Struggle is Good

I think struggling while in the midst of a creative process is good for the whole process and not the least the end result. It means you are not running on auto-pilot, but have to use your skills to actually accomplish what you are trying to do. The struggle simply goes along with being creative. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but often the more you initially struggle to get where you want to creatively speaking, the better the final result might be. I just think there is no way around the struggle, and I don’t think we want to either, no matter how painful it feels in the moment. So instead of finding the easy way around the problem, go head and address it with determination as well as a willingness and openness for alternative solutions. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. And you may find that you are surprisingly – in one way or another – rewarded in the end.

For me it’s almost like getting up to shoot at dawn. I am not a natural early bird and I really have to struggle to get up to catch the sunrise. Even though I am not a nature photograph I still love that beautiful morning light. So I will go through the struggle to get up in time – once in a while at least. And after the initial struggle the reward is worth any hardships getting there. Not only for the beautiful light, but I also love that early transition-time between night and day, the quietness, the cool and often empty space that goes with daybreak, the muted sounds, all while experiencing the awaking of life.

Quite often when I have to shoot corporate portraits I really struggle to find a meaningful and interesting way to do it. It goes with the territory; often the shoot takes place in a boring office environment. After the initial struggle – and I know I am not getting any good pictures when I notice that I constantly seek various angles or try hard to search for alternative solutions, I step back, think a moment about what I want to say with the picture; what the story is; what the subject is, and then let go and start to flow with my unconscious mind. Momentum starts to build up, I enter a more dynamic shooting process and I might end up with something quite different, but way more interesting than what I started out from in the first place.

The same goes with street photography. I love being on the streets shooting daily life whenever I travel. And I think I get some good pictures once in a while. But it’s such a hard struggle, always has been and always will. It’s the whole process, encountering strange people, take some from them and give some of myself back; it all wears me down. And I still love it. But some days I just can’t get myself out of the hotel – literally. I go hiding in the room and struggle with my depletion and self-esteem and my motivation. And then next day I am out again, doing better than before I went into hiding.

A few times I don’t manage to get out at all, though. I remember many years ago; I had been travelling in South-East Asia for about half a year. I was on my way back to Europe and had a 36 hours lay-over in Karachi, Pakistan. My initial plan had been to take advantage of the time there and go out and shoot, but I was completely done after six months of street photography. I spent those 36 hours in my hotel room with curtains closed, and I am still somewhat embarrassed when I think about it.

But when the struggle doesn’t wear you down, I think it’s only good for the creative process. It sharpens you and makes you get more out of the process. So struggle is good. Embrace it with pleasure!

34 thoughts on “Struggle is Good

  1. Thank you for this honesty about your feelings and struggles. Who would have known…I, for one, read your posts, look at your beautiful photography, and just think it must come so easily to you; that’s pretty much what I think about all wonderfully creative people. That it just flows so easily. I’m so glad you shut down when you need to, but then come back again!

  2. Thank you for being honest about the struggle. I often feel like quitting because I battle the demons of doubt in my own creativity. I have to remind myself that I only need to please myself, not the world.

  3. Great post. It is always encouraging to know you are not alone, and other photographers struggle too. I struggle most with taking the time to learn software. I love being outdoors, so sitting behind my computer screen struggling to learn PS CS5 for instance, is a real struggle. But where ever there is a struggle there is a treasure. So struggle could very well be a sign of something worthwhile in you midst.

  4. Thanks to all of you, Angeline M, nrhatch, Maggie L R, Gigi and thebigbookofdating, for the wonderful feedback. The thing with creativity is that what we fear the most is also what we want the most. There is always all this fear, insecurity and doubt – for the unknown when we enter the realm of creativity. It’s like setting sail for one direction, but not knowing where the wind will take us. And then feeling both fear and excitement for heading out to unknown territory. I think an important way to overcome the fear is by not judging what we are creating. Getting detached but at the same time being able to stay engaged in the process. Just let it become whatever it becomes – with a little help from ourselves… We certainly don’t need to think about what others might think, and I even think we shouldn’t worry about pleasing ourselves, either. Sometimes we create something we like, and sometimes we don’t – and that is just an opportunity to learn more. How easy doesn’t that sound?

  5. This is another good and great post, to know you, to read you, is always a great touches of encouragement. Sometimes I learn, sometimes I feel that I am not alone… “Struggle”… How I loved it. But could I add another word too, “Patience”… Do you know, Otto Von, what I learned with my camera in times, I mean what changed about myself? I learned to be patient. Before my camera I wasn’t like that… So, the patience also brings many efforts, many tries, I think. You almost named it and expressed very well. About this photograph, beautifully captured. A moment, but so touching… There is not any smile or happiness on their faces… The story behind this photograph, should be, in there. Thank you, Blessing and Happiness, with my love, nia

    1. Hi again niasunset,
      Your are so right. Patience is definitely a quality that is needed in photography. And I have to admit I am not always good at it. Of course patience can come in many faces, one is not to give up, keep going. Another is waiting in stillness for the world to come into place. Your little word made me start to think in new ways. Thank you.

