I’ve always been the person talking other friends through ruts. I’ve been there offering suggestions, asking questions about their “why’s”, probing like that Master’s degree in Counseling says I should (no mention to the fact that it sits downstairs in a dust covered box these days). Finding myself on the other side of the rut: well, that was disconcerting. It came on slowly and I didn’t feel it happening. I was months behind on editing, I wasn’t picking up my camera anymore, and I stopped posting to social media. My life was overtaken by these four little beings I call mine, and to say the least, I was tired. My baby turned one and learned to walk and crawl onto tables, and suddenly editing wasn’t possible anymore, not that he would let me sit down alone to do it anyways. When the kids went to bed, I was drained.
In the midst of this fun, I suddenly hit my busiest business season…..EVER. Missed sessions from earlier in the year were rescheduled into one month, and suddenly my calendar was four times were full than I like it to be, and all in the busiest season of mom life. Before I knew it it had been months since I posted anywhere, and something about that made it it a bigger deal than it should have been. I became frozen, and unable to step back in. I gave it more life than it deserved.
That busy season of business quickly became overwhelming as I fell more and more behind, and the ability to be creative buried itself deeper and deeper….. and here we are. I’m just now coming to the end of this season and seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. So, now what?
As a creative, what a question. Now what? There’s so many different directions to take, so many different ways to try to dig back up to level ground- but which one is right for me? And which one is right for you? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure yet. But I think I have to start with taking a little better care… of ME. If it feels right, I’ll do it. If it makes me happy, I’ll try it. If it doesn’t, well, I’ve definitely got to learn to exercise my ability to say no. Pressure can be creatively good in some seasons, but stifling in others. This is a season of the latter. I think the key to finding my joy is to take off the pressure, set aside the business for a bit, and remind myself why I ever loved to pick up my camera at all.
I picked it up for little fingers and toes that would only be little for so long. I picked it up for joy, and pudgy rolls, and shared giggles between siblings. I picked it up for incredible light, and dramatic moments, and the excitement of seeing a money shot on the back of my camera that was everything I hoped for and more. I picked it up to freeze time, and remember things I didn’t know I could ever forget.
Just writing that list gives me goosebumps. So if it’s so easy to think up what I love about it, why did I stop? The answer is in long sleepless nights, and tantrums, and deep motherhood exhaustion; in pressure, and to do lists, and should’s and ought to’s and what other people think. How easy is it to lose ourselves to these things?! To become buried and come out months or even years later, wondering what happened?
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes breaks are completely in order. Sometimes we don’t want to create for a season, and instead just create memories. We can pause because we want to, and there’s no guilt in that. Or at least, there shouldn’t be. Some seasons might be for whatever self-care we can get while we binge on Netflix.
I think the important thing is determining what type of “rut” we’re really in. Is it one brought on by pressure and deadlines, or a lack of time and energy to create as we wish, or a rut brought on by comparison and self-depreciation? Is it just a lack of creative spark? Or do we simply need to break and breath for a little while? Doing some serious introspection might bring an answer from the surface, and that answer can help you determine what YOU need. If you find yourself in this kind of season, I encourage you to take a little time to think about these things. Write out a list of why you started photography in the first place, and what you feel when you think about it right now.
Step back from anything that doesn’t bring you joy, as much as possible.
See if there’s some things you can delegate out or pay someone to do for you, if that’s an option. It can be business related or even just having someone clean your house or ordering some pre-made meals to help you catch up.
See if you can find time for a small project that makes you feel excited, but don’t make it a must or set any deadlines.
Give yourself grace!
See if you can find some backup to schedule self-care for a while.
Self-care can look like whatever you need the most: time alone, a Netflix break, a mani or pedi, a date night or evening with friends, even time to clean your house if that feels calming to you!
Decide what things you might be doing to wear yourself out that can go for a while. Sometimes we need to reevaluate what we’re filling our schedule with.
Consider whether you’re trying to do too much, and if there are some things you can put on the back burner for a while.
Take a break from social media. It’s easy to start judging ourselves by likes and comments, and to start comparing what we do to what others do. When that happens it’s break time!
Create something just for you. Don’t intend to show it to anyone.
Make a list of what you love about your own art.
Put together a small portfolio of images that make you feel truly happy about your work. Share it with someone you love and trust, if you like.
Look back on your journey- sometimes we forget how far we’ve come!!!
Find a new book, fiction or nonfiction. “The War of Art” or “Big Magic” are good options.
Go on an adventure. It can be spending an hour somewhere local you haven’t been, or taking a vacation if that’s a possibility.
Try a different genre- portraits, food photography, macro, lifestyle, landscape- anything that is outside your norm!
Shoot somewhere new- a store, a different location, or even a relative’s house.
Start a journal of ideas when they pop up. That way when you have some spare time, you have a whole list of inspiring ideas to choose from.
Take a class on something that inspires you.
Start a new project. Sometimes we can create a project or collection out of images we already have!
Look around your home for a new image to create: a new perspective, a room or type of light you haven’t shot in, or using artificial light.
Print some favorites for the wall!
Do a light study in your home, watching and noting what you see at this time of year. Artificial light included!
Go to a conference, if that’s an option.
Set a small goal each day to get you towards a bigger goal.
Try a different artistic endeavor, like painting, writing, sewing, planning a garden, etc.
Rearrange or redecorate your house.
Try a new technique. Use a prism, try video, give multiple exposure a try, buy a flash, try the ring of fire, etc.
These lists are not meant to be exhaustive or overwhelming, but simply a tool to help you find an idea you’re excited about. If you fall into the top categories of struggling with creativity because there’s too much pressure, there’s no time, or you’re too exhausted, work those things out first, and then see what small ideas or projects might start your creative fires burning again. And if you feel like a complete creative break is what you need, by all means, do it! Sometimes losing the guilt over what you are or aren’t doing is the greatest catalyst to the next best thing.
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