Into the Unknown

When we start our journey into the creative dimension, we venture into unknown territory. We need to. As a matter of fact being creative means embracing what until the moment of creation was completely unknown to us, otherwise we wouldn’t be creative. Remember; to create means to originate or to bring into being from nothing. It means bringing into life something completely new. We – figuratively speaking – take on a journey into new territory. But we cannot make this travel without facing the unknown. When we do we are creative discoverers.

For many people, though, the unknown creates a sense of conflict, disorientation, and discomfort. People often attempt to reduce this experience by pretending to know what they actually do not know. But in doing so, they disconnect themselves from the creative source. In order to reduce their discomfort, they manufacture explanations, engage in speculations, and concoct theories. They try to make the unknown known through speculations and inaccurate descriptions, and if they aren’t able to, they turn away from the unknown and stay with what they already know. Doing so, though, is detrimental to the creative process.

We grow up in a society that values being «with it», so that we may adopt the premise that we should know what’s happening. This is a value fostered by traditional education, where we are rewarded for knowing and penalized for not knowing. When we create we need to open up for not knowing, be willing to let the journey go wherever it takes us – without knowing.

Thus, an important ability for all who create is being able to live with the unknown, the unresolved, the incongruent, and the contradictory. This contradicts the popular myth that creative people are those who generate fantastic ideas and always have the answer. The truth is that creative people often do not have the answers and are quite aware of the spaces.

It’s like when I go out and shoot on the streets. I literally venture into spaces of unknown. It’s often places I haven’t been to before, but I am curious and open to where the unknown will take me. It’s also a journey in a figuratively sense. I don’t know who I will meet on the street, I don’t know how they will react to me, I don’t know if the will want to meet me at all, I don’t know what these encounters will bring – maybe new friendship, or maybe new knowledge, or maybe hostility or disapproval. Sometimes I do not dare face the unknown on the street, but when I do, my life is always enriched beyond anything I had thought beforehand. And I come home with new and inspiring photographs. I am creating


75 thoughts on “Into the Unknown

  1. Share the sentiment of your words (and love the images). As I get older I become more fearful of what is arround us…..but as you suggest the adventure does make you stronger.

  2. That is so inspiring, Otto. You have explained the creative journey so well – not just in photography, but in writing, in art, in all forms of creativity.

    I am doing a writing course at the moment, as part of which I need to interview people I have never met before, but from whom I need information and assistance – so this ‘journey into the unknown’ really resonates with me at the moment.

    Like you said, “I don’t know who I will meet on the street, I don’t know how they will react to me, I don’t know if the will want to meet me at all, I don’t know what these encounters will bring – maybe new friendship, or maybe new knowledge, or maybe hostility or disapproval.”

    And yet, when you actually take the step, your life is enriched… I like that! Your post today is nudging me to face my fears and uncertainty – thank you, Otto!

  3. How right you are! That work cost these things and once you do you feel good about yourself and you be glad it’s all over have done, hugs Otto PD.: I’m beginning to see your post earlier, I had a lot of work and that I have been emposible, i’m looking forward to get back in the day
    Babylon 9

    ¡Cuanta razón tienes! que trabajo cuestan estas cosas y una vez que las haces te sientes bien contigo mismo y te alegras de haberlo hecho, abrazos Otto
    PD.: Estoy empezando a ver tus post anteriores, he tenido mucho trabajo y me ha sido emposible, estoy deseando ponerme al día

  4. Hi,
    A fantastic read. I think it is good to get out of our comfort zone and experience new things every now and then, meeting new people, learning new and exiting things, and just seeing the world around us. 🙂

  5. Otto, thank you for such wonderful words which I always find so encouraging. It takes me so long to reply to your posts because there is so much I want to say, so much more I want ask! Is it strange to feel such contentment in the isolation of the unknown?

    1. I don’t think it’s strange at all, but I think we just have to learn to face it. And just keep asking, it’s a learning process for us all.

  6. Yes, not always a comfortable place to be and difficult to stay in that place…thanks for the reminder…saw an amazing exhibit of Francesca Woodman yesterday in NYC where her unknown was brave

  7. This reminded me of something I try to make my students understand in the writing classes. They should dare to break all the conventional methods of writing, to be different, and to capture and express the unique thoughts that cross their mind. I think many of the original thoughts go unwritten because they fear whether such things can be written. Creativity becomes creativity only when the ideas are expressed. And at the end majority of the answers look the same except those by the ones who could think out of the box.
    Yet another insightful post!

