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Dealing with that creative rut


Is there a term for the photographer’s equivalent to writer’s block? I’m not sure but l was in a creative rut for the majority of last year.

It was a struggle to find the energy to shoot and I couldn’t find the motivation. I took a double dose of it all when I started feeling self-conscious about my work.

Now, if you were to pile on some of the issues that could exist in life, such as relationship issues (or perhaps a lack thereof), financial burdens, moving, school and a slew of other things. It can be more than enough for many people to call it quits on anything creative at all and find themselves depressed and in a creative rut. I guess you could say that it’s a pretty normal thing, right?

Listen, we all go through some ridiculously rough times in our lives and we sure as heck handle it all differently with different impacts on our health, creativity, money and life. I can’t say that my way through it all is the only and best way to go, but I can share what helped me get my mind back into where it needed to be, and what made me happy … who knows, maybe you’re like me.

1. Surround yourself with awesome people

Hang with friends

Most people would just say “friends”, but not all “friends” are greatly positive influences in our lives, right? Avoid the drama and toxicity of the people you already know you shouldn’t be around and find supportive and helpful people. Find the awesome people. Those who are uplifting. People who are understanding and trustworthy, and turn these people into your friends. Not even just that, find local artists, photographers, video pros and role models you look up to. Fill up your social media with inspiring people and with those you love and with those that make you laugh.

Make new friends with the interests you have, and surround yourself with these people. Join forums and participate in critiques and get to know some of these people. I swear, there are really amazing people out there. I’ve enjoyed stalking some of my local Las Vegas photography Facebook groups and have met some really solid people from them. They often lead to opportunities to learn some really creative ideas. Ideas like shoving stuff in front of your lens, taking the picture, and moving that stuff around until the picture sucks less (as I horribly paraphrase from Renee Robyn).

2. Get out of the house and that creative rut

Get outside!

This is starting to sound like one of those, “How to deal with depression” type articles, but maybe it is for a reason. Being alone absolutely sucks. Well, at least it does for me. I don’t get super artsy and creative if I lock myself in my room breathing stale air while reattempting an edit on a photo for the 4th time — otherwise known as spacing out at the screen. Getting out of the house and finding some activities that are helpful to your creative skill might be an inspiring thing to do. Don’t neglect the responsibilities you have at home though — I’m a believer that when things are clean at home, your mind can be just as fresh.

A lot of my time was spent driving around and scouting. I looked for locations that I wanted to shoot and noted the times that I saw them. Then I traveled a little bit and got into nature, something that I typically don’t shoot. I’d occasionally take a couple of friends with me and before I knew it, things would turn into a mini shoot. I’d take the time to study some billboard signs and bus stop advertisements while I’m out just for inspiration. My favorite is a walk through a high-end mall to check out the big fashion photos. Seriously though, there’s much inspiration to be found by walking the world.

3. Just do it

You’ll rarely hear me admit that I’m lazy, but I’ll own it and say that I get lazy. I’m not the planning kind of person either. I’d spontaneously do things, and of course, spontaneously not do things. Often, I’d rather ditch plans, throw a movie on the TV, and watch that movie and all its sequels for the rest of the night. I’d go home early from social events and make excuses to not do things. Sometimes, very important things. Then, of course, I learned from these pretty ridiculous habits and desires. This is totally not the way to do it.

creative rut

Instead … Just freakin’ do it. Don’t feel like taking pictures? Force yourself to take a camera, and to look through the viewfinder every 5 minutes or so. Don’t feel like doing the laundry? Do the laundry. Editing? Do the photo edits. Eating?! Go to dinner with your friends and heck, take pictures of them! Do the random road trip. Do the normal everyday junk and do the fun, social, and creative things!

Maybe do something crazy! Book photoshoots! Again, bring your camera around and actually use it. Be spontaneous (in a good way — don’t do what I do and cancel things)! Taking a deep breath, and reinforcing a positive attitude will definitely help. This time is a great time to start a personal project. Do a quick search within Photofocus you’ll see you how important it really is.

creative rut

Some of my favorite shots came from when I was forcing myself to shoot. At first, I was hesitant because I felt that everything I took sucked. After I’d snap out of it, I’d look at the pictures and realize they’re not that bad. I mean, they’re not bad at all!

Once you’ve figured out that you’re human and that you feel emotions, and that a creative rut is normal, you can get back to being a complete workhorse and start the cycle over.



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Rafael Jones

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