Monday, November 26, 2012

The Ebb and Flow of Creativity II

Outside the box with Sharon

Q: Quick question... how do you keep from burning out? I feel like I'm hitting a creative wall!

A: That depends on where your creativity comes from! It also depends on how you "burn out" and how much momentum you need to keep creating. Every photographer is different, so we have to define your "system" and then address the causes for the breakdown of that system.

Do I sound like a consultant or what?!?

For me, I don't benchmark myself too much on what other people are doing. I do what I want to do when I want to do it. Meaning I don't look for external sources of inspiration a whole lot (ie. magazines, other photographer portfolios, etc.).

And with my "cycles" which span 1-3 months at a time, I have plenty of time to reflect and consolidate my gains. This is important for learning and true growth. Otherwise you never really know what you know. You're just on a whirlwind journey through your shoots!

I suggest to first scale back your shoots. I'm guessing you're shooting 2-3 times a week. Scale back to 1x a week (or less!). Spend some time away from the camera, away from the usual sources of inspiration and instead go do something else. Go to a museum. Go to a bar and get drunk. Go to your friend's studio and ask him about his trip to Italy. Or take a workshop with good photographer ;)

Creativity is a funny thing. First of all it is highly dependent on the artist. The sources are unique to the individual. It's not technically definitive. It ebbs and flows like Mickey Rourke's career. And it can be more fickle than scheduling a ModelMayhem model on a Saturday morning.

Creativity can not be controlled. It can only be influenced, tempered, and moderated. The best thing to do is figure out what makes you "tick". What inspires you? Then do your best to keep those "avenues" open. For example, if you are inspired by beautiful models, then you should maintain good relationships with your agencies. Or if you're really technically inclined then you should try different modifiers, cameras or Photoshop techniques. But there are plenty of other ways to stay motivated and inspired!

Personally I find that problems with creativity can often be solved just by changing your frame of reference. Shoot a different location. A different camera. A different light. A different camera angle. Different wardrobe. With other photographers. Under different conditions (weather, time of day, mediums such as water/air/etc.). The world is your oyster.

Problems with creativity can also be solved with money. Just throw money at the problem. Just watch how fast it goes away. The problem I mean, not the money. That too though.

Losing creativity usually means you're plateauing. But plateaus are necessary to consolidate learning and personal growth. So these "walls" are important for you to slow down and measure how much you've grown. Don't fight it. Embrace it! Creativity needs to be nurtured and not forced. By allowing yourself time to slow down you'll allow your unique concoction of creativity to reinvent and replenish itself. You'll be stronger for it. And you'll probably find your next growth spurt and new direction as a result of it.

As an editorial/commentary I find that photographers expect too much of "creativity". They ask that it always be there. Like an endless supply of fuel. One that you can always refuel just by going to the "pump". That it is steady and dependable like Old Faithful. And so photographers fight it when the supply wanes and they get upset when they lose that "loving feeling". The reality is that you only make things worse by trying to fight it. Creativity does not thrive under pressure. The more you try and force it, the less it's likely to happen. Perhaps that's the lesson. That's the challenge every photographer must learn, especially left-brained photographers that are goal-oriented.

Actually the more I think about it, creativity is not a fuel. It's a catalyst. It's that thing that makes other things spontaneously combust. It's "Magic". And perhaps that's the big misconception that photographers have when they try to "refuel" on sources of creativity.

For me, photography has been a fantastic introduction into the other side of the brain. The side that I always told to "shut up" because it was never dependable for producing consistent results. But the beauty of that side of the brain is that while unreliable, the results (when they come) are usually breathtaking and much more impressive than anything the left side of the brain could ever product. And as such, both sides are important. The left for the "rinse and repeat" stuff and the right side for the stuff that dreams are made of.

So again, I will reiterate: Do yourself a favor and figure out what makes you tick. Then do your best to give yourself the proper conditions for creativity to flourish. For me it's getting the variables out of the way. Removing lighting, other people, complicated setups, etc. that allows me to just focus on the model and let things flow and float. It's like that primordial soup that I've referenced in the past. You can't force life to spontaneously arise but given the proper conditions, it just might happen!

Here are some videos from about how others are inspired to create!

Here's the first post to creativity I write almost 2 years ago!

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