When you think you're just about lost - you're probably nearly there

Last week I posted this article about keeping objectivity in what we do.  As a response to my post, I received a few emails from readers who were preoccupied with a more fundamental aspect of their creativity: that of knowing whether any of what they do is any good. The nature of the questions I received were more along the lines of 'what if you think all of your work isn't any good?' or 'how do I know when I should give up on something?'.

I came here on a hunch. I had no guarantee's that anything I would shoot in the Puna regions would be any good. I also found that the majority of what I did shoot wasn't any good. The final portfolio on this site is only a tiny fraction of what I did shoot, and it took me a while to see there was still something of value - because upon first review, I had assumed I'd gotten nothing.

I came here on a hunch. I had no guarantee's that anything I would shoot in the Puna regions would be any good. I also found that the majority of what I did shoot wasn't any good. The final portfolio on this site is only a tiny fraction of what I did shoot, and it took me a while to see there was still something of value - because upon first review, I had assumed I'd gotten nothing.

No one is alone in feeling that their work sucks from time to time. I fully sympathise with these feelings because I get them just like everybody else does. In fact, I think it is part of the natural process of being a creative person to have doubts and feelings of dissatisfaction about what you do from time to time.

There are often spells in my own creativity when things don't happen, or that I am dissatisfied with the results. But the thing is: I understand that I am at the mercy of my own creativity. I can't control it, and I just have to accept that sometimes I am going to suck. I've just over the years realised that it's ok to suck.

I've been a creative person all of my life: whether it was drawing and painting as a kid, music composition during my teenage years and 20's, and photography since my 30's, to know that creativity has an ebb and flow to it. I can't control it. So it's best to ride it out. 

Besides, sometimes when I find the work is not going the way I wish it to, it's usually because of a change within me. Sometimes the reason why new images don't seem to work is because I'm on the cusp of something new. Other times it's just because I'm tired, or maybe needing a rest and it's time to do something else for a while.

Besides, if we created wonderful work all the time, then it would simply become our new 'average'. So I think it is natural to have this 'tug' of balancing one's own aspirations against one's own abilities.

Growth can often be painful.

If you feel your work isn't up to the standards you'd like it to be, the best bit of advice I can give you is to get it out of your system so you can move on. Everything we do is a stepping-stone - a mark in time. If you keep working endlessly on something that isn't working, then you are stuck. So best just produce it, even if the experience wasn't a good one, and move on.

I think creativity is all about letting go. It is about giving yourself permission to make mistakes and it is about deliberately getting lost. For being lost, means that you are somewhere new in your work, which is often an opportunity to learn.

Creativity is not about controlling the entire process and neither is it about knowing where you are all the time. If you want a guarantee about what you are doing, then creativity is not for you.

Each time I pick up my camera, I have no idea whether the results will be successful. So when I do start out looking for new images, I do so with an openness to failing. I fully accept that some of my images will be better than others, and because of this, I avoid giving myself a hard time about it.

So be kind to your creativity. When you feel it isn't working, best give it a rest and do something else for a while. The inspiration will return.

And also remember, that when you think you're lost with what you are doing, you're probably nearly there :-)