We’ve all struggled to find inspiration in our photography, but have we looked deep inside ourselves to realize we may be the problem?
Inspiration is fleeting and doesn’t appear for everyone.
Let me tell you a little story. The last few years of my life have been incredibly difficult in terms of personal situations in which it feels like life has just hit me with a truck and continued to slam me into a wall.
During the last few years I’ve had many moments where I’ve felt creatively uninspired, a ‘writers block’ for photography if you will. It was like there were no ideas coming to me, no matter how badly I wished for them to show up.
Only recently was I reminded of advice we’ve all heard before. Being creative means that inspiration and the really good ideas only happen now and then. It’s what we do in between that really matters.
I was at a total dead end with ideas I felt were worth pursuing, but no better ones had come to mind. So I figured “why not” and just jumped into a couple small ideas I’ve had on the back burner for a while. I didn’t expect them to turn into anything great, or even see the light of day.
And they didn’t.
But amazing things happened that I didn’t expect. New ideas started to form. In fact there have been a flood of new ideas and I’ve had to go back to keeping them in my notebooks because I don’t want to forget about them. So what gives?
How most go about finding it, ends poorly.
Inspiration is everywhere. It’s in other photographers work, movies, music, tv, books, conversations, and most importantly the world around us.
The secret behind inspiration and motivation is that sitting back and waiting for it may yield you an occasional idea. But overall, you’ll sit and wait.
Frustrations will grow.
You’ll spend your time convincing yourself it’s ok to wait for it and if it isn’t happening the best thing to do is just wait it out and not try to force it.
The “obvious” solution will be to throw ourselves into consuming other peoples’ work. Since we aren’t feeling inspired to pick up our own camera, looking at other work will be the magic bullet we need.
Maybe we spend time really diving into historical greats as a whole, trying to expand our view of our art.
At other times we go all in on one photographer, process, style, or genre. By immersing ourselves in just that one thing, we’ll surely be inspired to pick up our own camera. Think of how much we are learning.
There is nothing wrong with doing those things, in fact there is great value in doing so.
But you will not find the inspiration to pick up your camera and create your own work.
Worse yet, you may convince yourself that you have lost the passion in creating your own work, it would be best to sell of your gear and quit trying.
Seeking inspiration via inaction is a terrible trap.
It’s an excuse. An excuse I’m just as guilty as the next of making.
I’ve come to the conclusion, and I do firmly believe this, that our personal well of ideas, inspirations, and motivations is infinite.
While the well of ideas is infinite, our collection of water jugs in which to draw on them is somewhat limited.
Much like water, we need to keep the flow of fresh ideas coming by using them up, thus freeing up more space in our minds. Big or small, regardless of if they are always related directly to the type of creative work you enjoy doing.
Our minds can only handle and focus on so many things. When we get in that creative rut, or feel uninspired, we likely just have too much going on in our heads.
It could be photography projects we’d like to do but haven’t started, or projects we thought up and continue to think about but won’t start because we are second guessing ourselves.
It might just be other, non-creative, ideas such as trying to figure out how to pay off debt, juggle tricky schedules, or plan for those projects coming up on your house.
Inspiration, motivation, and creativity are hard work.
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso
We can’t just sit idly and hope an idea comes to us. By actively working on that idea list in our minds we begin to foster new ideas.
I like to think of it in terms of water flowing. We act on a creative idea and while working on it that idea moves into a reality and makes room for the next idea.
Sometimes that idea will come because the idea we are working on is crap and it spurs us to think about how we would do something different with it.
Maybe it shows us we’d rather be doing something totally different, a direction we were not even able to imagine because we were stuck on the original idea occupying valuable space in our minds. We need to clear out the crap to make way for the good.
When we don’t act, don’t put in the work, those idea’s build up and form a dam in our minds. Blocking the flow of inspiration from entering…anyone thirsty yet, no? Must just be me.
We are creatures meant to create.
We as humans were given a brain for a reason.
There’s no doubt we were meant to think, reason, study, interpret, and analyze. But we aren’t just a functioning brain in a jar.
That brain is attached to a body that allows us to move and take action. Where we run into trouble is when we don’t want to keep putting in the work.
It’s much easier to convince ourselves we need a time to just think of new ideas, to study the works of others, to plan for the next project. Taking a break now and then is ok. It can help us recharge. But be careful.
Next thing you know, you’re stuck in the think trap of planning paralysis. Rather than simply picking up our camera and shooting, taking the first step on whatever hair-brained idea pops into our head first, we get paralyzed in the act of plotting out every step of the project.
Before we realize it, we’ve sat plotting and thinking about it so long that we’ve already decided we know where it’s headed and that it will fail or not be good enough, so we never begin.
We’ve all done it. Decided that the finished product of our ideas are not good enough without ever taken even the first steps in actually creating it.
WHAT?! How do we know when we haven’t done anything but think about it.
The quote is true. Inspiration needs to find you working.
Sitting idle, thinking, reading, planning, and waiting for inspiration to show up so you can share all your great ideas is nothing more than an excuse to avoid the one thing you really need to do.
Take. The. First. Step.
Start the work, it’ll be good or it’ll be crap, it doesn’t matter. It’ll free up your mind and allow room for new ideas, new inspiration, to flow in.
You never know, that next idea to flow in may be the amazing one you’ve been waiting for.
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