Finding the Creative Well


It might sound a little strange, me being a photographer that is about to recommend anyone who is working creatively, to start writing. Because that is exactly what I am going to do—and I am going to recommend it even for photographers and other non-writers—yes, even if you think you can’t write. It’s about getting in touch with the enormous creative well that dwells within us all, but at times seems to be completely gone or empty. We all have days or weeks or even longer periods of time when we seem to be creatively stuck. Our imagination seems to have vanished, we can’t get anywhere, and we feel paralyzed. Writers talk about writer’s block, but it happens to everyone who is working creatively. A photographer might just as well talk about photographer’s block, a painter about painter’s block, a musician about musician’s block, and so on; name you creative field and the block follow suit.

The question is; why is that some days the creative well seems to have completely dried out, and, more importantly, how can we get access to it again? Because it isn’t really dried out, it seems empty only because we have lost sight of the source. What happens is only our own censorship that cuts the connection with the creative well. When we start to think «it’s not good enough», when we start to doubt our own creativity, that’s when the creative well starts to dry out—or seems to dry out. We are simply victims of our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and eternal critic that resides in our (left) brain and keeps up a constant stream of subversive and negative remarks that are often disguised as the truth.

In her book The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron talks about the Censor. «The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs the Censor likes are the one that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings. Not exploratory blurts, squiggles, or jotting. Listen to your Censor and it will tell you that everything original is wrong/dangerous/rotten», she writes.

I have referred to Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way before, simply because I think what she has to say about regaining one’s creativity and setting it free, is among the best ever written about the theme. Her book is actually a twelve week program for recovering of the creative spirit. She describes two tools for getting in touch with one’s creative well. First of all what she calls morning pages, which is daily unconscious writing, and the artist’s date, which is a way of filling the well again—and which I will write more about another time. For now I am just going to stick to the morning pages. It’s an incredible strong tool to make you dig into your inexhaustible well of creativity—even if you believe you cannot write.

Morning pages are in essence very simple. It’s three handwritten pages every morning as the first thing you do after waking up. You just sit down and write whatever comes to your mind, without consciously thinking, or without any censorship. Whatever pops into your mind gets down on the paper. It has nothing to do with art or good writing, but just streaming you mind onto paper. If nothing comes to you mind, then you only write «nothing comes to my mind» until you have filled three pages. As Cameron writes; «The morning pages are meant to be, simply, the act of moving the hand across the paper and writing whatever comes to mind. Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, or too weird to be included».

The whole point is to retrieve you creativity. Morning pages get you to the other side; the other side of fear, of negativity, of your moods. Above all, they get you beyond your Censor. It actually works and I can only recommend you to give it a try. Not only a couple of times, but every day—I mean every day—for a longer period of time. Months. The one only rule, is not to skip a day. It works. After a while you start to see yourself, discover beauty within yourself, feel inspired. You are beginning to connect with your inner creative well again. Try it out! And more so I strongly recommend reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Camero—and try her twelve week program. Reconnect with your creative well.

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Finding the Creative Well


It might sound a little strange, me being a photographer that is about to recommend anyone who is working creatively, to start writing. Because that is exactly what I am going to do – and I am going to recommend it even for photographers and other non-writers – yes, even if you think you can’t write. It’s about getting in touch with the enormous creative well that dwells within us all, but at times seems to be completely gone or empty. We all have days or weeks or even longer periods of time when we seem to be creatively stuck. Our imagination seems to have vanished, we can’t get anywhere, and we feel paralyzed. Writers talk about writer’s block, but it happens to everyone who is working creatively. A photographer might just as well talk about photographer’s block, a painter about painter’s block, a musician about musician’s block, and so on; name you creative field and the block follow suit.

The question is; why is that some days the creative well seems to have completely dried out, and, more importantly, how can we get access to it again? Because it isn’t really dried out, it seems empty only because we have lost sight of the source. What happens is only our own censorship that cuts the connection with the creative well. When we start to think «it’s not good enough», when we start to doubt our own creativity, that’s when the creative well starts to dry out – or seems to dry out. We are simply victims of our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and eternal critic that resides in our (left) brain and keeps up a constant stream of subversive and negative remarks that are often disguised as the truth.

In her book The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron talks about the Censor. «The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs the Censor likes are the one that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings. Not exploratory blurts, squiggles, or jotting. Listen to your Censor and it will tell you that everything original is wrong/dangerous/rotten», she writes.