  8. Interacting with strangers is indeed an enriching experience, and I often think of what I would have missed had I stayed in the ‘comfort’ of my home and friends. Recently a woman declined my request for her photo; I told her how lovely the light and shadow was on her face, and if she would allow me to take the photo, she could see her beauty through my eyes – and then I would delete the image. She allowed the photo, then smiled proudly when I showed her the image. I asked if she wanted me to delete it, and she smiled again and said, ‘No.” Through that image, she saw herself as beautiful, perhaps for the first time. Z

    1. A beautiful experience which shows that not only when we are creative will we be rewarded when we enter into unknown territory. It goes for all parts of life.

  9. Another inspiring post Otto. I sometimes have to push myself to get out and about, but it is usually well worth the effort in the end. Beautiful photo.

  10. Superb image, Otto. Part of the fun about trying not to leave home without a camera is that it really does concentrate my mind on looking for something unexpected. And that forces creativity on me. It’s always an interesting experience.

    1. Interesting way to force creativity on you. I would have a hard time leaving anywhere and not bring a camera. But I still think it’s useful to break any routine.

  11. Incredible photo Otto! Another wonderful post, well said. Almost like we are only tools to place ourselves in situations for the creativity to flow through us and we must be open to the process with only the expectation of coming away with something we did not expect.

    1. I love the way you state it; «place ourselves in situations for the creativity to flow through us». Beautifully said, and yes, it did bring us to place we didn’t expect.

    1. You are having quite a life’s experience aren’t you? Talking about that, I haven’t had time to look into your travel to Africa lately – too busy – but will get into soon now.

  12. One of the reasons I seek and cherish the company of creatives, Otto, is because of their ease with the unknown. Who wants to know all the time? Ewwww! 😀

  13. Such a very beautiful photo to punctuate your point. What an unexpected sky! I think that you’ve made a great point about living with the uncertainties and releasing the need to have the answers. I never precisely connected it with creativity, but I now see that it’s true. It is in releasing to possibility of all sorts that we are open to new and that is creativity! You have said it so well. I really appreciate how you’ve shared a powerful point. Debra

  14. Sometimes I do not feel so brave when I am “creating”. When I make myself start and get caught up in it the fear disappears and the creativity grows.
    This photo is amazing, Otto. I have been looking at it for a couple of days now. Going away, thinking about it, coming back and looking again. To me it looks like like Armageddon or End Times (whatever you want to call it). The windmills seem abandoned, the sky is on fire, there are no signs of life. Something that should be terrifying but is stunningly beautiful at the same time.

    1. Isn’t that how much of life is, both beautiful and terrifying, good or bad; or smooth or rough? But you are right, it’s the initial step that is the hard part. As soon we have started the fear goes away.

  15. Always great to have a strong cup of coffee to start each day living on the edge, in the ‘danger zone’ called the unknown. Thrilling!
    I enjoyed reading your thoughts and discovering how you go about creating … peace be to you. 🙂

  16. Holy cow Munchow! What a picture! Have you heard they want to send people to live on Mars? Sounds insane to me because you would never wake up to see beautiful sights such as these. I love our planet earth and thanks for sharing this gorgeous picture!

    1. I certainly wouldn’t want to live on Mars, even if I encourage myself to venture into the unknown. You are very right; we do have a beautiful planet – as long as we take care of it…

  17. OMG man, this is so freaking amazing! The sky and everything. I especially love those windmills. I have always wanted to them nice and close up.

  18. Wow Otto, you really put into words exactly what the creativity is like; all about embracing the unknown instead of constantly searching for answers. This post was so inspiring – thank you for your words.

  19. “Thus an important ability for all who create is being able to live with the unknown, the unresolved, the incongruent and the contradictory.” – This is so true and so clever. Thank you for putting it for us. Hope you and your dear ones are faring well. 😉

  20. Today’s post admirably encapsulates quite profound truths and expresses them in simple language. I suspect that the photo illustrates your point well in that the creative process extended far beyond the click of the camera and took you into territory that you had not initially envisaged..

  21. Hi Otto,
    Your photo is unbelievably beautiful and looks like a painting – I don’t know how you do it.

    I’m back from my walk on the Camino. I was pushed out of my comfort zone each day and discovered new places and things I didn’t know were there. It was a wonderful experience, but it’s been unbelievably hard to come back home especially returning to work where time stands still

  22. Another thought-provoking post Otto. I like that I frequently come away from your blog with more than I arrived with. I find that being open to possibility helps me to cope with the unknown that creativity demands.

  23. Great inspiration here and a breathtaking photo! I share your sentiment. I don’t know where my creative journey will take me, but it’s fun exploring and trying different avenues.

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