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Putting the WHY back in Photography


Putting the WHY back in Photography

sean mcclelland

[09]  I have terrible problems with motivation. My ability to create new images is greatly impacted by these problems, and that REALLY bothers me. I am not the only artist that experiences these lingering moments of frustration and self-loathing, but knowing that does not provide me with any comfort. This blog entry is a record of my self-induced therapy session (I'll send myself a bill later, if I'm motivated enough to do so).

*Lays back on the couch that isn't as comfortable as it looks, takes a deep breath and closes eyes.*

I am supposed to exercising more, keeping up with my friends and family more, volunteering more, exploring my new city more, finding new photo gigs, creating more new photos, and contributing more to my Facebook, G+ and Twitter identities (crap, now I'm supposed to be on Pintrest, too? Are you serious?!). I am supposed to be watching Netflix less (currently "engaged" with SNG), gaming less, and going out less. I am supposed to be a more successful artist. I am supposed to have made a name for myself by now. I am supposed to be making more money.

Or… am I? It's hard to say. I feel like I'm in a pretty good place right now. And I do make a point to take advantage of local photowalks, meetups and lectures. I read photography magazines and listen to related podcasts. I photo read blogs, and even joined NAPP recently. I'm just not… as focused as I would like to be, and I'm not producing at the level I'm capable of producing. Having a full-time job, unrelated to photography, does not help, but others seem to manage. I just feel so… distracted by… life!

Self portrait, lit by laptop screen.

Self portrait, lit by laptop screen.

*Looks at Rorshach ink blots, reflects on mommy-daddy issues, and smacks some pillows with a whiffle ball bat.*

The logical place to begin my journey back to my photography happy place is to think about The Why. This is a topic that was covered by Jerry Yoon (inspired by Simon Sinek's book and Ted Talk) in one of the more interesting Meetups I've attended in the city, and ironically, also a topic that I partially cover in The Better Presenter workshop that I teach at UCSF. Why am I a photographer? Why do I make images? Why am I doing this at all? Why do I care? To answer these questions is also to find my focus again.

After a slight bit of pondering, my "Whys" are as follows:

  1. Because I love the feeling that I get when I create something that I know is 100% unique, and because I love answering the question, "That's cool, how did you do that?!"
  2. Because I am driven to learn new things, and because I enjoy the creative challenge.
  3. Because I want to be recognized for my efforts (self-fulfillment is not enough, and any artist who tells you otherwise is lying through their teeth).
  4. Because I experience the world visually, and photography is an extension of my natural instincts… therefore I have no choice!

*Looks at the clock, realizes that it'll cost extra for the time, hurries to get it all out.*

Great, OK, now I need to create a plan that uses The Why and gets me back on track. Here is v.1 of that plan:

  1. Define the distractions that are currently making it difficult for me to meet my photography goals, and devise a plan to keep each in check. Another words, figure out what I'm going to sacrifice to make more time for photography. [Ex: Doing as much work as I can away from my apartment.]
  2. Define some realistic goals for social media endeavors, based the amount of time I have to dedicate to G+, FB and Twitter, and don't beat myself up for not being as prolific as the Hawks and Ratcliffs of the world (those guys are insane)! Define these goals on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. [Ex: scheduling days/times each week for posting my content, and for commenting on other's content.]
  3. List my top-3 photography project ideas, and pick one to focus the majority of my time on. Set specific goals for that project, and attach timelines to those goals. [Ex: Naming the series I'm currently working on, and defining next steps for the project, i.e. looking for a gallery show.]
  4. Remember why I'm doing it all, and remember to give myself credit for what I've been able to accomplish. [Ex: Remember to have fun and let things flow!]

What are your Whys? How do you filter our distractions and remain focused on photography (or whatever drives you)? Please share your comments below!

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