The Annoyingly Simple Thing That’ll Change Your Art & Life
On Being “Right”
You’ll probably think this is odd. But here it is: I sometimes wonder if I’m doing things “right”. Do you ever do that? I do, and it just never feels good. Thing is, I know that when I worry about doing stuff right – it always means I’m comparing, judging, negating myself in some way and it makes me feel like that stuff you scrape off your shoe. I know I’m not alone on this. I also know it’s not where I choose to reside.
The solution? It’s simple, if you’re brave enough to leap.
Here’s an example. Photography & social media. I’m on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube… and those are just some of the ones I’m more active on. Makes me dizzy sometimes.
As a result I see ALOT of photographers’ and artists’ work. Some of them are amaaazing. If the stars align a certain way, it’ll mess with my head. The litany in there sounds something like this: “Oh god. Am I even doing this RIGHT?? Look what [he/she] did. I should travel more. Maybe I should just focus on one thing, post more shots of a me or a human subject standing in the middle of my shot, looking up.” (Oh, please, don’t get me started on THAT!)
On Contrast (It’s Not Just For Photography)
Point being… that inner yapping makes me feel lousy. But you know what? That is actually AWESOME! Because if all of a sudden I start feeling lousy (this stuff usually happens all of a sudden, if you’re paying attention)… it’s such a dramatic contrast to how I feel most of the time, I know something’s up.
And at that moment, I actually get kind of excited, because now I get to course-correct myself into something even better. Some of my most awesome creations began as moments just like this.
On Breaking It Down
Here’s how I break it down.
The Worst: Is when I feel crappy. Frozen with doubt. When that nefarious naysayer voice in my head is blabbing, telling me lies, making me feel small and “less than.” What do I see through this lens? Nuthin’. Nada. Zip. My reality selection feels flat as a pancake on a dirty street in horse and buggy days. I resist everything.
The Best: Is when I’m happy. Joyful. Light. Looking forward to all the wonderful things I get to create in this lifetime. From that feeling, my ideas are better, my work is better… I SEE so much better through my lens! Better things effortlessly come my way, more delightful surprises… surprise me. Magic happens.
Who can change worst to best: Moi. Me. Myself.
How: By shifting the thoughts I’m thinking and the feelings I’m feeling. People think their thoughts and feelings “just happen” – or worse yet, think they depend upon ANYTHING outside of themselves. But pick out some better thoughts and feelings to focus upon and Voila! Re-landscape your whole life. I’ve observed and experienced this enough now for it to be one of those “What I know for sure” things. It sure is important to know for your creative process… and in life.
The Bonus: Oh yeah. There are usually fun surprises…
What’s It Look Like?
The Worst: Me doing the old “am I doing it right?” trick to myself in New York. I was there to speak, to have some meetings, to shoot when and where I could in between. It wasn’t technically a photography trip. Rather than relaxing about that… I started feeling anxious about what I was and was not shooting. (Oh NOW it’s a photography trip? WTF?) Comparing myself to others who have so brilliantly captured this city. Freezing up inside as I wondered if I was doing ANYTHING right. Nice, huh?
Who can change worst to best: Me. I palm-slap my forehead. “Stop it!” I holler in a firm-yet-loving manner. I consider this constricted, icky feeling in my gut. It’s definitely a brilliant example of how I DON’T want to feel. So… what WOULD I like to feel? (That’s the important next question. My little kid always gets excited about it, which is a good sign.)
I answer: Happy. Fun. Full of life. Loving and loved. And… free of judgment about what is or isn’t the right way to approach photography. Feeling so grateful to do what I do and blessed to get to see the things I do. Loving my life and the beauty I see all around me. In my flow. Just thinking about that stuff make me start feeling better. To take it all a step further…
I decide to go visit one of my besties and forget about photography for an afternoon. Shift gears. OF COURSE I always take a camera… and since I wasn’t sure if it would rain or not I grab my Fuji X-T1 and 16-55mm lens (they’re weather-sealed) and head downtown.
On Allowing Flow to Happen
Erica Hill and I go back 17+ years to the TechTV days. TechTV was a technology television network based in San Francisco. I was hired as the network talent coach, to teach the tech folk how to do TV… and the TV peeps how to talk tech convincingly. It was a BLAST! I met 3 of my best friends there… Erica being one of them. It’s been so thrilling to watch her success and happiness grow since then.
We’re both so stinkin’ busy it’s hard to find time… but that day we MADE some and met up at her office at 30 Rock (NBC headquarters at Rockefeller Center). It’s always fun stepping into her world, where we’re as likely to talk seriously about things as we are to take silly selfies with a sock puppet and a microphone:
The Best: In that moment, I felt full and grateful and full of appreciation for this dear friend who sings me a song on my birthday (and vice versa), who always makes time despite a busy family, an impossible work schedule, travel and commitments… who talks with me about things that matter and who is always there for me. And vice versa. I found myself not giving a rat’s ass about what was “right”… I was just having FUN, feeling all those things I wanted to feel.
The Bonus: Something magical happened. (It always does when you let go, choose better thoughts and feelings and let inspiration come to YOU.)
I had the chance to do this: shoot this 3-shot vertical pano overlooking the skating rink. I didn’t expect it, it just kind of happened.
It was organic; a real moment from my life and no one else’s. I didn’t have to think about it, it came to me as an inspired moment; one worth sharing. One that will always remind me that I have a choice about how I think and feel – and that choosing BETTER ones will always change my life.
I think of this photo as a kind of life-as-art love child.
Know what else? It felt RIGHT… as a fershure, not a question.
Why Focus on All This?
Why deal with all this “inner voice” stuff?
Because as an artist, an expresser of things, you’re all you got. You ARE the instrument, the interpreter of what you experience – whether it be photography, art, life. Your camera, paintbrush, experiences are all just waiting for your inspiration and enlightened direction.
If you’re all plugged up with fear, doubt and worry (as my dad used to say)… you’re out of your flow. You can’t access your muse, your higher guidance, your inspiration… your real, true VOICE.
And that sucks.
The beautiful thing: all it takes to shift out of that mess is to think a better thought, choose better feeling… then another, then another… rinse, repeat.
It’s shockingly, almost annoyingly simple. 😉