Making art can be a challenge. Tonight it would have been easy to stay comfortably seated at my kitchen table and eating my dinner. Making art meant having to get up, grab my cameras, put on shoes and a jacket and drive around town to the best place to see the sunset.
Dinner will wait. Sunsets won’t.
It was worth it even though I ended up eating a cold dinner. Hell, it was worth getting cold. A lot of the time, photography is being in the right place at the right time. That happens a lot more often for me when I put other things aside and make my art my priority. In other words, sometimes I have to work at art.
The time I spend with my camera usually passes as a flow state. I don’t know what time it is, I don’t know how long I’ve been messing with the camera. I don’t care that my ears are becoming meals for mosquitoes. If it means getting the shot, I’ll dodge traffic, climb over guard rails, lie on the ground, and use just about anything as a camera support if I don’t have my tripod. And I love every second of it.
Sometimes it’s a challenge to motivate myself to pursue spending time with the camera. So I have to treat it like work. And since somewhere along the way I earned the right to call myself a professional photographer, it is work. In order to get it done, I have to get motivated and do it. Fortunately, I find the work to be fun and fulfilling. But I do it more often if I treat it at least a little bit like a job.
It’s easier to stay home than to run all over town for the best vantage point for the sunset. It’s easier to keep driving than to pull over and dig out the camera. It’s much easier to just pass the shot than to ask my friend who happens to be driving to pull over. It’s easier to let these opportunities pass than to take a chance and make an effort.
It’s never guaranteed that any work of art will sell. No one can promise that the right market will exist when you have a completed product. But you can guarantee that something will never sell – if you don’t make it. That’s why I have trained myself to think of taking photos as working. Not that it ever really feels like work, especially not compared to some of the jobs I’ve had – but that’s the subject of another blog post for another day.
When I committed to living a more creative life, I bargained with myself. I would carry the camera with me most of the time. I would specifically take the camera and go somewhere and look around at least once per week just to see what I could find to photograph. And I would write most days, the exception being when I was spending time on photography and didn’t have time to do both.
I have made sacrifices to do what makes me truly happy: taking photos and writing. I could check Facebook more often, or go out to bars or the coffee shop instead of choosing to spend that time working on my art. It’s worth it because I know I’m going to be happier choosing to work at my creative projects than I would be spending that time on many other activities.
Eventually, every creative person has to make the choice between doing what is really important and what isn’t contributing in any meaningful way to long-term happiness. Are you going to make art, or not? If your art, whatever it may be, is important to you, make it your priority at least some of the time.
Deciding to create is easy. Making the decision every day to create when there are so many other things you could be doing is much harder. I speak from experience when I say it’s difficult, but it’s worth it.
Sure, it would have been nice to have dinner before it got cold, but I would have missed a spectacular sunset. So I think it was a fair exchange.
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