I don’t know what the secret to “happiness” is— but I know that I am the least miserable, least anxious, and least stressed when I am creating.
When I am creating things of value for me and for others. When I am writing, photographing, teaching, or sharing.
So I have an idea for you: always be creating. As long as you’re always creating, you’re never going to become stagnant in your life. You’re always going to be excited, pumped, and encouraged in life. You’ll always have something to look forward to— and you’ll create something tangible that you can be happy and proud of.
I’ve discovered something funny in my photography: whenever I am taking photos, I never am dissatisfied with the camera that I am shooting with. However, when I am sitting on the computer, looking at camera review blogs, suddenly I feel dissatisfied with the camera that I own (no matter how expensive or good it is).
Whenever I am dissatisfied in my life, it is because that I am not doing anything, and I’m just pondering about all the things I am dissatisfied about in my life. However, when I’m in a “flow” state— being actively creative, actively connecting with others, or creating art— I never feel these negative feelings.
“Real artists ship”
A lot of us as artists are afraid to “ship” — or “deliver” our creative assets with the rest of the world.
For example, to “ship” in blogging means to write a blog post and to hit the “publish” button.
In social media, to “ship” means to publish a photograph.
If you’re a business, to “ship” a product is to put out a product to sell.
Many of us fear “shipping” — because we know once we put our creative products out there, we have a fear of being judged or of failure.
However constantly creating and constantly “shipping” our creative assets with others drives us forward. It helps us to become more bold, to become more creative, and to become less fearful. Not only that, but everytime you give birth to some creative thing— you have the potential to empower someone else.
How I stay motivated to keep creating
I always have a hard time to “always be creating” — what works for me?
First of all, coffee. Lots of coffee. I have experimented with my caffeine intake (high, low, none) — and fuck it, I treat everyday like it is my last. I know drinking too much coffee screws up my sleep patterns, but it still helps me to be productive, to produce, and to be happy. And I generally find drinking coffee at cafe’s is the best— I have the chance to meet other creative people, to have ambient noise to help me focus, and having a nice chat with baristas.
Secondly, it is reminding that I am creating something for a greater purpose— to help empower others, and to help society. I am obviously a selfish person, with my own desires and needs. However whenever I write, blog, make videos, or teach— I know that I have the potential to empower and help others. I try to help others in the way in which I wish I were helped. I try to create information that I wish I had when I started out.
Thirdly, it is to eliminate distractions and focus. To me, focus is nothing but putting all of your creative energy into a laser beam. Anytime you have a distraction, your laser beam gets less focused and less powerful. I want my focus to be like a magnifying glass with the sun — strong enough to burn holes through paper (or kill ants). Whenever I get distracted by social media, blogs, email, or anything else — I feel like my laser beam is getting more and more spread out, and therefore less effective.
To eliminate distractions, I have certain strategies and tools. Whenever possible, I try to turn off my phone (completely off) until around noon or 3pm. Therefore I don’t get distracted, and can focus on writing or doing creative work. I also try to not be connected online (work with my wifi disabled) on my laptop, to focus on writing. When it comes to photography, I keep my phone on silent, so I can be in the “zone” when making images.
How to “always be creating” as a photographer
In photography, you can create in many different ways.
You can create by making photos. You can create knowledge about photography by writing or blogging. You can share wisdom by interviewing other photographers. You can create self-knowledge by studying the master photographers, or by researching and studying photography books.
You can be creating photo communities by arranging local meet ups. You can create new ideas around photography by experimenting.
You can create inspiration for other photographers by publishing your photos, by creating YouTube videos, or creating a podcast.
There are so many possibilities for you to always be creating. Broaden your scope; know that so many activities can help you be creative, and to empower yourself (and others) in photography.
Defend your creative time fiercely
I believe more in “energy/attention management” than “time management.” You can have a spare 3 hours in your day— but if you don’t have any energy or attention, can you actually get any creative work done?
For me, I find my creative energy the highest in the morning. For you it might be the evening. Regardless, know what works best for you— and fiercely defend your creative time.
I try not to schedule any meetings, appointments, or logistical things in the morning. My morning is my sacred time to blog, write, meditate, read, and do creative work. The problem is I tend to be a people pleaser— so I have a hard time standing up for my own time. But if you don’t control your own time and creative schedule, someone else will. And that will fuck up your life.
Be unreasonable, and know that your creative work has a greater purpose than to just serve yourself. Ultimately you do creative work to empower others, and to help society move forwards.