That quiet voice inside your head that says: “That might be interesting— why don’t you take a photo?”
Then your rational mind goes: “No, that will be a boring cliche— don’t take a photograph.”
The more I’ve been studying and learning about creativity, artistic process, Zen Buddhism, and the habits of productive creatives— I’ve become more and more convinced that following your intuition is much more important than being “rational” in life.
In the West, we revere “rational thought”— ever since Plato invented the concept of “naming everything.”
However in the East, they have always revered following intuition— very similar to Lao Tzu’s concept of “wu-wei” (action without action) in Taoism. You can see a lot of Eastern arts which promote meditation, using the force of others (Judo), and going with the flow of the river (instead of against it).
Don’t have goals
Don’t have a goal in your photography or life. If you have set and rigid goals, you become a prisoner and a slave to the plan.
Life is messy. Life is random. Life never goes according to plan— so why make these concrete plans about the future?
I’d say follow your intuition. If you want to pursue a certain genre of photography— go for it. If you’re passionate about street photography but suddenly nature and landscape photography interests you— just go for it. You don’t need an explanation for following your intuition, and what naturally interests you.
Children play for the sake of playing. Children paint for the sake of painting. Children never have to “work hard” to be “creative” — that is just their natural state. They simply follow their curiosity and create art based on their intuition. I almost feel that this is the perfect state of an artist: being a child.
Once we grow up and become adults, the schools crush the creativity and curiosity we have. We are told to follow rules, tick boxes, stand in line, and to follow answers.
I feel that one of the big reasons why we don’t see as much creativity in today’s world (as we should with all this technological innovation) is that the school system still promotes too much rote learning and “rational” thought. We aren’t given enough freedom to pursue our own natural interests, curiosities, and passions.
Some of the greatest ideas have come from thinkers who went to “Montessori” schools — schools that encourage children to think on their own, to play on their own (with some guidance from adults). I like this idea— it is like letting a plant grow naturally on its own (but also supporting it, and preventing it from being killed by predators).
Another very important thing in creativity and coming up with new ideas is “incubation”. A lot of ideas need to sit in you and distill in you for a long time before becoming fully-mature.
For example, if you’re making your own wine at home, you need to let your wine sit in the cellar for a very long time— generally the longer you let it sit, the better it tastes.
Similarly, when you pickle vegetables or make Kimchi (my favorite, being Korean-American), you need to be patient and you must not rush the process.
Don’t “force” yourself to be creative. Rather, just pursue whatever interests you, and surround yourself constantly with art. Not only that, but interact with other curious and artistic minds. If you don’t have access to any “creative” people in “real life” — there are always libraries, art books, YouTube, social media, and the Internet.
The knowledge and inspiration is all out there already. The only question is whether we are hungry enough to search it out, and grab it.
3:35pm, March 4, 2016 @ “Babette” cafe at the new Berkeley Art Museum.
Cultivate your creativity
- Zen in the Art of Street Photography
- Taoism and Street Photography
- Have Creative Confidence in Yourself
- How To Find Your Unique Voice in Photography
- Beginner’s Mind
- There is No Wrong Way to Shoot Street Photography
- You Can’t Control the Results, Only Effort
- On Capturing Beauty in the Mundane
- On Searching For the Maximum
- The Beauty of “Creative Constraints”
- How to Stay Curious
- Enjoy the Process