Sometimes in life we all come to a point where everything feels like we have come to a standstill. Life is boring, we have lost inspiration, nothing seems to lift us any more. We have become strangled by our daily life and our daily routines. Nothing challenges us any more. We need to break out. We need to breathe again. And we need to challenge ourselves again. Particularly as creative beings the lack of challenges is sure to evaporate our creativity. We do indeed come to a standstill creatively speaking. If we want to develop our art – be it photography or other artistic expressions, we cannot keep staying in our comfort zone. The result is inevitably stagnation.
For some breaking out means to take a hike in the mountains, for others it means leave everything behind and start a complete new life. Or it can be as simple as starting to photographing something you have never thought of photographing before. There is no one answer to breaking out of the standstill. But the only place to find the answer is in your own heart. And then you need to start challenging yourself.
I have previously written about the Canadian photographer David duChemin. He has written a handful of very inspiring books about photography and his blog Pixelatedimage is one of the most stimulating to follow if your are interested in photography and creativity. He is a very dedicated and imaginative photographer. Anyway, I want to tell what he decided to do when he for about a year ago came to this standstill. He was on his way to a breakdown, as he wrote in his blog. He couldn’t find a balance in his life any more, despite a huge success as a photographer. So he broke out. He sold most of his stuff, bought a Land Rover and outfitted it for a place to live and travel with. He decided to go on a tour – and live the tour – across and around North-America – to start with. As he wrote in his blog, he wanted «to spend a year doing something that scares me, something that simplifies my life, something that forces me to breathe deeply and open my eyes».
In February this year he gave the condo keys back to his landlady and took off with Jessica, the Land Rover. It’s been very exciting to follow his travel around everywhere. But of course big plans never come true as they are planned. Faith has always one or two surprises up the sleeve. For David duChemin the whole project almost came to and end when he broke his legs during a workshop he taught in early summer. He had to leave Jessice behind and start the long way to get back on his feet. Talk about challenges? But David duChemin is seemingly not a guy to give in. Instead he has kept writing his blog and shared gracefully and generously his thoughts about life and creativity. It’s been just as inspiring to read the blog during his rehabilitation. And now he plans to continue the travel with Jessica.
Somewhere in his blog he writes about challenges: «Where challenge is equal to our ability to meet that challenge we are most comfortable. Below that line is where challenge lags behind our ability and there is stagnation and boredom. Above that line is where our ability has to run to keep up with the challenge. It’s scary as hell but it’s what propels us forward». And he refers to Steven Pressfield in The War of Art, who talks about fear being the magnetic needle that points us precisely in the direction in which we most ought to be moving in order to do our best work creatively and personally.
My own way out of stagnation has been much less dramatic than for David duChemin. In 2004 I started to do journalistic projects together with my friend and colleague Øystein Mikalsen. Economically speaking it’s always much harder when two persons need to feed on the same project, but what we have gain in inspiration and experience and great stories isn’t possible to pay for. The collaboration with Øystein has more than anything the last couple of years been a spark for my creative development, and I think visa verse as well. We have travelled around the world together. It started in Malawi where we have returned many times, but then we have also been to Ukraine, USA, Congo and Rwanda. Next up is Angola where we plan to go by the end of the year.
Time to break out?