What’s Your Creative Process? 1 Habit That Will Change Your Life

Alignment IV

Do this one thing and you will transform your creative life.

Watch your process.

If you make this a habit, you’ll develop a better understanding of not only what but also where, when, how, and why do the things you do.

Noting what you don’t do can be an equally powerful practice.

You’ll quickly find yourself flooded with new information and ideas, which you can turn into a creative advantage by taking notes.

When you notice what when where how you do the things you do, after every observation ask, “Why?” Don’t think of the question as a challenge but rather as an opportunity to gain greater clarity about your motivations and what does and doesn’t drive you to action.

First, note what you do and don’t do.

When you watch your process carefully you become aware of every step in your process and everything involved in it. Actions and things that went unnoticed before will become clear to you. Find out if your habits are serving you well by doing what you do in a different order or by adding or subtracting one thing systematically. Make a little time to observe your process like a scientist might and find out what positive benefits that perspective has to offer you.

Second, note where you do and don’t do it.

Do you like quiet places to work without distractions or do you prefer a lot of external stimulation to get your juices flowing? Do you like clean orderly spaces to foster calm efficiency or do you like to spread out and use chaos creatively? Do you need a space away from home or work or do the other people and activities that take place there feed your creativity? Maybe your answer will change depending on a given project or a particular stage of any project you’re in. If you don’t know, mix it up and find out.

Third, note when you do and don’t do it.

Are you a morning person or an evening person? Are there times of the day you find it easier to be creative because you have fewer commitments? Do you work in bursts or do you prefer to do a little bit at a time? Do some things require bigger blocks of time to do? Can some other things be done in smaller chunks of time? Answering these questions will help you make the most of the time you have as well as plan to make the time you need.

Fourth, note how you do it and don’t do it.

It’s likely that you have a choice to do the same thing in many different ways. You may be used to doing things in certain ways, without realizing it. Maybe you’ve made a few assumptions based on what other people do. Are those assumptions helping you? Maybe you’ve developed habits. Which good habits help you get consistent results efficiently? Which bad habits prevent you from getting the results you want? Are you taking shortcuts? Sometimes what works in one situation doesn’t work in another. Do your habits serve or hinder you when things change? Take stock of your habits and you’ll find areas for improvement but don’t forget to give yourself credit for everything you do that works well along the way. You’ve worked long and hard, you deserve it. Keep going.

Fifth, ask why you do what you do.

Behind every action, there’s a goal. You eat, drink, breathe, sleep to stay alive. You photograph to … ? Your most basic motivations may be fairly simple. Some of your other motivations may be much more complex – and it’s likely you do many things for unconsciously for reasons that your conscious mind has a lot to learn about. Realizing this can often be the key to finding out what is most authentic about and fulfilling in your creative life. If you really want to get to the core motivations behind the things you do it can be helpful to ask “Why?” five times in a row. Ask the first question. Then ask “Why?” Respond to that answer with “Why?” and repeat this a few more times. Often our deepest motivations don’t reveal themselves until the third, fourth, or fifth time you ask “Why?” If you find asking “Why?” is getting in the way of your observations while you’re practicing your process, ask it when you’ve finished and while you’re reviewing your notes.

Watch your process. It seems simple. It is. But like meditation, it’s not easy. We quickly fall back into our habits, which is exactly what we’re trying to notice more carefully – and potentially change (whether a little or a lot or sometimes or always).

There are many more benefits to taking notes about your process. Because I write …

I constantly generate new ideas.
I’m rarely blocked.
I’m more productive.
I’ve streamlined my systems.
My technique is better.
I recognize the ideas and practices I’ve inherited from others.
I’m aware of what’s influencing me, when, for how long, and why.
I’m clearer about what works and what doesn’t, for me.
I’m aware of my self-talk.
I’ve identified my goals.
I understand more about the personal reasons behind the things I do and the ways I do them.
My work has more purpose.
I enjoy my process more.

I find I write the same things down time and time again. This has lead me to create a master process list, which I can add to or subtract. (I keep it in the Notes app on my iPhone. I make a lot of notes there about a lot of different things.) Because I’m so curious I rarely get bored. I find there are always new things to observe. Are there new things because I noticed more? Why? Are there new things because I’m in a new environment? Why? Are there new things because I decided to try something new? Why? Are there new things because I’m more emotionally receptive? Why? These are important questions that can unlock new ways of looking, thinking, and working, now and in the future. Keep asking them. Ask a lot of questions!

Watching your process is really a matter of becoming aware of your choices (what you choose to do and not to do) and what you may have missed. With greater awareness, you can choose to do the same things or make other choices. With more choices available to you, you can make better choices. Better according to who? You! Be mindful of your creative process. Make this a habit and you’ll transform your life.

I could write a book about the many benefits watching your process brings. But don’t take my word for it. Try it!

Read my Mindfulness resources here.
Read more in my Writing Resources.
Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

Turn Your Inner Critic Into An Ally

Your inner critic can be a terrible adversary or a powerful ally. Which one it becomes depends on how you relate to and use it. Like any animal, proper care and feeding can work wonders while neglect and abuse can produce monstrous results.

