What To Do When Your Creativity Fails You

What do you do when your creativity fails you? When the trials and tribulations of life and love leave you feeling empty, alone and devoid of creative energy. How do you eat, sleep and work when the very foundations of your life are torn asunder by some major event? How do you capture the beauty of this world when your soul aches with despair? How do you continue to “create” when filled with grief, fear and sadness?

I’ve know many photographers that gave up their craft when faced with the loss of their creative spark. Some quit very quickly, rather than face the dwindling prospects they saw their life filled with. Others lost touch with their clients, colleges and creative friends more slowly as they sank deeper into their creative depression. In many cases the energy required to “create” something meaningful was simply more than their heart and soul could produce and they let apathy and entropy take their course.

Sooner or later, this happens to all photographers, whether amateur or professional. In the course of your life, you too will face a period of time when the fire of your creative spirit will grow dim, perhaps even to the point of extinction. How you handle this tribulation speaks volumes about your character, your integrity and your spirit.

The Basin Ridge

The Basin Ridge – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 35mm, f/14 for 1/25th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter and 2-stop, soft, graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

As many of you know, my wife of twenty-three years left me several months ago in a rather abrupt and hurtful manner. I was both surprised and shocked to find out that she no longer loved me nor wanted to be married to me. The weeks that followed this shocking event were perhaps the most painful in my life and nothing could have prepared me for the sense of loss, grief and despair that followed. I had thought my chronic physical impairments (see blog postings from July, August and September 2008 for more information) were the worst thing fate could hand me but I was wrong. Even the most acute physical pain is nothing compared to the emotional pain I felt during those long, lonely weeks. I felt overwhelmed, afraid and adrift. I couldn’t eat, sleep or work and my creative spark had simply vanished.

Then one day a few weeks ago I had lunch with a very dear friend of mine that has suffered through eight different bouts of cancer, the last only a few short weeks ago. During our lunch, my friend would explain in great detail how his treatment was going but he never once complained about his illness nor about his lot in life. In fact, we spent much of our lunch talking about my current situation which pales in comparison to his plight. Rather than look for sympathy after his most recent bout of cancer, my friend was more interested in lending me support through my ordeal.

You see, my friend’s steadfast courage and enormous personal integrity won’t permit him to succumb to his cancer nor will it allow him to live his life to anything but the fullest. He continues to drive himself to the doctor, takes his rather large dog with him wherever he goes and enjoys a good plate of spicy Tex-Mex whenever we get together. If you didn’t know better, you never think that my friend had cancer at all. He is an incredible individual with more energy, enthusiasm and interests than men half his age. His courage, spirit and singularly positive attitude help him not only survive cancer but to thrive despite his situation.

I admire his courage, integrity and character more than I can ever express and he would be mighty embarrassed if I were to mention him by name in this post. His example to all of us and to myself especially is to “live life to the fullest” and to look at every obstacle as a challenge to be faced with courage, rather than with fear and self pity. Through his courage and integrity my friend taught me a very valuable lesson at a crucial moment in my life.

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life… When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.

– Tecumseh

You see my friends, creativity is not a gift that can be lost or stolen. You can’t buy it at a camera store and it’s not something that you can borrow from someone else. No amount of money can buy creativity despite the millions spent each year in this pointless pursuit.

Creativity is a muscle!

It is a muscle that all of us are born with and it lays very close to our hearts. Oh, it may atrophy when neglected and cramp when stressed beyond its limits. It is a muscle that requires exercise to stay in shape and warmth & rest when it’s hurt. Nothing can stop this muscle from flexing to its fullest extent if we have the courage to exercise it diligently and the wisdom to protect it from injury. Like other muscles, creativity requires nourishment to grow and rest to recuperate.

Creativity needs the strength of your convictions, the integrity of your actions and the warmth of your spirit to operate at peak efficiency. Sometimes it just needs a good swift kick in the butt. Let my friend’s life be your example and Tecumseh’s poem your roadmap. When your creativity fails you, pick yourself up and start running again. Your creativity’s “muscle memory” will kick in and soon you’ll be back in the race. I promise!

Walking the Path Alone

The Basin Ridge – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Copyright © 2011 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 35mm, f/14 for 1/25th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter and 2-stop, soft, graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

6 thoughts on “What To Do When Your Creativity Fails You

  1. Pingback: JSP Visual Week In Review | 07.28.12 « JerseyStyle Photography

  2. A very inspirational post today. I will link it in my post for tomorrow, and I hope frequent visitors to my blog will read your post as well.

    I don’t want to spray more pepper to a sore eye but take it from a guy who “failed” love many times… a book and a camera, are the only friends left for me. When all the world fails you, your camera is your only friend (who will never complain, nor question your motives). Go figure, which is better… living with your camera, or with people who never seem to understand a word you say…

  3. Thank you for this post Jeff. Laying your soul bare as you’ve done is a sign of a true creative. Everything we are pours into what we make and that doesn’t just include images. Hang in there! Your photography buddies will always be here for you when you need us.

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