I have referred to Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way before, simply because I think what she has to say about regaining one’s creativity and setting it free, is among the best ever written about the theme. Her book is actually a twelve week program for recovering of the creative spirit. She describes two tools for getting in touch with one’s creative well. First of all what she calls morning pages, which is daily unconscious writing, and the artist’s date, which is a way of filling the well again – and which I will write more about another time. For now I am just going to stick to the morning pages. It’s an incredible strong tool to make you dig into your inexhaustible well of creativity – even if you believe you cannot write.

Morning pages are in essence very simple. It’s three handwritten pages every morning as the first thing you do after waking up. You just sit down and write whatever comes to your mind, without consciously thinking, or without any censorship. Whatever pops into your mind gets down on the paper. It has nothing to do with art or good writing, but just streaming you mind onto paper. If nothing comes to you mind, then you only write «nothing comes to my mind» until you have filled three pages. As Cameron writes; «The morning pages are meant to be, simply, the act of moving the hand across the paper and writing whatever comes to mind. Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, or too weird to be included».

The whole point is to retrieve you creativity. Morning pages get you to the other side; the other side of fear, of negativity, of your moods. Above all, they get you beyond your Censor. It actually works and I can only recommend you to give it a try. Not only a couple of times, but every day – I mean every day – for a longer period of time. Months. The one only rule, is not to skip a day. It works. After a while you start to see yourself, discover beauty within yourself, feel inspired. You are beginning to connect with your inner creative well again. Try it out! And more so I strongly recommend reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Camero – and try her twelve week program. Reconnect with your creative well.

Small Steps toward the Big Goal


Creativity involves dreaming. Dreaming encourages the creative process. Dreaming is good. But dreaming can also halt your creativity – completely. That is if dreaming becomes nothing but a dream. If you don’t turn the dream into action, nothing comes out it. I have written about this before, talked about doing the work. And we can talk about creativity till the end of time, but if we don’t do the work, we are not creating.

There is something more to it, though. Because dreaming also has the aspect of dreaming the big goals, the big achievements, the ultimate expressions, the big aspirations of the creative life. There is nothing wrong with that. But big dreams have a tendency to scare us more than encourage us. Going for the big leap is so much more frightening than staying put. But the reality is that creative life is not made in big leaps, but by a lot of small steps – every day. Instead of believing everything has to be done at once, we should rather start out small and take one small step at the time. That’s exactly how babies learn to walk. They continuously practice first by crawling, then getting up on their feet, taking small steps while still holding on to something, then try one or two steps without holding, before they are finally are able to walk, better and better as they practise more and more. So it is with all big goals in the creative life, too. We must take small steps and continue doing smalls steps, until one day we have achieve what we once dreamt about.

For instance many photographers dream about getting an assignment for National Geographic. But just the mere thought of having to compete with the world’s most accomplished photographers or even just approaching the picture editor of National Geographic seems like too big a leap to even try doing. And it is, if you start out there. Instead look to what you can do today. What do you need to get closer to the dream? Well, first of all some work to show for. Then start doing personal projects, and do something you can accomplish wherever you are. And start doing it today. When you have a body of work, try to sell it to the local publication. If it doesn’t sell, do another personal project. Eventually you get enough experience to move up the ladder and maybe one day even to the top. Small steps toward the big goal.

I have experienced people telling me how they envy my way of working and living, that I am able to travel the world and make a living out it. Again the best advice is to start out small. Do a travel story in your own backyard and try to sell it to a smaller publication. Next time you go on holiday somewhere give yourself an assignment to photograph your destination as if it was a travel story. Small steps toward the big goal.

Or writing a novel. Instead of worrying about getting published or not, start writing a couple of page every day. Or start making a disposition or a plan for the writing and then do it, little by little. When one day the novel is written, you can take the next step. Make it sellable to a publisher, make a synopsis, an introduction letter, and do research on publishers. And then start selling the novel. Going to the publishers one by one. That’s by the way exactly where I have stopped myself. I have written a novel – and even started a new one – but lost track of the road, the one step at a time. The novel has been lying there for too long, I suddenly got scared by the thought of approaching publishers – I might actually get rejected… But no more. That’s really why I have now written this post – to push myself into take the next step. Small steps toward the big goal.

If you can break you dream down to small increments then every task becomes so easy, you can do it, no sweat. Do not look at changing you whole life in one swoop. That is too scary and a sure way to stall yourself. No, small steps toward the big goal.