going beyond "do the work"
One of my very favorite sayings is "do the work." I love how simple and empowering it is. It implies that if I just keep my head down and stay focused, good things will come. I just have to do the work, and the rest will follow. Most of the time, that's been true, at least for me. When I stop paying as much attention to what everyone else is doing - when I make my own photography and writing and creativity a priority - when I just do the work - good things tend to happen. It's an important bit of feedback I bring on myself in this creative journey - that without the work, nothing else matters.
But what happens beyond that? When "do the work" doesn't seem to be working it's magic?
I've been going through a big dose of this the last 6 months or so. I hate to tempt fate by saying it's been the worst rut yet (because doesn't it feel like the universal will just double down on that?) - but man, it's been hard. My struggles are the same as they've always been, and probably very similar to yours, too. Feeling tired, a lack of time, juggling to keep all the bits of life going, and really just feeling overwhelmed at how much is already out there. I'm trying to do the work, but I just feel like my work isn't good. My "keepers" for personal work have been few and far between.
I'm doing all the things people always seem to recommend: try something new! seek out new influencers! stay off social media! get more engaged on social media! find your tribe! don't pick up your camera until you are ready! make yourself pick up your camera even if you aren't ready! sign up for a new class! and so on, and so on. I'm sure you've heard some of the same advice. And really, it's good advice! Advice that I have often given to others myself.
But sometimes there isn't a magic bullet. Sometimes continuing to do the work, when the work is so uninspiring and lackluster, just puts you further in a rut.
It's also incredibly hard to be honest about how hard it is. Even as I type this, I'm worried I'm going to instill a lack of confidence in any clients who may read this. It's hard to both be honest about the journey, while still running a business that depends on that very journey. I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't had every experience the creative path has thrown my way over the years. The struggle has shaped me. And I know this one will, too, and how I come out the other side of this will earn me a bit more wisdom moving forward.
I don't yet know what I don't know. Being aware of this is one of the foundational pieces to being able to move forward as an artist. I'm very aware of the things I don't yet know. I have no idea what they are, but I know they are there. That keeps me honest, accountable, and humble. But it's also frustrating.
I am not a religious person, so talking about faith and grace always makes me a little uncomfortable - they tend to have religious-based implications, and I don't want to overstep. But I think those two ideas are important. I need to have faith that things will get better, and I need to give myself the grace necessary to get there.
This is a journey. I tell myself this over and over and over again. When I am nervous about trying something new, when inquiries are too few and far between, when my SD cards aren't showing me what I want to see... I tell myself: it's a journey.
And it's that very journey that is what's beyond "do the work." And remember that while that phrase - "do the work" - is both powerful and empowering, it's an action - not a result - and it promises nothing. But it is a reminder that if you want anything to change, you have to take action.
So today, if you are feeling uninspired, or down - like you took your last good image or booked your last client - remember to do the work, but beyond that - remember to take action. And if it seems like nothing comes from that action? Remember that sometimes we don't know what we don't know. And you maybe don't know the full scope of how the action your take today, will affect tomorrow. Have faith - I'm cheering for you!