This is a chapter from the book A Lesser Photographer.
History, and science, has shown that the brain is in its most creative state while in a state of conscious rest: daydreaming, in the shower, under an apple tree, etc.
This is pretty much the opposite of what we value as a society. These periods of rest seem to get more fleeting with age and responsibility, but much of that responsibility we impose on ourselves. If we’re seeking to find better ideas and more of them, we must first do no harm.
Here are a few things I’ve been paying less attention to, in an effort to take life a little slower.
“Resistance,” a term coined by Steven Pressfield and popularized by Seth Godin, is used to describe the anything artists use to distract themselves from the pain of accomplishing projects and facing criticism. From obsessively cleaning the house to checking social media, Resistance comes in all forms. Its sole purpose is to kill creative accomplishment.
The popularity of productivity apps and books over the past two decades has been Resistance’s greatest ally. It’s become a comfort to fiddle with our projects, which means we’re not accomplishing them.
I’ve learned that if I’m thinking about productivity, I don’t have enough enthusiasm for my projects.
I’ve also learned that habits are far more powerful than projects. If I take a few hours to write or photograph every day, the product will build up much faster and easier than if I map out every little detail of what I think I might do.
Everyone wants to be more efficient. But no one would want to describe their art as “efficient.” Groundbreaking art tends to be incredibly inefficient in its making.
The news is dangerous to your mental and creative health. Numerous studies confirm aspects of this sentiment, but don't just take my word for it. The Guardian (an actual newspaper) recently ran an article with the lede:
“News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether.”
Even the newspapers are telling you news is bad for you. Of course, that comes from the news, so anything below the lede is probably inaccurate, invasive, and statist, with an insatiable ad-based business model to feed.
Photography news is even worse than ordinary news. Besides the problem of emptying brains, it also tends to empty pockets.
It's never been easier to ignore the news, especially photography news. Give it a try, and spend more time with your art.