  6. I think the ‘struggle’ makes me really think about what I want to say in a photograph, and not just take the easy or obvious way out. It makes me clarify my focus and my intent, while at the same time letting me explore options.

    And there are definitely days I just hide in my hotel room!

    1. Yes, struggle is clarifying – or can be. And when I look at your pictures you definitely have come to a very clarified personal view. We all need to hide sometimes, but it’s sometimes only to replenish and find new energy.

  7. Such a terrific blog post. I love it when artists, photographers, actors, and other creative people talk about the struggles they face. All too often we are taken for leading these easy carefree lives without struggle, conflict, or hardships.

    I’ve enjoyed looking through your images.

  8. Wonderful post and an amazing image to go with it. I think you’re right, struggle is good. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all that. That same goes for any creative endeavor. if you refuse to give up, you come away with a knowledge that can’t be replaced. Even if you fail, many times at least you will have something new to try, or better yet, end up with something unexpectedly amazing.

  9. Thanks for joining the “discussion” Roberta and A. Barlow. I really think there is no need to not talk about the struggle we encounter along the creative journey. First of all it’s part of the process and does build our creative abilities. It might be a cliché; what doesn’t kill you etc. but it’s nevertheless very true. Secondly there is so much to learn in sharing our experiences and so much encouragement we can give each other if we share the the hardships, too.

  10. Wonderfully written post. I surely agree with you in many respects. Struggle IS good. If things were always easy, everyone would be doing everything and the world would be just an average and mundane place. Those of us who seek to gain a level of separation and make a distinguishing mark for ourselves will go the extra distance to accomplish the task.

    Take this wonderful craft (photography) that we love. My thinking has always been that anyone can take a photo, but who can create art and tell a story with their camera? Obviously the answer is that many can, but certainly not all. Extra effort and fighting through the struggles of life, regardless of what you seek, always pay off in the long run simply because few take the additional efforts required to succeed.

    I really love this post and I thank you for putting it out there. That in and of itself, takes an extra effort. 🙂

    Great post, my friend. 🙂

  11. Oh, that morning light, indeed! So glad to hear you mention it and also that you struggle to get up for it. I think during the week as I am early to gird myself for corporate chaos that on the weekend, I’ll get up and get out and snap away (and hope for magic).

    Ha. It’s a gorgeous saturday morning. I have missed even seeing the packs of crows who are at the feeder as they move around the region due to fall. (I know they were out there; I heard them.)
    Little matter. I’ll head out there now and see what’s stirring. The neighborhood sounds to be still very sleepy.

  12. Thanks for more nice comments, Jimi Jones, thepurpledogpaintingblog and oh. I think everybody can be creative whether in photography or in some of the other arts, but many don’t want to face the struggle or take the effort to connect to their creative well (or have lost the ability). But for us who loves whatever we are doing creatively, we know it’s worth the struggle, even though at times it doesn’t always feel like that. That’s when it’s good to have the support from fellow creatives or people who love you.

    As to book, yes, maybe one day, but it’s still into unforeseeable the future. I am actually working on a couple of novels, so anything about photography will have to wait anyway.

    The morning light is magic on its own accord – and can certainly give rise for magic moments to be capture by the camera.

  13. I very much agree with you and others regarding the creative process. Much like traveling (and life!) the journey is more important than the destination in many ways. Enjoyed reading your thoughts on creativity, thanks for sharing.

    Also, thanks for taking the time to look at my blog : )

  14. How interesting to know that you had a stop in Karachi, but what a letdown! Hahah, don’t beat yourself up too much about not getting out though. Karachi is exhausting! Though, had you been up to it, you might have taken some memorable shots 🙂
    O well, you might come back some day. Look me up then. I might show you around 🙂

  15. “Don’t be afraid of the unknown..” ; that brief sentence speaks volumes to me, there is no other way to explain my personal experience from hearing such a statement. I often find myself wondering why more humans can not adopt that very thought when integrity is the benefit of doing so. I reviewed several of your posts. This one, particularly, has my undivided attention. I understand the meaning entirely, and quite possibly infinitely.

  16. Struggle makes us into better persons, make us feel and relate to the subject. It motivates us to strive in every way. Great words that shows a lot of invaluable experience. Thanks for sharing them.

  17. Perfect! After writing about my struggle with dyslexia and settings on your previous post, here you are shining a very positive light on our creative agonies.

    Sometimes luxuriating in pleasant creature comforts, after pushing oneself endlessly, is the greatest gift to give our souls. Who knows what the consequences would have been had you not listened to yourself!

  18. Excellent post on the subject of struggle….I make it a much needed parenting rule because not only is it helpful for creativity but also teaches the “if you want something bad enough, nothing is impossible” attitude. I love it…So struggle is good. Embrace it with pleasure.
    Thanks for the read and the Like over at Simply Charming. Much appreciated. 🙂

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