If you had unlimited resources and unlimited opportunity, what would you do with it creatively? What kind of project would you dream up if it were a fact that nothing was standing in your way? What story would you tell with the restraints of practicality, insecurity, fear, and realism completely lifted?
If you had an unyielding drive to share something, would you fight to make it happen, even if you had no resources other than the ability to genuinely express your desire to give this idea form to others? Would you put in the work to make it real? Could you improvise your way around any obstacles?
Do you remember those wonderfully energetic days of exploration when you first discovered your love of photography or writing or painting, days when you would take on a subject simply because of your interest in it, and you experimented with reckless abandon – having tons of fun doing it? Even if you look back at those creative acts now and scoff because your technique was rudimentary, you were filled with adolescent angst, and your interests have radically changed since then, there was something primal, cathartic, and amazingly fun about frantically scribbling lyrics alone in your room at three in the morning or long days spent in a studio with only your headphones to keep you company. There was no start or stop time and there was no concern for work/life balance because what you were doing wasn’t work, for those hours or days you threw yourself into your project. It was your life and you were exactly where you wanted to be.
I was surprised when I started to realize how many working creatives I knew that were not regularly working on personal projects. For many of them it seemed that the challenges of putting their creativity to task for others on a daily basis had robbed them of that initial spark that brought them joy through the act of creating. Some were burned out and bitter, others still loved what they did but found themselves running in place creatively – always moving but never advancing towards their goals. Many of them had lofty ideas for projects that they never seemed to start, while others drowned their simple and easily executable ideas beneath an ocean of doubt and fear.
There have been countless articles written from the viewpoint of every creative discipline about why you should dedicate time to personal projects. Some focus on the need to alleviate burnout, others propose it as part of a marketing strategy to engage potential clients on a more personal level, and the more introspective ones see it as a way to define your creative goals through self-exploration. These viewpoints all have their benefits and advantages, but few of them focus on the core of why many of you started creating in the first place…
…because you cared about something.
I have talked to photographers and artists at all stages in their careers, and I have heard a few common excuses as to why they aren’t exploring their own ideas:
“No one will like my ideas”
Don’t make it because you think others will like it on Facebook, or because you think it might get you work, or noticed by the art world, or turn a profit. These are byproducts, not goals. Make it because you give a damn about it and want to tell everyone else that you give a damn about it. You might even convince some of them to give a damn about it too.
“I have an idea but it is too difficult to execute”
If you need help, ASK!!
There are people out there who respond to genuine no BS passion – real passion is infectious. Some people fear the word “no” so much that they give up before they even get started. Don’t be one of those people who berates others into helping you either. Instead be so genuinely driven in what you are doing that they can’t help but want to be part of it. You will be surprised when you realize exactly how far unbridled enthusiasm can take you.
I guarantee that there are people out there who want to help you already – people who are going to be excited about what you are doing and want to get involved. They could care about your subject matter or cause, they might be fans of your work, or they may be friends who don’t even get your idea but wholeheartedly believe in you.
“I don’t have any ideas”
Yes, you do – you have an unbelievable variety of ideas that are swimming just below the surface. You have ideas every day and forget them in the rush of your daily life. You weigh them against the perceived expectations of others and discount them as invalid or stupid before they even get off the ground. If it means something to you, it is worth exploring. Think big, but don’t be afraid to think small either – you don’t have to change the world with every project. They can be silly or funny or painfully sad, they can be all about your nerdy passions, or they can start a worldwide movement. There are no rules. There is no minimum or maximum. You can travel around the world or stay in your bedroom. You can create it in an afternoon or spend your whole life pursuing it. What is important is that you give that idea in your head a tangible existence – make it as real to the rest of the world as it is for you.
The important part is starting.
Start recording your ideas – it doesn’t matter how. Keep a notebook, start a file on your computer, etch it into stone tablets, or go all Twin Peaks and record it into a dictaphone for Diane. Just as important is to start to pursue and act on these ideas – don’t just seal them away in some vault where they are out of mind. Revisit your notes and your ideas. It might feel like the most daunting thing in the world, but if you can take small actions towards starting you will build momentum in no time. Projects like these are an outlet that allows you to build something around your own passions and interests – something that you feel strongly about. People respond to these ideas because you are sharing something that you are 100% behind, that you are willing to take a risk for. The act of putting something out there despite your fears of how others will receive it is courageous and amazing.
A blank page, an unexposed roll of film, and an empty stage are full of all sorts of potential – they want to be filled.
Fill them with something that you think it is totally cool, or something you believe in, or because you want to make a change, or have to tell a story. Everyone will find their own method. I just want to light a fire under your ass – you need to find a process that works for you. Whatever it may be, throw yourself into it all the way and start something new.
Where is your creativity going to take you next?