The inner critic’s powers of analysis and forethought are truly exceptional. Your inner critic is a protective mechanism. Its job is to help you avoid potential dangers. It’s excellent at identifying weaknesses or shortcomings that if left uncorrected and allowed to continue unchecked may have adverse effects. It can quickly identify potential areas for improvement. It can provide all sorts of extremely valuable feedback.
But, the inner critic has its limitations. The inner critic speaks from a point of fear. It motivates with fear too. It’s a pessimist. It’s often accurate, but never infallible. Because of this, it isn’t good at being supportive but instead may create doubt and insecurity. Its criticism may not be constructive if its feedback isn’t placed in a useful context. If it goes too far astray, its effects can produce negative results and even lead to paralysis.
So how can you turn this powerful voice from enemy into ally?

First, consider the inner critic a trusted ally – one with limitations. Whenever you hear the voice of the inner critic, ask if what it has to offer is helpful. If it is, use its feedback to improve your results. If it’s not, calmly acknowledge it, tell it you value it as an ally both in the past and in the future, and clearly state the reason(s) you’ve decided to make the choice you’re making. Tell it you will continue to consult with it in the future.  Your inner critic will believe you if you make a regular habit of consulting it – and even respect you for doing it. You might even give your inner critic an alternate project to work on in the background while you’re busy with other things. Stay calm; your inner critic can feed on negative emotions. Once you’ve made your decision, be firm. Remember, like a child having a tantrum, there may be times it needs to be silenced. But don’t silence it for too long. Many of the things it has to say can be extremely useful if you remember its strengths and limitations.

Read more in my Creativity Resources.
Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

Coach Yourself

A voice inside my head was grousing, “There’s nothing here. It’s not good enough. You’re not good enough. Someone else has done this before. You’ve done this before. You’re uncomfortable. You’ll have better luck next time.” I’d heard it all before. So I changed my inner dialog, “There’s something here; you just have to find it. You know how much you like the surprise when you do. You have a unique sensibility. You’ll bring something new to the situation. You can do it. It will be great. You’re enjoying this.” If I hadn’t shifted the tone of my self-talk I would have given up before I got started, instead, I stuck with it, for hours, and succeeded, many times. Refraction LX was just one of that morning’s successes.

You’ve heard it all before too. “You’re just like … you always … you never … you’ll never … why try …” As Carla Gordon said, “If someone in your life talked to you the way you talk to yourself, you would have left them long ago.” We’re told that to improve and reach our full potential that we have to be our own worst critics. It’s true that there is a time and a place for this – but it’s limited. Don’t make it a full-time occupation. If you do, you may never get where you need or want to go.

Professional athletes and performing artists have coaches and directors who not only train them but also encourage and inspire them as well. So do many CEOs and salesmen. So do many people from many walks of life at different times in their lives and stages in their careers. They may even engage different types of coaches at different times for different needs. When was the last time someone coached you? When was the last time you coached yourself?  Even if you’re lucky enough to find the right creative coach who can help guide you to perfect practice, they can’t do all the work for you; you have to do the work too; after all, in the end, they’re training you to do it yourself. You can’t afford to wait and find your perfect creative coach. Instead, become that person.

Energize yourself. Affirm your abilities. Take note of your previous accomplishments. Set tangible goals for the future. Chart your progress along the way. Provide yourself incentives. Reward yourself. Celebrate your accomplishments – both verbally and visually, privately and publicly. Be specific using precise language. Give yourself pep talks. Frequently use positive affirmations. Don’t think you can do it? Tell yourself you can. And then do it. Watch your self-talk – and change it for the better. It’s a mindset. If you want better results create a better mindset.

When you talk about yourself or your work, do you use positive or negative words? The words we use can be very revealing about our orientations, attitudes, and beliefs. Many times, when we speak about ourselves, if we speak about ourselves, we downplay our abilities and accomplishments. It’s true that no one likes a raving egomaniac. But, there’s a real difference between arrogance and confidence. Confidence is attractive and inspiring; arrogance isn’t; neither is insecurity. Don’t let your insecurities get the best of you. Be careful not to talk yourself down, cut yourself off short, or fall completely silent. Instead, learn to speak simply and directly about yourself and your work and above all share your enthusiasm. Not feeling it? Act as if you do. With just a little practice you will begin to feel it. It’s true we should all beware of overconfidence. And, critical feedback, the right kind and the right amount, is useful for improving performance too. Peak performance and growth take the right balance of positive and negative feedback. But ask yourself, “How balanced are you?” If you’re like most people, you’re not very balanced at all. Change this and you’ll tip the scales in your favor. This takes constant monitoring and recalibration but you’ll soon see substantial changes that make it not just worthwhile but invaluable.

How important is this? Consider how much money is spent every year on motivational resources like books, videos, lectures, workshops, and more. The figures are enormous. That’s how important it is to other people. Ask yourself, “What’s the price of not doing it?” That’s far greater. Don’t pay it. Just do it.

