Monday, October 11, 2010

How To Combat the Slippery Slope

You know how you sometimes have those days when you just don't feel like doing anything? And you know how it is on those days when you don't even feel like doing the thing you love the most? For some strange reason, you've (momentarily) lost the desire to do the thing you're passionate about. It could be for a lot of reasons, or maybe just one reason. Maybe that day you felt like you were never going to be able to make a difference. Maybe it was something someone said that caused you to doubt your abilities. Maybe you were comparing yourself to someone else in your field and felt the chasm of inadequacy widen during that very moment. MAYBE, it's that you know what you want to do when you grow up but the work is just not coming in...oh wait...maybe that's just me...

The lies we tell ourselves, like we'll never make a difference or we'll never be able to do this or that, only keep us stagnant. See, I know from past experience that whenever I let those dark feelings crowd my mind, I can begin to fall ever so slightly down a slippery slope. And, by the slippery slopey nature of the slope, it can be difficult to climb back out. It's easier to just detect those blah feelings early on and cut them off rather than succumb to them and their after effects...which in my case is often a feeling of not wanting to do anything. When I realize what's happening, I can combat the thoughts and feelings with prayer and a little "one foot in front of the other" mentality.

I blogged about combining my passions a few weeks back. I absolutely love teaching - making something make sense to another person - and I love photography. Jumping back in to photography and teaching has really helped and encouraged me in other areas of my life. I'm in my element in a lot of ways, and the students I'm working with are probably also struggling with some of the same doubts that I have. It's helpful to encourage them, and to take my own advice of "just keep practicing". Working on a personal project or just carrying my camera around helps keep me motivated and working...even if the work is only commissioned by yours truly.

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I decided to get together to hang out, but also to go on a photo walk. I think we both needed to pick up the camera again and start pressing the shutter without any concerns for what the images would become. It was actually super inspiring and motivated me to keep on keepin' on.

Here's an image from that walk: 

So, here's my suggestion if you are lacking the motivation to do something, even if it's something you love: just get to it. Just as I tell people who ask how I "stick to" my workout plan, take the first step and put on your shoes. Motivation, encouragement, and inspiration, once you find them, all seem to beget more of the same.

I'd love to hear from you! What do you do to get yourself moving if you're in a slump?


Melissa and TJ Bean said...

Oh wow. Yes, sled in hand, I am climbing up the slope now. And there is no snow. Just a baby upstairs crying, a phone call to be made for a possible session on Thursday (yeah, thanks for thinking ahead clients) and what in the world to make for dinner??

But yes, all creatives go through this. It's a normal flow of being in this world of creativity. And bills. And life.

I have some practical tips:
1. Do something each day toward your creative, right brain. It can be something as simple as looking at a leaf closely, writing in a journal, or even just coloring with Crayons.

2. Keep a handle on being accessible. I have found that younger photogs think they have to be available to their clients 24/7. Really? Isn't voice mail a beautiful thing? I don't have an iPhone (and I've been using a Mac since 1984 and I still have clients: I know, you can gasp). You're saying: "But I have a policy of getting right back to my clients." Well, get a life. They have one. You need one too. We all need respect of time and privacy. You'll be a better business owner if you are not a slave to the trade. After all, you need to have time for creative endeavors.

3. Set a timer. Be deliberate in working. Only work. Don't check email, phone, talk to anyone (even your dog). I get everything I want to drink/snack on within arm's reach before I sit down. It has made me more proficient and has yes, even made my left and right sides of my brain function properly.

4. Don't beat yourself up so much.

5. Get out of your comfort zone. Ask someone to lunch to pick their brain... I actually met Andrew Marcus in NYC because I had been enchanted with his work for so many years. I was going to NYC, so I called up his studio and low and behold, I got to talk with him for THIRTY minutes in person!!!!! It was awesome and he was just a "normal" guy. (um, yep. a normal guy who took the wedding photos of Mr. Trump's daughter... yep. THAT guy...)

6. Be kind. That's it. Be kind, to yourself, your equipment, but most of all, the people who are your cheering squad: family, friends, mentors, other creatives and of course, your clients.

Yah! Thanks for inspiring me Leslie. Now, off to that sled again... hmmmm where is my highlighter?!

Leslie McDaniel said...

Thanks Melissa! Yup, I agree...with all! Thanks for the ideas. I do keep a "visual journal" to help me keep the ideas flowing, etc. That's actually what we're doing in my class tomorrow - they're starting visual journals! #4 - Um, yah, most good artists I know are incredibly way too critical of their own work. It's a good reminder!

Tessa said...

I seem to struggle with this slippery slope when my routine is thrown for a loop. I also seem to struggle with this when I have to create my own routine. Strangely enough, routine fixes my slippery slope, it is just a matter of following the routine.

Set an alarm clock, get up the same time every day.
Have a plan (I love lists) and do your best to follow it.
Work then play.
Tell someone about your day, it helps!

Those are the things that help me most, I have yet to figure out a good way to continuously work out (other than having a good workout buddy). Good luck to you, Leslie in your tackling of the slippery slope, I'm still trying to figure out how I can as well :)

Thanks for a great post!

Leslie McDaniel said...

Hey Tessa! Routine helps me, too. I think for me, putting on my shoes so to speak, going through the motions, just photographing something...all these things help get me started in a routine. One thing leads to another and before I know it, I'm motivated to keep going...mostly because I started. Oh...and of course I love my lists. Lists are good. Except when they're too long and overwhelming and I don't know where to start. :)

Leslie McDaniel said...

Just came across this recent post by humanitarian photographer David duChemin about his struggles: