Giving yourself a break
For some reason it is often easier for an artist to believe that everyone around them is lightyears a head in the creativity department than they are themselves. Even when you've gone to school, or put in the same amount of time on your own studying your craft, you look around and see beautiful creations easily flowing from others as though they are the source of some artistic spring that they have naturally been blessed with and you have not.
The ideas in your head that you have before venturing on a creative endeavor envelope you in a euphoria- that this time your work will be outstanding, stunning, the best. Yet often times after completing a project we all sit with our creation and find the edges that aren't quite right, the focus that didn't seem to do what you wanted, the mistakes in the magic.
I've been ruminating on this post for a while. With summer in full swing, and backyards spacious enough for safe social distancing, I have been blessed with friends that have braved the global pandemic and have invited me over for a glass of wine or two while we gossip about lives inside our walls. I'm incredibly lucky that the people in my life, especially women, are all incredibly talented creatures. Some write words that could make the toughest dad cry (all of your officiating Casey), some create art with their food making even the most dried out and ancient chocolate look edible, some can pick up almost anything and be at the intermediate stages on day one... this is my friend Meghan.
Since I've known her she has been a talented beauty with enough patience and focus to pick up painting, or needle point, or writing, and on day one turn out something most of us would practice over a year to create. Her house is filled with little craft projects she just wanted to try, and could qualify as things I would see and want to buy on Etsy. She is also one of the hardest people on herself that I know. When ooooing and ahhhhhing over things she's made she is the first to quickly jump in to point out a flaw, part she doesn't like, or issue with her work. She is kind, considerate, and appreciative of everyone but herself.
Why is it we have such a hard time giving ourselves a break?
Maybe it's because we are living in a society with winners and losers. At school there is a spelling bee champion, on sports teams there is a winner to a game, in the office there are people who get the awards and people who were close but not quite there. Even during board game nights with friends there is someone with more points at the end of everything, someone that got that extra piece, or didn't lose a turn.
Maybe it's because it's so easy to express art these days. With a few swipes in photoshop a photo can look like a gallery piece, and just a click of a button later it's displayed for all to see on instagram. People appear to be traveling all the time, in designer clothing, to exotic locations that look empty and life changing. Gone are the days of posting a picture of your food and having people give you a thumbs up or a like, now blurred Swiss Alps and a frosty cold beer must also accompany your dinner to compare.
Or maybe we are creatures that are meant to grow, to become better versions of ourselves, and thus in this quest we never feel we are complete, finished, or perfect. Maybe our love for our friends, or for an idea we never thought of, outweighs the years we've spent with ourselves. The struggles we've made it through and the scars we earned become not a badge of honor but a distant memory as we face live's new challenges.
No matter the reason I can tell you the struggle for me is often very real. There are a good number of photo shoots that I felt amazing in the moment only to come home and not know if I like any of the images. The subjects are great, the love is real, but the lighting isn't what I thought it was, or the angle is too big - or small. I pass galleries on to clients wondering if they will write back to say they like the photos, secretly worried they might not.
I can tell you 99% of the time, just like with my friend Meghan, the fear is unfounded. People are usually enthralled at the art that was created, and the experience was a huge success.
The trick I've found, as an artist, is to give yourself a bit of a break. While I find this hard to do in the moment, re-building a website a few years back gave me the best breakthrough in this self doubt process. While hunting through old images to make this site I realized how often I was impressed with my old work. Photo shoots that I had delivered in defeat now had a sparkle to them that only the client seemed to realize at the time. Looking back I could feel what I felt in the moment and for the first time, because I had stepped away long enough to give myself a break, I realized I captured feelings on film... my personal goal as a photographer.
I'm not sure what your art form is, or if self doubt is something you struggle with, but I would encourage you to spend the rest of the summer giving yourself a break. Sometimes this means literally taking a break from looking at recent work. Put it away and don't revisit it until winter, when you are hunkered down and the doubt has passed.
You might be surprised what a new set of eyes and a little kindness can do for your soul!
Here are some past photos that at the time I didn't think I captured any feeling, looking at them today I can see differently...