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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Finding the creative

 Maybe there are artists out there who have creativity just flow through them twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. If there are I've never met one.

For most of us, both professional and amateur, finding inspiration can be both an exciting and a frustrating experience. On the days when you're on the ball great ideas seem to come to you in unbounded succession.

On other days you really have to struggle to produce great work. Good work is a walk in the park. The professional photographer needs to be able to produce a publishable image every single time. No excuses, no failures. That's our job.

But producing work that sings to our own souls is a harder task. And sometimes the muse can leave you and you seem to hit a brick wall. I can't say that's ever really happened to me in a serious way but I am always searching for new ways and ideas to keep the muse happy and make sure she visits me with lots of inspiration.

So just before I went away on my last trip to Japan I bought a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron (Disclaimer - I get a couple of pennies if you buy the book with this link. :)) . I figured it would just be another one of those self-help, arty-farty type books that I could quickly flick through in my time over there. But after reading the Introduction I realised that it wasn't going to be such light going and it certainly wasn't something I could do in my spare time on holiday! So I waited until I got back home to dive in.

The book is actually a 12 week course designed to re-ignite your creativity, and show you ways in which you can continue to ignite that creativity long after you've finished the 12 weeks. So here I find myself in Week 4 and it's been quite an eye opener I have to say.

I don't know that I'm a total skeptic in general, but I usually have to be shown pretty good evidence of something before I tend to really believe it. And one of the main premises of the book had my skeptic antenna up from the get go. The author calls it the 'morning pages' and it involves writing 3 pages of long-hand, stream of consciousness writing every morning. The theory being that by this outpouring of thought you get to dump all the stuff that stops you being creative during the day and put it aside so you can get on with creating.

Now firstly for me to take half an hour to write 3 pages of stuff every morning requires me getting up in the pitch dark so that I can do it before my two young boys get up to start their day. Getting up that early is hard for photographers if we haven't got a sunrise shoot planned! But I've been religious about it and have written it every day for the past 3 and a bit weeks. And has it made a difference? I have to say yes.

By writing down all my fears, doubts, things that make me happy and basically anything that comes into my mind it's actually made me more creative. I've come up with some great ideas for the blog, ideas for self-assignments I'd really like to work on. I've also started buying CD's of music that inspired me when I was younger. I somehow feel lighter of heart. I find myself singing out loud in the strangest of places! Not that I was a depressed person before at all but I somehow feel more content.

And strange as it sounds I really do feel like it's this writing that is bringing about this change. And although there are some mornings where I do write about photography and my job, many mornings it's just writing about my life in general. Often it can be positive, but also negative. The key seems to be that as long as you're honest with yourself and write what you're really thinking and feeling then it works.

So wish me luck as I work through the coming 8 weeks or so. Who knows I could be dancing around in my underwear by the end of it! But so far I'm really enjoying the process and the book. Anything I can do to help me stay creative and inspired I figure has got to be good for my photography, and that means good for my clients as well. So if you come across this book in your local book shop or library I would definitely recommend taking a look.

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