The past six months have been stressful and full of uncertainty as we adapt to a changing world. This is especially challenging for those of us who rely on social interaction to make a living. I’ve had to cancel all of my workshops for 2020 and that has certainly made it difficult to feel confident about the future in terms of travel and group dynamics.
One thing that has always been clear to me, and is certainly clearer now more than ever, is that proactively adapting to change is the only way to move forward as an artist. Whether that change is driven by internal or external forces, how you adapt and embrace them can be the difference between thriving, or frustration that leads to disappointment and failure. And while failure can indeed be a good teacher and motivator, it can also become the end of a journey.
I’ve always tried to look ahead and anticipate how things might change, both in the world at large, as well as in my mind and heart. I certainly didn’t see this pandemic coming nor did I realize how widespread its effects would be. Nonetheless, I am grateful for my health and for the opportunity to choose a positive attitude amidst all the hardship, whether with my family and friends or with the larger online communities I’m part of, including this one.
The feedback I’ve received from the Creative Critique live streams
made it clear that you found it helpful—and that’s all I need to feel motivated and inspired. However, many of you have asked me how to stay motivated, how to maintain a sense of momentum creatively during these difficult circumstances. And I too have struggled with these questions.
I can only share what has worked for me, and that is my commitment to a daily creative practice, even when I’m tired, uninspired, or being tempted by endless distractions.
Eric Maisel says, “Practice…signifies a daily activity that we take seriously and that we mark off from the rest of the day in a clear way. It has a clear beginning and a clear end and invites our best self into the room, the self that really knows how to think thoughts that serve it, that intends to matter, and that feels itself connected not just to the smallness of the day but to the bigness of everything.”
I encourage you to consider establishing your own daily practice. Even if you haven’t or don’t have the opportunity to get out with your camera or meet with your camera club as often as you’d like, there is much you can do to remain engaged and motivated.
- Read some books to refresh or learn new skills and techniques.
- Spend time every day learning and mastering a tool in your preferred editing software
- Look back at your catalog of images and try to identify patterns and themes that can become the foundation for a body of work.
- Re-visit older images to see how you might develop them differently to complement your current vision, which is not the same as it was in the past. How might this fit into the themes you identified before?
- Explore other art forms; learn more about painting, not only by studying great paintings, but the techniques used. Color, light, composition, atmosphere, rhythm—all of these are common concepts that will influence how you see, make, and develop your images.
- Find and listen to music that you think bring your images to life. There are deeper connections between the two than you might realize or appreciate, and discovering this will bring you important insights. I do this all the time, especially when I’m evaluating or developing images, and its influence is hard to describe but very profound. Similarly, silence is equally a powerful ally.
- Finally, engage with a community of like-minded people. Share your knowledge, help someone who needs motivation, gently encourage others to do more than they think they are capable of—including yourself!
The critical component here is that you set aside some time every day—you are intentional and focused. Whether 5 minutes or 2 hours, you build your creative muscles just like an athlete. 1% every day compounds to amazing results over time, but only when it’s regular and consistent.
I hope these ideas and practices help you remain positive, hopeful, and creative, one day at a time.
“Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice.” — Thich Nhat Hanh