So what do you do when you feel your vision has abandoned you? That it’s dried up or gone missing? I talked about this while I was in Kathmandu on a personal level but I’m seeing it all over the internet and in emails from friends. I can’t be the only one.
The downside to believing that our photography is an expression of our vision, and that photographic vision is connected to our personal vision, is that what’s going on in our personal life can affect our work, in some ways it must affect our work. Personally I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t want my art to be anything less than honest. I’ve seen several people post comments on Twitter lately that their vision is nowhere to be found. I’m in a funk now too, it’s just part of the cycle of being human and being creative. We have ups and we have downs. Some of us use those downs to create honest and powerful work, some just take the downs as what they are and wait it out. All of us, at some point, feel the hollowness that comes when we pick up our cameras and realize we’ve got nothing to say.
To be honest, I’m almost at the point where I’ve heard the word “vision” come out of my mouth one too many times. It’s a good word but it gets invoked like an incantation and if there’s one thing I know it’s that there’s nothing magic about vision. It’s not some guiding force that pushes us forward, protects us from the funk, or makes our images magically better. God knows other artists have no such thing protecting them from periods of malaise or indecisiveness. Vision doesn’t replace the need for struggle or hard work or simply making a choice and moving forward. It’s absence doesn’t mean we’ve got a reason to stop pushing forward, nor does it’s presence guarantee us amazing images. If I’ve ever given the impression that finding your vision is easy or that once found it’ll remain the same, then the error is mine.
One guy tweeted, “Screw Vision”. It made me laugh in agreement but I’m not sure that’s the answer either, though I know the feeling. It might be healthy to go out and make some photographs without overthinking things for a while. Taking a break is healthy. Here’s what I know. We need to de-sacralize vision. It’s nothing magic. And we need to lighten up. We put so much pressure on ourselves. Can you imagine a songwriter doing a 365 Project where she has to crank out one song a day for a year? The thought of it exhausts me and I don’t even write songs. Or a sculptor heading to the studio with his chisels for a couple hours with the expectation of cranking out a dozen keepers? And then when he hits the wall he says, ah screw it, this vision stuff is over-rated? It might be time to slow down.
So what do you do when you can’t find your vision? The ebook I’m working on now talks about exactly this thing. But your vision is there, it just might be that it needs coaxing out. Push too hard and it just retreats. So ease up and give it some breathing room. Go live life for a while without the camera. Or go make some photographs with nothing in mind but play and experimentation, stop freaking out about making something great. Sometimes the muse needs a break, she doesn’t always respond well when pushed too hard. Go make something beautiful all the same.
So what do you do when you can’t find your vision, when the muse eludes you? Comments are open, I’d love to hear from you.
I’m off to Bosnia on Thursday, and I’ll be back on the 14th or thereabouts. Thanks for your patience over the last little while. I’ve needed a break from things and knowing that everyone here is cool if I don’t show up everyday makes it easier.