Insights rarely occur fully baked

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In Perennial Seller, Ryan Holiday asks Scott Barry Kaufman, a leading psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on creativity, about how ideas happen. He says: “Insights rarely occur fully baked. The creative process is often nonlinear, with many detours along the way that inform the final product. The creator often starts with a hazy intuition of where he or she is going, but breakthrough innovations rarely resemble the seed idea or vision. This is because creative ideas, by their very nature, evolve over time, reflecting the colliding of seemingly disparate ideas.”

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My ideas rarely appear fully-formed. I hope for successful images but never go out seeking them. It’s important that I remain open to outside influence while I’m taking photographs because I like to experiment and work with what’s available.

As Kaufman says, “the best we can do is sit down and create something, anything, and let the process organically unfold.” 

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Keep on keeping on

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The best things happen when you keep on keeping on.

Sean Lotman

There’s a particular spot my boyfriend and I like to walk. We tend to follow the same path, going the same direction. We must’ve walked here a hundred times but this week, for whatever reason, we turned left inside of right and kept going until we reached a dead end. Here, the ground is seldom walked because it gets cut off at high tide. The beach becomes a blanket of tiny shells mixed with the odd bits of rubbish and sea glass.

During the walk, we found a ruined barn complete with disintegrating farm equipment and rusting BBQs. Someone had written the words “memento mori” inside using white paint. Large cracks ran down the walls and the bricks on top were loose.

Closer to the beach, a lone chair stood next to the remains of a camp fire. Old boats waited on the pebbles, propped up with wooden poles and bundled twigs. The place was completely deserted, quiet and calm.

Later, scrolling Twitter, I saw Sean Lotman’s words and thought about this place. It reminds me to keep on keeping on because there are always new opportunities waiting to be found, even in familiar places.

Good things are happening, soon to be revealed

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The best cure for a dry period to simply to keep at it. Good things are happening, soon to be revealed.

– Eleanor Blair

I’ve felt pretty useless the last few days and the worst part is I don’t even have a reason for feeling bad. I hate that. I can feel a bad mood coming like a tsunami wave and all I can do is ride it out. In the throes of a creative block, it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle. The more I beat myself up, ruminate and panic, the worse it gets. Looking for a quick fix, I turn to Google but the advice I find doesn’t work, it feels too impersonal, too cliché.

This morning, I decided to do things differently. Instead of turning on my laptop and checking email, I got out of bed and took a shower. Then I rode my bike to the beach.

Big whoop, that’s hardly a big deal! It might sound stupid but I fought against the urge to stay inside, curled up in a ball. I dug my heels in and stopped listening to the negative voices in my head. It felt good. Looking at my surroundings this morning, at the beautiful, still water, I felt calm and inspired for the first time in a while.

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Usually, when I’m feeling bad, two things help most. The first is going outside, whether it’s a short walk around the block, a bike ride, or a drive, it doesn’t matter. I just do whatever’s feasible at the time. The second is pushing through and getting to work. I do small things that keep me occupied, like hoovering, clearing out a drawer, a little dusting, washing up a cup or plate, it’s all good. If I’m feeling up to it, I’ll write.

Abraham Lincoln, William James, Georgia O’Keeffe, Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Franz Kafka, the Buddha, all of these people lived with depression but still managed to be productive. Lincoln used humour to feel better. O’Keeffe valued travel and solitude. Kafka cherished time spent with loved ones.

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Painting, drawing, writing, taking photos, reading, gaming, laughing, exercising, spending time with loved ones, resting, travelling, meditating, working, all of these things can help us get through the bad times. Our personal coping mechanisms and strategies are as individual as us all.

Don’t beat yourself up when you feel blocked, it’ll just make you feel worse. Take time to figure out what self-care methods work best for you.

Maybe then, the art will follow.