The Secrets for Getting Out of Creative Slumps as a Photographer

Let’s face it: constantly innovating, creating new ideas and coming up with the next “most spectacular image” can be exhausting. We’re all looking for ways to carve out our own space in this giant world of photography without looking like we’re just trying to be different for the sake of being different. It usually happens right after a string of excessive creativity. The pendulum swings. You wake up ready to tackle the day and think up your next amazing idea and boom: your mind is a giant empty canvas…a blank screen with a blinking cursor.

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In regards to creative slumps I usually find that they seem to rear their ugly heads when I need to learn something new. When I’ve reached max capacity with my tools or knowledge I find myself searching for something that could scratch the record or create some sense of urgency to bail myself out. As a person who tends to do very well under pressure, I sometimes find self-induced pressure can bring about massive growth opportunities, even if her best friend is stress! Being careful to give myself thoughtful deadlines that don’t rob me of family or personal time is usually my first throw at overcoming a creative slump.

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For the first few years of my business, I really struggled with balancing family life and this brand new adorable baby business. It needed so much attention and love and I didn’t always get it right. I was like a five-year-old that just took the training wheels off her pink barbie bike, wobbling most of the way down the sidewalk praying that I didn’t bite it! There was guilt associated with being tied up with work when I was away from family, and guilt associated with being away from work when spending time with family.

I don’t think anyone talks about how, to a degree, that will always be there. Simply, you cannot be in both places at once. While in one area we flourish, another area may be a little droopy. So, you fight the good fight of finding balance and practicing patience and forgiveness with yourself. I continue to learn how to balance the enormous responsibilities of both.

An important step in that direction was realizing that like anything else worth having such as happiness, health, fitness, good relationships etc, inspiration is best reached as a constant practice.

What if inspiration isn’t some sneaky little fairy that drops glitter on you in the night? What if a muse has nothing to do with a magic wand and a godmother? What if inspiration, like most coveted things, is a muscle? A daily practice? A ritual? A cultivated garden of intention?

Maybe working backwards is useful? Things that I know don’t inspire me:

1. Email – sucks my brains and my heart right out through my fingers. I check my email twice a day. Never first thing in the morning. If I check my email first thing in the morning, it seems I’m derailed from the intentions I’ve set for the day and start off answering to everyone else. After my morning routine is completed, and I’ve done the tasks that matter most to me, only then do I open email. Usually around 11am and once again before close of business around 4pm. I give myself no longer than 20 minutes to shoot out responses.

“An important step in that direction was realizing that like anything else that was worth having such as happiness, health, fitness, good relationships etc, inspiration is best reached as a constant practice.”

2. Product fulfillment – I love seeing my work finished in gorgeous prints, canvas, albums, frames, metals….but the process of prepping and ordering is a soaking wet blanket on my creative flames. I do product fulfillment one day a week and usually it’s Monday morning. I do it to get it out of the way so I’m not dreading it all week!

3. Being too busy – If it’s true what Robert M. Pirsig said, “Boredom always precedes a period of great creativity,” it’s hard to “feel” inspired if you’re too busy doing to feel anything. I’m a guardian of my schedule. Big time. When I was younger in my studio business, I would take any work I could get! As I’ve developed as a business and a photographer, I’ve learned to say no to projects that don’t fit my vision, further my endeavors, and ignite my passions. Remember, you’re trading your life (time) in exchange for money. Make sure it’s a worthy and equal exchange.

Things that do inspire me:

1. Failure – Nothing gets me more fired up than screwing up! I’m never more motivated or creative than moments when something just didn’t work. On a personal note, I am a strong believer that if I’m not failing enough, I’m not taking enough chances to grow. I’m all about failing up. Every great failure offers two amazing advantages. First, you learn what to do different next time, and secondly, you often stumble upon a success you weren’t necessarily seeking in the process. So, fail away! Once you eliminate the fear of failing, the freedom of risk becomes quite intoxicating.

2. Success – Sounds counter-intuitive but hear me out…when something works really well, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s maxed out. The best might just be yet to come. So if it’s extremely good what if it could be out of this world?

3. Having a crazy thought and grabbing hold of it like a cowboy holding on to the leather reigns of a bull during a bull ride. Sometimes a small thought is just a giant creative idea in disguise!

Tracie Maglosky is an Olympus Visionary.