We’ve all been there: you finally find time to do something creative, you pour yourself a cup of coffee, and you grab your camera or sit down in front of your computer ready to start…but nothing comes to you. You feel the panic starting to well up in your stomach because you only have so much time set aside. You’re ready to begin with all your tools in place but your mind is blank, and you just can’t think of any interesting, exciting ideas. So, you just try something to get your creativity flowing, but you hate it immediately.
Now this is when the panic really sets in and your mind starts running in all directions worrying about what you could be doing wrong and all the time you’ve probably just wasted. Even worse, you start thinking about the amazing new work that someone else has just published and how your work will never be that good unless you discover something amazing right now.
If this sounds like something you’ve experienced, then you’re in good company. This is an almost constant battle that is raging on in the back of our minds day in and day out, but once we give into it and give it power it can completely debilitate us! Our inner critic takes over and gets in the way of our creative flow.
Two of the biggest things that can completely crush your creativity are self-doubt and imposter syndrome. Both of these things disrupt your creative flow by leading you to believe that you aren’t good enough or that you’re in over your head and underqualified for what you’re doing—even though that couldn’t be further from the truth!
All creative endeavors, including photography, are meant to be fun forms of self-expression. Creativity is how we share our ideas and visions with the world—and just as every person is different from one another, so are each of our creative ideas unique to our passions and experiences. No one style or perspective is better than another. Every single thing we create is a reflection of who we are, and we should never, ever be afraid to share it.
When I was first starting my career, I felt like I had to be, do, and shoot things a certain way in order to be a “real” fashion photographer. And I constantly worried that I would never fit in with the other photographers in the fashion industry because I didn’t do all the same things they did. I remember being SO worried about being judged for posting nature photos and quotes while everyone else seemed to be posting photos at parties and events that it was nearly paralyzing. I’d ask Dustin, my husband, if I should post certain things, if people would think I was weird or totally unaligned with the industry. And he’d remind me, time and time again, that I just needed to be myself. And I struggled with this for a long time, with sharing who I really was through my work and social media presence.
It wasn’t until I started gaining more confidence in myself (which I’ll admit is always harder than it sounds) and in my photography that I began shooting and editing things that I really felt connected to without constantly worrying what people would think. And this is around the same time that I started booking work that mirrored and aligned with my passion and personal style. I was finally creating from an inspired space, was full of ideas, and as a result the right opportunities started to make their way into my life. Once I stopped trying to be like everyone else I finally had the space to find myself.
I share that with you all because I want you to start to create what YOU want to create, not what you think people want you to create. Explore all of the peaks and valleys that make you who you are—if you want to edit an image with the clarity slider set at 100 and turn all of your shadows dark green, ABSOLUTELY GO FOR IT! Why not?! You never know what you might discover about your style by just letting go and purely creating for creativity’s sake. Don’t let self-doubt impact what you try to create, and never let imposter syndrome stop you from sharing something you’re proud of with your community.
Figuring out how to do this definitely takes a lot of practice, and doesn’t always come easy, but it is 100% possible for you to purely and confidently express who you are through your art. And as for the times when you just can’t seem to get the creativity flowing, or you are feeling a bit too nervous to try out that new idea you had, I have a few tricks for you.
Here are the ways that I’ve been able to get myself out of a rut and fuel my creativity:
1. Step Outside Of Your Routine
A lot of the time having a routine is super helpful—it holds us accountable to getting things done! But other times too strict a routine can be creatively suffocating. So, if you normally wake up, have a coffee, and then start work, try throwing a little kink into it. Wake up and go for a short walk before you even settle in with a warm coffee to start work. Or maybe try enjoying that morning coffee at a café and jotting down some ideas there before heading back to your camera or computer.
Breaking up your routine even just a little bit can help keep your brain from going on autopilot and checking out when you need it most. When we do the same things every day our brains become hard wired to fire off the same neural pathways, which basically gives our brain permission to check out because it knows what to expect. Engaging our brains in new activities, and firing off different neural pathways, gives our brain some exercise which naturally leads to sparks in creativity.
Meditation is an amazing tool for quieting down your inner critic and getting into the right headspace to work or create. If you’ve never tried it before (and even if you have!), there are tons of apps available that offer timers and guided practices for all kinds of intentions. Starting your workday with a clear mind that’s ready to focus is essential to the creative process, and meditation can be a game-changer if you’re having a hard time settling in.
3. Go Outside
Fresh air works wonders. Whether you just go for a short walk or decide to go for a run or a hike, getting your blood flowing and your heart pounding can be just the thing to take you from feeling stuck to feeling a burst of creative energy. Plus, there’s nothing worse than just sitting in a room staring at a computer screen when you’re feeling stuck. So, get outside and give yourself a break!
4. Try Something Random With Your Technique
If you’re feeling determined to edit or shoot, sometimes it helps to just choose a random editing technique and mess around with it for a few minutes. It doesn’t matter if it looks funky—in fact it’s better if it does! A great way to spark creativity is by trying something new with one of the tools you already know and love. So, see if you can discover something different in your style by trying out something new. Remember, if you don’t like it you can always revert back to your original image or take another shot and use what you just learned to give you new ideas and new ways of seeing.
5. Find Comfort In Your Space
Sometimes being creative feels uncomfortable. That’s because we are pushing our limits and boundaries and venturing into the unknown! But because it’s uncomfortable it can be hard to really relax enough to let your creativity take the reins. When this happens, it can help to seek out some comfort in whatever form suits you. For instance, cuddling up with my puppy, Murph, has been a LIFESAVER more times than I can count. Sure, pets can be a distraction, but maybe that is the exact thing you need to distract your inner critic long enough so that you can let your creativity flow! Taking a shower or listening to some of my favorite music is another way i’ll quite my mind. Find your comfort, and let it guide you to your creative space.
The main thing that I want you all to remember is to not beat yourself up if your creativity feels a bit stuck. It happens. Try to hold your self-doubt at bay and give yourself permission to just be; just try something and let it be. Even if it’s not perfect, or no one ends up liking it when you post it on Instagram, try to be okay with that. All that matters is that, at the end of the day, you were brave enough to express yourself and try something new—that’s what people are going to remember. And that alone is something worth being proud of. Share who you are and allow yourself to grow more confident in the process.
Creativity is all about the journey—give yourself permission to learn along the way.