Stagnation as a Photographer or Creative
It happens. Why does it happen? Because we are human. Because we are not robots capable of single-mindedly focusing on making things without life getting in the way. Sometimes stagnation is the effect of things outside our control, and sometimes it is things that we definitely can control – many of these are the result of our extended focus on what we are doing, and not the other things (life) that we should be doing.
Take the time to ask yourself these three questions and answer honestly:
1. What are the things that cause stagnation that I cannot control?
2. What are the things that cause stagnation that I can control?
3. What are the things that cause stagnation that I cannot help to cause to my own creativity?
It might help to actually write them down…. this is how I best think, by writing everything out, either on paper or onscreen.
- get away from your usual location and try or participate in a very different activity
- spend time with friends and family – take a break from thinking about what you are working on
- get out of your comfort zone
- start a new project in a different style or medium
- go on a meaningful outing/trip/vacation
- get your head out of the project and find/start a new one
- identify sources of frustration and write them down
- create written lists of what you like and dislike
- look for another creative source of inspiration such as a writer or notable person or art form
- (a good one) stop paying attention to what others say – especially on social media
- nature – go barefoot outside…. in the sun if possible, and feel the ground with bare feet. The outcome might surprise you!
- sleep – get a really good night’s sleep
- exercise – feel a burning cinder of uncertainty in the pit of your being? Go running, do something physically strenuous or do some cardio and burn that stagnation up and out. Spend at least an hour at it. The natural high will help get you back on track.
- (my favorite and most effective) go on an “art date” – more about this in an upcoming post.
In my own work as a photographer, very often I get sick to death of photography. It seems everywhere I go I can’t escape it. I’m constantly asked about my gear, where I’m published or how so and so can get published. More often than not, I’m filtering out photography posts when I’m browsing the web and social media (one of several reasons I follow so few photographers). When I’m invited to a party or wedding, I’m almost always asked to bring my camera. Who wants to enjoy some time off and have to work at the same time? (Not to mention all the added editing/processing time afterwards). I realize most people don’t realize what they are asking, and that’s fine. I get it.
Does this mean I’m burned out and I’ve “lost my passion”? Of course not. Variety is the spice of life. Very few of us can do the same thing repeatedly without getting tired of it and feel the need for change. And very few of us have a limited range of passions.
For me, what I love most often overlap. I love photography – always have since I was a kid burning through rolls of film on my Kodak 110. I also have a deep love of impressionism in art, natural history, hiking across the American landscape, and writing about my experiences. There is almost always an overlap to one degree or another, and if I do get bored or tired with one aspect I can quickly switch to another without a noticeable loss of momentum.
When I do feel like I’m getting burned out or feel that stagnation feeling where I can’t create, it often seems like a downward spiral that I can’t get out of. Of course that’s a cop-out whenever we think this. We just need to change course or tap into some new inspiration.
Here are a few of the things that work really well for me:
- stop creating and take a chill pill
- give the brain a break from thinking….. try sports and beer!
- take myself on an art date (solo day of discovering new things at a museum, historical location, etc – you HAVE to go alone) where there is something significant, powerful, and bigger than my sense of self that gives me a sense of awe and wanting to know more. Local history is a big one for me!
What do you do to rekindle your creativity? Please leave your comments below so we can all collectively learn from our input and experiences.