle. The way they achieve balance in life is rarely shown. What you see is the illusion of them working at a full speed ahead, always on the go, never stopping pace. You don’t see the moments of downtime spent scratching their head in frustration as they try to work through an issue of their own.

Now I’m no influencer by any means, I’m not one of those big names at all. But I’m struggling right now. See, I’m in the middle of a lengthy article that will go live very soon on this site. Something I’ve been working on over a few weeks, refining, editing, rewriting, starting over, well you get the picture. It’s a thought piece about if Instagram is a Creativity Killer. It’s an article that I’m genuinely struggling with. Bottom line…

I. Got. Stuck.

So, rather than just keep the hustle going and keep pushing, I made a much healthier choice and took some time to look through photographs that I made this last year and had no time to even review. While enjoying this distraction, this stress reliever, I stumbled across a handful of photos I made this past fall, the Autumn Swans.

There was something about them that drew me in. I remember the morning vividly as I look back at these photos. It was one of those mornings where it felt like I was wandering around inside of a painting. The colors seemed different because of the diluted light and there was an atmosphere that is hard to put into words. It was calming.

I watched those swans for a solid 20 minutes and made only 5-7 photos that whole time. When I saw these photos, I started to feel myself let go of what had me struggling with my Instagram article. I could feel myself beginning to feel unstuck.

So I kept scrolling and found another series of swans from another morning this fall. They were deep in the mist out on a lake. I only made another 4-5 photos of these swans but there was something about the silent way they glided across the still water that brought a feeling of peaceful clarity.

Then it clicked.

The idea that sometimes we just need that distraction. The idea that those distractions are not just a waste of time. Rather, they are essential to allow our brains to loosen up, relax and re-focus on the task at hand. I’m no doctor, but to me it feels like when you are working out and you get towards the end of that set of push-ups, your muscles are so tight from the constant work of the set you’re on but you finish that set and give those muscle groups a short break as you work on squats. Then a funny thing happens, you finish your squats and move into your next set of push-ups and suddenly you feel strong again and you keep working, moving forward, always making progress.

I think our brains work like this as well.

We need that distraction to allow us to progress. Maybe distraction is too strong of a word. I’m sure the life coach motivational speaker types out there would call it something fancy like a lateral step around a larger hurdle. But I’m a pretty simple guy, so distraction works for me.

Next time you are stuck, struggling and feeling burned out. Find your Autumn Swans and clear your mind. The path forward will open up before you know it.

Photo notes:

Photographs in this post created with a Fujifilm X-T1, a Fujifilm X-T10 and the Fujifilm  XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM lens. Processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic with Rebecca Lily Premium Color Grading System Pro Set IV.

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