5 Ways To Escape Your Creative Slump
You are a creative genius. Your mom loves your work. Models love your work. You have 200 likes on social media. And then one day it all comes to a screeching halt. "Why am I going to just go take pictures again?" Besides. It's cold outside. And it gets dark before you get home from work. all this camera holding is really taking a toll on your pinky finger. And you have 30 kids. And everybody needs a break from time to time. Video games will be excellent for your mental health.
6 months pass and you're poor. Your job is going nowhere. So you think, "Hey. Maybe I should make some photos." But then, while still sitting on that comfortable couch, you think, "But I don't know what to shoot. And nobody knows I exist now. Who would want to work with me? And what is the purpose of my existence?" Well don't worry. I'm going to give you a few ways you can escape the clutches of mediocrity.
1. Don't worry about it.
You don't have to do anything. Seriously. If you're paying your bills and meeting the emotional needs of your family, you're good. Anything you do above and beyond that is a bonus. If it's what you feel is right, just sit there. Nobody cares. I have found that while this isn't actually a good strategy for finding fulfillment in life, the recognition that no one expects you to go and dominate the world (on the contrary, actually, usually) can help you to remember why you started doing creative things in the first place. "Oh. I'm at square one. I'm back to basics. I just want to do something that sounds like something I would want to do." So just ask yourself what you want to do, and then do the thing you're motivated to do. In other words, do what you want.
Lots of creatives will tell you that if you want to have great ideas, you have to obtain them first. And there aren't any ideas in your living room. They're either in your dreams (I sometimes just wake up with a great idea) or they're out in the world. There are lots of things and people and events out in the world, as opposed to the bed and dresser and dog that are in your bedroom, which are only a few things. Go have experience, and suddenly you'll find yourself interested in life again. Just the other day I was feeling slumpy. I got home from work and played soccer with some neighborhood kids at the park and I haven't felt so alive in months! I woke up the next day with an idea for a short film and the desire to make it. Don't underestimate the power of some really good play.
3. Clear the pallette.
If you've eaten a lot of eel and it's going to mess up the flavor of your salmon, eat that weird pickled ginger first. Then take a drink. Start clean. Sometimes I have an idea I'm so interested in shooting that I can't think of any other ideas anymore. Which doesn't sound all that bad except when you never actually go shoot the idea. If you have an idea you can't get past, and you never go shoot it, well, you're stuck. You'll never work again. You might as well just quit photography and work in a lasagna factory. I actually did work in a lasagna factory once. It's not that bad.
4. Enter a contest.
I love contests. I think they're on the naughty list these days because of all the contests that are just out there to get a lot of free images or to capitalize on the oversaturated supply-side of the photo market. But honestly, if you're not shooting anything anyway, and there's a contest you're really interested in, and it's not parasitical, then that contest can be a great way to have a subject to shoot, competition to beat and a deadline to be accountable to. And occasionally, when you totally smoke your foes, you might win a fricking Red Scarlet Dragon or something. Who knows. It's been known to happen.
5. Go To The Big Leagues.
Maybe your slump is slumping because you've reached a place where you're the big tamale. You're the one everyone wants to be like. You're incredibly sexy. If you ever get to that place, it's time to move from your smallish pond to a biggisher pond. If you're a table tennis player who plays only with grampa and feels pretty cool because you win all the time, well, maybe it's time to play against me.
Find and surround yourself with people who are better at everything than you are. It makes a difference. Hopefully they'll want to be around you. Be kind.
Hopefully these things will help. There are many strategies for overcoming slumps in Photography and other disciplines, but these are just a few that have helped me. Happy shooting!