Struggling with Creative Block or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

[This is going to be a ramble, and a confession and more or less self therapy more than an entertaining post for my dozens of readers.]

I looked in the mirror last night after struggling to get through a product shoot and stared at myself for a good forty seconds. We’ve all done it, it’s not weird so get down from your castle and don’t judge me for staring at myself in the mirror. I wasn’t staring at myself in an adonis, Mr. Wonderful type of way, but in a ‘I’m a loser, put the big L on my forehead type of way.’ I had struggled, gaffer taped and reflected light the best I could, but it just seemed like I hadn’t taken a decent picture in hours. My wife looked at the RAW’s and said they look great. But she’s my wife, I  pay her good money to say things like that.
It sounds mundane and petty, and creative block is something I’m sure all creatives go through. But there is no workshop, YouTube video or pill that will get you through a creative block.

Unfortunately this is an increasing trend for me and handling it is growing ever so cumbersome. I’ve become increasingly aware that I’m not developing my craft, I’m not developing (what I think are) interesting personal projects and I’m letting the evils of the world (mainly YouTube) distract me from focusing on work. One of the things I didn’t learn at the University at Buffalo is how to deal with something like that. I’ve decided to take several steps to move past this creative block and hopefully begin a creating content I’m content with.

I’ve closed my studio space. For the few of you that knew, I had a studio space at the mighty Wurlitzer Building in North Tonawanda. It was a huge space, affordable and I thought I would be in there several times a week creating images and interacting with new clients. I believe I used the studio less then 10 times. Ultimately I had no plan and I thought the allure of have a space to work in and create would cure all my creative block woes. I think that in the end, having the space only enhanced my creative block because I was intimidated by the studio space. Deep down I was fearful of having this space and creating poor content that would only set me back. Having the studio space also meant I wouldn’t be home with my wife as much. My full time job has me up at 2:30am every morning and has me to bed every night around 8pm, giving me about 2hrs daily to be with my family. Family is important, and ultimately maintaining a studio space  that didn’t allow me to be there in a full time capacity wasn’t fair to family. I’ve brought the studio into my home with the blessing of my wife and dog. Ultimately it’s the dog that runs the roost.

I’ve also given up learning – hear me out before you flip out. I’ve given up learning in the sense of looking online for lighting tutorials and over-workshopping myself. Ultimately I can watch a training dvd over and over again, but without pushing myself to actually get up and do it, whats the point? There’s a sentiment that the industry is becoming over-workshopped and underworked, and I’m beginning to buy into that. I believe workshops have their place, but on a whole workshops that are designed solely for photographers to end up buying gear on a website is detrimental to a healthy industry. I need to shoot more for myself, bottom line. I have a healthy client base, and feel that I deliver results for them. I have no trouble getting up at anytime when the phone rings to go shoot for a client, but when it comes to shooting for myself in a studio setting for a personal project. It is as if I’m afraid to see the results, or afraid of failing at work that no one could potentially see.

To get through that, I’ve decided to accept failure. I need to make images and not worry about if they’re “good” or “bad.” If you don’t embrace your failures, you won’t enjoy your successes. I truly believe that. I need to bring in people to photograph in my home studio, I need to sit in the marshlands at Iroquois Wildlife Refuge and photograph birds. Whether or not the outcome is usable for a portfolio isn’t the issue at this point. In order to overcome my creative block and refine my style I simply need to shoot for myself. Which brings me to my old nemesis…..blogging. I’ve always tried to maintain a constant blog. It has, however, been a hodgepodge of random tech and photo nonsense. I’ve committed to blogging daily starting April 1st to keep the creative block from creeping back in. I have a large library of work I haven’t shared and it’s only detrimental to me if I don’t share it in some capacity. My plan is to share work, talk content creation and share inspiration and the occasional post about my weight loss campaign so that the dozens of you can berate me publicly into not eating wings anymore.

I understand this is a boring post. I felt as though I needed to publicly announce my plans to overcome my creative block. My hope is that when I look back in six months or a year that my “creative block” wasn’t a creative block at all, but the initial spark of creativity that I needed.

On a photo related note, the above photo is an image I made in August 2011 at The Decemberists concert at Artpark. I had to opportunity to cover the event for Buffalo.com and get to see one of my favorite bands while making images of them – A win-win situation if you ask me. This images is my favorite from that shoot as it features guitarist Christ Funk pressing on a pedal to change guitar tones. I love the back light flooding in around him and the gentle ambience of the smoke/fog in the venue.

UNT, Nb

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