How often have you come across the phrase “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey?” It’s an idea I’ve promoted over and over again and it still remains my particular approach to creativity and one I believe is mostly true.
Yet there is a deeper question that I want to address. What is it that fuels your creative passion? What makes every creative act possible? What makes you want to continue on the journey?
I believe it’s motivation. Without motivation, it’s difficult to do anything well, never mind something as demanding as art. But motivated by what? To do what? That’s what I want to explore further.
There are many ways to think about creativity, but my experience has been that creativity involves a series of persistent failures with the potential for success. I’m not suggesting that’s all there is to creativity, but it reminds us that failure is the norm, not the exception.
If failure is a given most of time, how do you stay motivated? This is not a trivial question. Yet it’s probably the single most important question for the industry that’s built up around photography. You see if you don’t stay motivated, you stop spending time and money on the materialistic aspects of photography.
If you think that motivation comes from acquiring new tools, whatever they might be, then you are in for a surprise. Yet the industry tries to convince you that in fact, that’s the best way to stay motivated. Who doesn’t get motivated by a new camera, or lens, or expensive accessory that promises what we all want: images that make a difference.
Already have those things? Maybe a photo trip or workshop to an exotic location is what you need. Or a new printer to bring your images into the physical world. Maybe new fine art papers to get you printing again. I’m not suggesting these things are bad or don’t provide real benefits. Yes, sometimes they’re even necessary.
Yet for the most part, they only provide short-term motivation, likely to run out of fuel before you realize it. Making images the resonate requires dedication to the art and craft of photography over the long term. That requires motivation that comes from within.
Going out over and over again and trying to do something really difficult takes deep motivation. How do I know this? Because I’ve been seeking creative motivation my entire life. And the only consistent source of motivation I have found is the satisfaction I get when I make a difference in someone else’s life.
It can be large or small, significant or subtle, maybe even indiscernible, but it still makes the effort worth it for me. It’s not about my ego, but rather about others.
Communicating what I feel when I’m in nature so that someone else gets a sense of that, even if for a brief moment, is what keeps me motivated. In order to make that happen, I need to focus on the most important thing.
Of course, the journey is important, probably the most important aspect overall of pursuing creativity. But any journey needs sign posts, places to rest, islands to land on and take stock of progress. It needs to provide positive feedback that enables you to make true progress.
Making progress on composition and personal vision is the most important thing. It’s the hardest way to go, but the most satisfying by far. When you focus on vision, others notice and provide feedback on your creative journey.
Positive feedback adds up to fuel motivation, to remind us that the time and effort we spend are worth it. After all, time is the only thing that continues to gain value until we are finished here on earth.
So what is positive feedback? When someone looks at your image for a little longer than usual, longer than you’re used to. When you realize that your way of seeing the world has made an impact; when it’s resonated positively with someone. When it makes someone realize that the simplest things in nature really are worth celebrating. There’s no better feeling.
That is where true lasting motivation comes from for me. Is that where your motivation comes from? It can, but you have to make it so.
Please leave your feedback and comments below – I always enjoy hearing your perspective!