Creative blocks are no fun; trust me, I know. For the past year, I’ve been lost, really lost. Recently I’ve started to feel more like myself and I know this because it shows through my photography. For the first time in a LONG time I am absolutely in love with my photos. If you are suffering from lack of inspiration, comparing yourself, and hating your work, then I highly recommend you keep reading! Although this may not be your perfect answer I hope you find something helpful.
In December 2017, I quit my job and moved back home. It was one of the best decisions of my life but it was a consequence of losing myself. I fell into the wrong crowd and my priorities were a mess. I had no idea who I was, what I wanted, I was trusting the wrong people, and I couldn’t trust myself. Being lost, feeling uncomfortable in your own skin; this happens to all of us I think, from time to time, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Of all the horrible moments of my life, not knowing myself is by far the worst.
My Instagram and photography business grew exponentially in Reno (2016-2017), where I was living before I moved back home to Montana, and when I moved back home, it stopped. I was so desperate, desperate and depressed, sitting around trying to figure out what to do with my life. If you can’t quite grasp how lost I was…. well I was throwing darts blindfolded trying to see what would land. I applied for jobs in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin; the list goes on. All this time I lost my creativity; I couldn’t take a decent photo to save my life. Or I thought I couldn’t. I started comparing my work to that of “big photographers” and I tried to decide what their work had that mine didn’t. I starting taking photos that I thought looked like theirs, I started adding filters. I perfect example is this post. The photos just aren’t “me”. I love naturally enhanced photos that show how it really was, not filtered photos and fake colors; I want my photos to stand the test of time.
Luckily my good friend, Hanna, called me and basically told me to get my life together. Thank goodness for good friends. I found the amazing job I have now and I have spent the past 7 months digging myself out. You may think once you fix whatever is “off” about you that everything will fall into place. But I can tell you that it doesn’t. You are going to feel lost and frustrated for a good while. It’s okay. Just keep going. Hopefully this gives you some background into my story; I got myself in a bad spot, lost myself and any inspiration I had, and spent almost a year and a half digging myself out.
Now that I’ve set the scene, I will list some of the specific things I did to help get my creativity back.
Surround yourself with those who love and support you
Throw yourself into your hobbies & figure out what brings you bliss
Tackle what you can & don’t fret what you can’t
Live in the moment
Turn off social media
Take care of yourself
DETOX. The first thing I did was look hard and honest at my friends, my choices, my habits, my life. I cut out friends that put in zero effort. I avoided toxic people at all costs. I looked at every aspect of my life and I cut out anything that wasn’t serving to help me grow and be better - anything that was negative was gone. It wasn’t easy and it’s something I still struggle with. Sometimes I meet new people but in getting to know them I realize they aren’t what I am looking for. It’s extremely hard to cut out toxic things; maybe because we are addicted to the pain, maybe because we feel like we are being mean. But detoxing has been the greatest form of self love I’ve ever practiced. Toxicity blocks our creativity and self love boosts our confidence which allows us to push creative boundaries.
FIND SUPPORT. One of the best things you can when you are feeling lost is surround yourself with those who love. They know who you are and they can remind you when you get lost. They see your life differently than you - sometimes they see us better than we are - and they can help guide us in the right direction when we feel we cannot make a good decision.
INVEST IN HAPPY HOBBIES. Over the years my hobbies, interests, and likes have changed. Of all the things that bring me joy I’ve found photography, hiking/nature, and people are what I need to survive. Sure I loved the Brooks Brothers dresses but I am 1000 times more fulfilled finding activities that don’t cost a thing. I’ve spent a lot of time alone so I wouldn’t be influenced by others, because let’s be honest the clothes might have been because of an ex-boyfriend. ;) I need to find out what makes me alone happy then find a partner that enjoys those things, not the other way around. One of the best ways to spark creativity is to spend time doing the things that bring you absolute joy.
FORGIVE YOURSELF. This has been the hardest battle of my life. I always thought I was doomed to make the same mistakes. I always thought I was a hopeless cause. I am the hardest person on myself by far. As I’ve searched and read a lot of self help books I’ve learned that I am not anything but what I am today. I forgive myself for the mistakes I made, for the person I was. Even on days when I eat crappy or don’t get enough sleep - I forgive myself. Me being nice to me has changed my life. It allows me to move on when I hate my work which is important. When I was stuck in a filtering photos/comparing phase I got so down on myself that I paralyzed myself. I didn’t touch my camera for months after. It’s okay to fail and create things that aren’t your best work; it’s okay to take a break - above all you have to love yourself.
TACKLE WHAT YOU CAN. Sometimes, no always, I take on, or at least think about, way too many things. I think about things that aren’t relevant - the classic “what if” scenario. It’s unhealthy and a waste of time. Instead of thinking about being the best photographer (or whatever) make a list of a few things you can accomplish and do them. It feels great to check little things off your list and it boosts your confidence.
LIVE IN THE MOMENT. This is good advice for every aspect of your life. All too often we worry about the future and forget to live in the now. As a creative we have to use all of our senses to create. If we are too busy being wrapped up in what we want our work to be we miss out on what actually is. I always have an idea for the types of photos I want to take on my adventures but most of the time the photos I don’t plan turn out the best. At first I would get so upset when a photo shoot didn’t work out but since I let go and started shooting for enjoyment, allowing creativity to come to me in the moment, my work and my stress level have improved!
QUIT SOCIAL MEDIA. This may or may not be an issue for you but social media can be a rabbit hole for me. There are some amazing people that inspire me; I see their photos and I want to immediately grab my camera and head outside. And there are other people who cause me to question everything about myself. Regardless of who or why I think it’s important to limit time on social media. A few months ago I quit social media and it opened my eyes to just how detrimental and toxic the platforms can be.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. One of the first things to go when I am feeling down in my diet. As hard as it is when you are feeling unmotivated one of the most important things you can do for yourself is take care of yourself. A regular sleep routine, limiting sweets, alcohol, etc, exercise, and eating clean is so important. I struggle with it daily so I get it but I feel so much better when I treat my body right. In addition to the physical it’s important to take care of your mental health. I like yoga, journaling, and reading self help books. We have physical, mental, and spiritual needs and we must protect and nurture them at all times.
MINIMIZE. Like social media cleansing this might not be the best advice for you. But I have found my free (ish) hobbies such as hiking, photography, and backpacking have made me happier than things, traveling to big cities, etc. As with toxic things I cut a lot of things out of my life. My house and life is very minimal and I find the environment so much more enjoyable. I find I love saving money and only having the bare essentials. It makes life so much easier and I think it allows for creativity to grow instead of filling my brain with clutter.
KEEP GOING. The best advice I can give if you are feeling stuck is “the only way out is through”. Sometimes you try everything possible and you just can’t get out of being stuck. Some days nothing feels right; you feel uncomfortable in your own skin and you want to cry. It’s okay. It’s going to get better. Sometimes we get ourselves into horrible spots and it takes using fighting tooth and nail to get out. Just keep going. Try things even if you are unsure and they don’t feel right. And remember this - I went through the hardest times of life right before my life got better than it ever has been. You will always find your way back if you have hope and keep moving forward. If I didn’t have the bad times I wouldn’t know what I wanted and I wouldn’t appreciate what I have now.