Too often I find myself wondering if, or when, I am going to reach a level at which I will be…. real. A real artist with works of real value. And I know that is not a recipe for creative living.
When I feel this way I end up either remaining motionless or trying to apply the force of discipline to shape myself into someone who is capable of producing something of value to others. I spend too much time listening to people who present themselves as authorities then explain exactly what I must do and what I must pay if I want to succeed.
I feel inadequate then look to others for direction then spend a lot of time and other resources going this way and that way and any other way I’m told is the right way. And in the end I get nowhere.
The Better Option.
And then, before this gets to be too dreadful a story for you to keep reading, in moments of real creativity, that self-questioning goes away. In those moments, the fear is replaced by a stronger desire to follow my own interests and explore without bounds.
It sounds risky, I know, and it feels that way too, but it’s in those moments of real creativity that I end up producing my favorite images. Those moments when I let my guard down and open up to being me, as I am, in a world that is what it is. Those moments when I accept the idea that I am good enough and that while my work may not be the best the world has ever seen, it has value.
Accepting what is, as it is, gives me freedom to take action in a way that makes sense for me, given where I am at that moment. It frees me from the tyranny of feeling unworthy and unable. It puts me in the driver’s seat and allows me to try new things and learn from the experience without feeling awful about the failure that frequently results. It allows me to benefit from the wisdom of others relative to my own direction, not theirs.
Without this freedom my focus and effort remain internal, my authority remains with others, and I end up feeling frustrated by my apparent lack of ability. Without it I am not open to a creative way of living. Without it, I may be more destructive than creative. And what I destroy ends up being little bits of myself along with any opportunities that might come my way.
I would love to say those moments in which I accept are so plentiful I’m confident I will generally be in this creative state from now on. But I don’t think telling such stories would help my situation. I don’t think I’ve arrived at that point just yet.
I know there will be many times in the future when I will have an overriding desire to produce images that I incorrectly believe will be defined as ‘good’ rather than images that are interesting and valuable to me. Times when I feel like I and my work lack merit for any of a variety of reasons, and I end up trying vainly to create images that look like others that have gained notoriety.
To help myself get, and stay, on the more desirable path of being and doing what makes the most sense for me, I have chosen to dedicate time and effort to a practice of doing what I do for enjoyment. Instead of doing things because they might turn me into someone of merit or because they might result in works of merit.
Generally, for me, this means getting out with my camera to enjoy the process of exploring and creating images, with confidence that what I am doing is valuable. And without feeling guilty about doing something that might not produce valuable results or twisting myself into a pretzel trying to figure out how to do it right or even well.
I’ve also found that I can apply this approach and practice to writing, analyzing data, public speaking, my work with Maura, and any of the variety of other things I choose to do. The key is setting an intention to let go of the need to be enough and instead allowing the experience be enough. Sometimes it works out well and sometimes not, but I am confident that if I maintain the practice, overtime it will work out more and more.
Through this practice I experiment, run into problems, find solutions, experiment some more, run into more problems and find more solutions. And I accept that my work is always a work in progress. It is never perfect and never something to be ashamed of. I know that through the practice, because of the practice, I and my work will get better and better over time and I will get much further, or make more progress than I would by continuing to act out of a feeling of unworthiness.
Where photography is concerned, one thing I’ve learned from this practice is that the times when I’m not trying to take good pictures are those in which I make what I feel are my best. And I’ve found that my best gets better and better over time. But more important than that, I’ve found that I enjoy my life more and get more satisfaction out of my work. I enjoy and feel more proud of the results. To me, that is a recipe for creative living.
Here are a few images that resulted from playing with fire and the full moon in Maui. The fire was dancing above tiki torches, and the moon was in just the right position in the sky.
I took a couple thousand photos of the fire dancing around the moon, so that I could see what shapes might result. I enjoyed seeing how the heat from the fire warped and twisted the image of the moon in the distance. I enjoyed learning how to get the exposure and composition of the images right. And, I enjoyed seeing the results, all two thousand of them. I hope that you enjoy them too.
Please feel free to send me a note at any time. I will always make an effort to respond in a timely fashion and answer, or help answer, any questions you may have. And, if you are interested in any of my photos, I am certainly very interested in having an opportunity to work with you.
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