Half year creative slump heading into June?
Today I want to casually discuss feeling drained, exhausted, tired about photography, and also having a negative attitude or feeling towards photography, regardless of what it might be.
Now, before I begin, I do want to say, that I am not hear to be a judge, and you as a person has every right to feel what you are feeling.
Like I said, this is more of a conversation, where I am brainstorming my thoughts on this topic, sharing my opinions, and in the end, hoping that it would help you where you are in your business.
So, let’s first talk about experiencing that slump. I myself have experienced a slump in creative work like photography and design. A time where I don’t feel like agency work is the right path for me, or where I feel like I am stuck creatively, and overall just feel negative.
My slump happened after trying freelancing in photography. I wasn’t getting the clients I wanted. I was making enough to justify freelancing full time. My clients were difficult. And I just thought my quality of photography and design was horrible. And in truth, at that time, my photography wasn’t amazing in terms of quality, even if I did receive positive responses. My design was great. but lacked strategy.
So, I left freelancing and took on a full-time job, and it was in marketing. And that did wonders for me. It might not have been ideal in terms of having a desk job, a 8-5er, a company culture that was not healthy for my creative spirit, but I grew in other ways. For 2 years I immersed myself into more administrative and business tasks. Branding was a big part of it. Working in a team was part of it. Doing freelancing can be very lonely. So even though it was tiring and didn’t shout brand strategy, I gained confidence as a marketing professional, was surrounded by people and grew as a person. But the big thing that I started realizing, was that quality mattered to me, and that I wanted to improve my creative skills whether it was in photography or design or brand strategy.
For 2 years, I removed myself as a head photographer and designer from my own business. I did take on jobs if it came my way, and I did some second shooting for other photographers. Very little design work.
Your story or reason for slump might be completely different. We each have our own slumps.
But here is my advice, my solution was to be removed from photography for a while whilst I gained community, confidence and clarity on who I really wanted to be.
But my main word of advice would be to be gentle on yourself. We are often our biggest critics when it comes to our goals and objectives not being met fast enough. Our inner critic can take us down a path of further damage. So be gentle. Rest if you need to. Accept that timing isn’t always going your way. And take a bird’s eye perspective of things.
And this slump comes on often. Even now, in May, I’m feeling drained, I feel my self-confidence tapping out. And this is where the difficult part comes in. Sometimes you can’t be distracted for 2 years. If this is your business, sometimes removing yourself isn’t the answer. Sometimes you have to have the guts, to pick yourself up and move forwards. You can’t allow every moment of exhaustion to get to you, otherwise your business won’t be able to flourish.
This is where clear boundaries come in. Following an 8-5 schedule where clients don’t interact with you after hours, is one simple boundary that can allow you to be more empowered and energized.
Starting lists and schedules to get through your day, to manage yourself is another boundary that allows you to move forward. It’s not always easy for creatives to follow structure, but it can be a savior in helping you to move forward. Your business can’t just stop, if you have bigger goals for it.
I recently watched a Ted talk on depression by Jessica Gimeno. And she says that on days that she feels overwhelming depression, her way out, is to do just 1 thing. Just 1 thing is all it takes.
And remember to keep on being inspired. Surround yourself with content and people who excite you. Instead of feeling threatened by someone else’s work, feel inspired by it. Let it move you. Let it motivate you to be just as good.
Something that has helped me quite a bit, is a gratitude journal. It’s easy to feel negative. Happiness isn’t a button you can switch on. And as humans we are more likely to see the negative than the positive. But a gratitude journal let’s me evaluate every day what I’m grateful for. Not everyday is a full page. Some days it’s a sentence. But that brings me back to what I have, what progress I’ve made, and from that I feel more balanced.
And now for something a bit different – our attitudes towards creative industries. A lot of photographers will tell you that the photography industry is low. A lot of people will tell you that the graphic design market is too saturated. Just look at I Know A Guy on Facebook. Many blame cheap photographers or a saturated market or the fact that anyone can learn the basic skills very easily. Others blame the quality of work produced. Some will say there’s nothing wrong with the industry, but that the creatives’ attitudes are rotten. And all of that actually doesn’t matter. It’s all negative. And whether the industry is low or not, is irrelevant.
Why do I say this? I say this, because if you are complaining it makes this whole negative attitude grow stronger. It fuels the monster. It doesn’t combat it.
And my solution, don’t be upset with the creative industry. Don’t fight it. Don’t let conversations about it, trigger your negatively. Focus on your own work. Focus on improving yourself and your business. Learn what will make you business and your art, outstanding. Forget about your competition in that way. And focus on being the best you can be at any given time. Having healthy conversations about problems in the industry is good, but letting it affect you emotionally, and allow it to contribute to your slump, is not healthy and helpful. It’s counterproductive.
And although I am here “teaching” or “preaching” I go through my own slumps. I go through negativity. I get angry. I’m not perfect, and no one is, regardless of their reputations or their quality of work or how well their businesses are doing. And that is okay. Find your own balance and focus on running your business and improving it to a goal you are content with.
And any time, if you need to discuss how to get out of your slump, I do individual consultation coaching sessions, where we work through your concerns and objectives, and provide you with a workable map of how to move forward. If in JHB we meet up, if national or international we can Skype.
Thank you Michael Henry for the lovely cover image for this blog!