The other day I remarked during one of my posts that I was struggling a bit with inspiration. Family life and work commitments can sometimes (rightly, in my book) interfere with one’s movement toward creativity. They can squash inspiration. These times are difficult for the creative. Given to so much inspiration over the course of our days we can be stymied when inspiration fails to arise. What do we do now? This is strange territory and we can become confused and disoriented.
But all is not lost. We are not necessarily doomed to a inspiration-less existence, although it might feel that way. Much as the rhythm of breathing in and out (inspiration and expiration) this flow of creative juices might be going through its regular cycle and the flow of inspiration is sure to return just as each out-breath is followed by another in-breath.
But what to do in the meantime?
Well, this is where those creatives who have met success separate themselves from those that do not. This is the time to work.
I recently read a quote by Shin’ichi Suzuki, founder of the Suzuki Method for learning violin and proponent of humankind’s talent potential in which he said, “I want to make good citizens. If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.” I agree with this sentiment and would expand it to include all art forms for, after all, art is not just for seeing or hearing; it is for feeling.
So why this quote at this time? Well, if we are artists and photographers and we are moved by something either inside of ourselves or outside of ourselves to create something we consider beautiful, then we have the sensitivity part down. Perhaps what we now need to work on is the discipline and endurance. Discipline is born of doing what we know we must despite not wanting to, and endurance is born of discovering that we can do something much longer than we had previously imagined. Suzuki knew, from personal experience, that learning the violin is difficult and requires the development of the ability to practice more days than not despite not wanting to: discipline. He also knew that learning the violin means hanging in there long enough to learn it, which itself is longer than the student had imagined at the outset, mostly because it is a life-long process: endurance. He also knew that the requirements for learning the violin were also exactly what learning the violin would teach and these are beneficial in life.
I believe Suzuki’s thoughts are directly applicable to photography and these times of decreased inspiration are precisely the times when the development of discipline and endurance are developed. And this looks like work. There is a well known saying that goes something like, “success is a mix of inspiration and perspiration; 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Well, this is perspiration time. Much like a violinist will practice scales, fingering technique, and other rudimentary building blocks of the art form, so too must the photographer return to basics. If you shoot more by natural light, learn the ins and outs of flash photography. If you tend to shoot with wide apertures, begin to explore smaller apertures and deeper depths of field. If you tend to shoot crisp and tightly focused images, try shooting something softer, or with slower shutter speeds, and even intentionally (gasp!) blurry. Sit down and learn a new editing software, backup your images, update your website. Go nuts and bolts on your photography, train your technique; from shooting to post processing to printing, train your technique so it becomes second nature and when inspiration begins to flow from the muse again you are so dialed you don’t have to think about technique anymore. Then, much like Suzuki’s young students, the beauty of the photograph can be communicated through the emotional connection to the image and you can play with feeling again.