Motivation for me seems to come in waves, and when I’m inspired it’s a great feeling that gets me out with my camera regardless of the time, weather, or any other distraction that may arise. Sometimes however, that motivation can fade ever so gradually, perhaps because of other responsibilities in life, the demanding business aspects of making a living as a photographer, or a creative road block. I’ve struggled with all of these, but I use these times as an opportunity to take stock of where I am in my artistic journey, and re-charge my batteries so to speak for the future.
I’ve always believed that having a lifestyle that supports your passion is a sure way to keep motivated even when things get a little dry. This is something I’ve worked on for many years, and continue to refine day by day. I’m extremely fortunate to have a family that shares and enjoys this lifestyle. While many think I have a dream career, it is HARD work, with long solitary hours both in the field and at home in the studio. Often we complain of not having enough time to achieve our personal goals, and when we get off track we can get discouraged and unmotivated. But finding time is often just a re-examining of our true priorities, and deciding what really matters to you.
For example, we canceled our tv cable service years ago and have never looked back. This has provided many extra hours a week that I use for marketing, reading and learning new skills, working in the studio, all things that keep me motivated creatively. Sure we still watch tv programs, but the content we are interested in comes from internet services such as NetFlix, and purchased DVDs where we control when we watch the shows. Most importantly, I have more time to spend with my son who is now in second grade and asking more and more questions about everything. Do I miss it? Not in the least, and as Seth Godin says on his great blog, “there are so many other things I’d rather be doing.”
I’ve also dedicated myself to a daily yoga and meditation practice which helps me both physically and mentally to stay sharp and focused on and off the trails. Where as in the past I might have let the weather become a mental distraction, now I am better at accepting nature as it comes and making the best out of every situation. A mind that is negatively biased is a sure way to lose motivation even before the camera gets out of the bag. Like I’ve told many workshop students, seeing is often more mental than physical, and being open to the moment is where true creativity comes from. Focusing on how I can grow today, and not worrying about past failures or regrets is another benefit
Reading is also a favorite way for me to find motivation, and this includes art and non-art books as well. I am an avid reader, and never leave home without my Kindle which is loaded with all sorts of books. A recent book that was truly inspiring was “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who really wants to take their creative passion and/or profession to the next level. One of my favorite quotes: “The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come.”
Aside from books, there a quite a number of blogs I turn to for motivation regularly, here are some of my favorites:
• Seth Godin Blog – overcome your “lizard brain” – must read
• Pro Nature Photographer – for those considering a career in nature photography, lots of motivational stories from other pros
• Goodlife Zen – practical inspiration for a happier life
The study of painting, and specifically landscape painting by the Hudson River School has been extremely enjoyable and a rich creative leaning experience for me. I recently visited the National Art Gallery in Washington DC and seeing spectacular masterpieces up close by Thomas Cole and Frederic Church left me in complete awe. The mastery of light and shadow, texture, and perspective by these 19th century artists reminded me of how much I need to continue to learn and grow as photographer. Studying other mediums is a practice I recommend highly to any photographer, and nothing has improved my photography more than the study of painting. There is always something to learn from other visual art forms, and often the seed of motivation and inspiration will come from these experiences.
I hope some of these ideas will spark some motivation in your creative endeavors, and help you overcome those times when nothing seems to be working for you. I know the feelings all too well. With the right attitude and mindset, they can become pathways to search for and find those sparks which can turn into a flood of great ideas.
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. ~Michelangelo