How to take your foot off the brake

All of us have experienced pauses in our work – times when it is difficult to think of a project, or to find the time, or to prioritize our photography. Whether you call it artist’s block or some other kind of barrier, I would say that in some way you have your foot on the brake. Rather than looking for something outside yourself (over which you may not have control) to change, it is more productive to look inside yourself and see if there are things you do control that could help get you moving again. 

My wife recently introduced me to the idea of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, you feel your talents and creativity are static, you either have them or you don’t. People with a fixed mindset tend to give up when they hit a roadblock. They believe that maybe this project just wasn’t meant to be, or that they just don’t have what it takes to do this kind of work. If, on the other hand, you have a growth mindset, then you understand that you can change and grow. People with a growth mindset try new things. They engage in learning, understanding that with practice they can get better at something, and that this project or this work is within their reach when they put in some time and energy.

A fixed mindset can lead to fear, and sometimes it’s the fear that creates the roadblock and causes you to pump the brakes. I read a book 10 years ago that I would highly recommend called “Art and Fear” by Ted Orland and David Bayles. This book helped me understand the difficulties in art making and helped me to transform that fear. Here are a few things that could help you take your foot off the brake:

·        Make sure you aren’t making choices in process and subject that aren’t available to you. Don’t feel like you are a travel photographer that must be in Europe to make your work. Choose a project or a process that you can do today with the materials and subjects you have available.

·        Each time you feel like making work, but you don’t, ask yourself what the real reason might be and see if you can set it aside for today.

·        Find a mentor to help guide and support you through your next project.

·        Ask yourself: What are you afraid of? What is standing in your way? Take a good look at that roadblock and consider: Is it real or are you making choices that are creating/sustaining it?