Creative Ruts & Breaking Free

Every person can relate.

Writers get the dreaded “writers block,” painters get the annoying “canvas shock,” and photographers (like me) just get burned out homogeneously shooting the same thing.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting the same results.”

Knowing when to dial back your day-to-day operations is essential to well-being. Don’t feel guilty for resting! Creating takes a lot of energy and you should use that valuable resource conservatively and only when inspiration strikes.

Not surprisingly, I stared at this blank page waiting for the right words to come flowing out.

I tend to get inspired pretty easily, in turn making me become overly-motivated and being overworked. Obviously there is a fine line to dance along here, so here’s one take on the subject matter…

First you must ask yourself “am I being lazy or am I burned out?”

If laziness is occurring, you probably don’t have a strong desire to work on any creative project at all.

If acting lazy is the case, then you should reevaluate why you are creating in the first place.

The answer is for you to decide, and it probably will mean you should move on. Why do something you do not like?

However, burnout would be where you feel exhausted yet you feel compelled to continue working.

Big difference, right?

I have found that this is the case for me. My actions become robotic and frigid, like I have no control yet I cannot stop.

The work should feel (mostly) like play. But when your creative pursuit begins to feel like a creative hump… It becomes time to put a full stop on your time. For me, not knowing when to take a break becomes a trouble.

The life of a nature photographer isn’t exactly glamorous. Yes, we love what we do. But that is at the expense of being weeks or months away from family and friends (at least for some professionals.) We have to endure long hours or waiting and turbulent weather. Many miles of driving to and from locations. The list goes on..

This becomes apparent when having to do a lot of repetitious work.

In the case of art & craft fairs, I spend many days printing, matting, and preparing prints, greeting cards and the like. You essentially have to build up a moderately sized inventory of items to sell.

The payoff of time and dedication is priceless, but the process shouldn’t have to exhaust you either.

Let’s not forget the countless hours editing photo/video, the marketing/promotion on social media and elsewhere, all that time in front of a computer.

You get the point, there’s a lot of hard work.

The trick is to not swept up in being busy for the sake of busyness.

I have forced myself to work before, and the results can come out horrendous.

The three examples here are of what I am not quite sure was the goal. The matting choices and layout were just all “off” or uninteresting. The weird and uncommon sizes didn’t help either. OK ideas; bad execution. Safe to say I was stressed and burned out quite a lot when I made these prints.

You can produce your best work while under some pressure, yet forcing yourself to create often result in a total mistake you wish to forget.

Reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way has influenced the way I think about mental blocks. She draws conclusions about how most of our creative struggles come from within. Everyone is an artist in some way, and every one of us has an “inner self-critic.”

By journaling every day and writing down positive affirmations, we can let go of the stress of succeeding and pressures to work harder.

“Work smart, not hard.”

This the key takeaway from the book, by working less, we do more.

I can keep myself busy all day long, whether at the home office editing and printing, or hiking out massive state parks. It can feel like I’m being productive, but will the quality of the work even be halfway decent?

I would recommend a small daily walk, about half an hour, I find helps immensely to detach from all the commotion and ideas streaming through my head. No music, no phone, no distractions. Simply walk and take in the smells, sights and surroundings in the real world.

I am not ashamed to show and talk about my worst work right beside my best work, all of it make’s me who I am.

Have any burnout stories to share or tips that helped you break through? Leave a comment below or send me an email.

Thanks for reading.

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Published by Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor is a 25 year old photographer located in Beavercreek Ohio, United States. Specializing in wildlife and landscapes both big and small, Ryan has sought to capture many different natural locations throughout the Buckeye State and beyond.

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