Questions

What is the state of your current self-talk?
How many ways can you improve your self-talk?
How many ways can you make your self-talk more energized?
How many ways can you make your self-talk more meaningful?
How many ways can you measure the results of improved self-talk?

Read more in my Creativity Resources.
Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

The Big Differences Between Vision & Style – And How They’re Related

Many people think vision and style are the same. They’re not. What’s the difference?

Vision is what you have to say; style is how you say it.

Confusing one for the other or focusing on one and not the other can be disastrous.

Just because your images look different doesn’t mean you’ve said anything or said it well. No matter how dazzling something may look, when style becomes a substitute for vision ultimately the viewer leaves unsatisfied – though they don’t always know why. If you confuse style for vision it confuses your viewers. And when you use a style that’s inappropriate for your vision it distorts the way your work is seen and it’s likely that you’ll be misunderstood. A style without a vision is a gimmick; visual cleverness. A style that supports a vision is a vessel for deep authentic expression.

You don’t have to make your images look different to say meaningful things and say them in your own authentic way. Sometimes less is more. Less style, more vision. Stronger styles make the viewer work harder to see past the surface of an image and find the deeper meaning within it. Strong styles work only if they complement a vision – then both become stronger.

Vision and style are related. Hopefully, vision drives style. Vision gives style meaning and purpose. When style reflects purpose it deepens the whole experience, making statements more deeply felt. Style can create meaningful connections between the subject and the way an image looks and even between multiple images. Subtle shifts in style throughout a body of work and even an artist’s lifetime have the potential to communicate even more meaning.

Style is easy to identify because all you need to do is make formal statements about what you see. You simply describe how the things in an image look. When describing style you focus less on the things you see and more on how they look. You state what your eyes actually see, the visual building blocks of an image not the content those elements are used to represent. To do this well, you need to learn a little vocabulary to formally describe images in ways that others will understand, but there’s an added benefit, learning that vocabulary will help you look more carefully and see more things and relationships between them. Each one of those relationships is a creative opportunity. Line, shape, volume, color, texture, scale, proportion, range, and compositional patterns are the fundamentals – and you can make finer distinctions in each of these categories. Some aspects of style describe relationships that are visible between multiple images such as the number of images used, their sequence, its pace and rhythm. Style can be extended to anything you do in a particular way, not your actual practice (she used a camera) but the way you practice it (she always moved in close). The ways you do things communicate the kinds of connections you like to make and the relationships you like to cultivate and so they imbue what you make with meaning.

Vision is harder to identify than style. Vision is the mystery you (and your viewers) are trying to solve; style offers the clues to figuring it out. It takes some guess work and repeated confirmation to figure out where your images are going. But vision is where you move beyond taking pictures of things (subjects) and start making pictures about things (themes). It’s part plot; your subject, events that happen to it, actions it takes, reactions, and consequences. It’s part theme. The theme is the big (or main) idea and subthemes are smaller (or subordinate) related ideas. It’s what the work says about a subject. It’s the overall message and the underlying messages. This is the least literal often least visible aspect of work and it’s often where the most soul can be found.

It’s part you … the patterns you see and create, your relationship to your subject and the images you create of and possibly about it, all the associations and connections you make between it and other things, the things you choose to show and not to show, your emotional reactions to things and events and even their appearances, the reasons why you care and why we should care. All these things say a lot about you, so vision is also about self-discovery and expression.

If the style of your images is appropriate it will help us see your vision … in a very particular meaningful way.

You don’t have to figure out your vision or your style before you start making meaningful images. Whether you start with no idea or a good idea, it’s likely that you won’t know the full meaning of your work until you make it. An essential part of the process of creating images is figuring things out. Show your process, not all of it, just the interesting parts, the ones you decide are meaningful. What you finally make doesn’t have to be perfect, finished, or even fully resolved; you just have to do it well enough to create a compelling experience. And to do that, you have to figure out a few things, perhaps only the most important things, about your vision (what you have to say) and style (how you say it). Then make more images and figure out a little more. Keep repeating this process enough times and you’ll find your way, your vision and your style, If you hold nothing back and give it everything you’ve got, you will be amazed by what you discover.

Download my Vision worksheet here. (Coming Soon)

Download my Style worksheet here.

Read more in my Storytelling resources.

Learn more in my Creativity & Photography workshops.

9 Ways To Bring More Joy To Your Photography

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My wife and business partner Arduina’s enthusiasm is intoxicating.

So I asked her to share a little of it with you.

Here are her 9 Ways To Bring More Joy To Your Photography.

1. PLAY!

Give yourself the gift of playtime. Try new things without judgement. Make a portrait of your neighbor, or your neighbors peacocks. Make a self portrait holding your most prized possession. Arrange a still life from your junk drawer. Try abstraction. Go underwater or book yourself a hot air ballon and try areal photography. Ask a friend to drive you around. My husband will sweetly slow the car down to help me make an image of a fox in a field or a goat on the roof of a shed. Try motion blur, long exposers  or double exposures. Shoot with different lenses and cameras; try a 400mm lens with a doubler or a macro; play with plastic lenses or a Holga; or use a scanner as your camera. In order to get the most joy from playtime all you have to do you have to make time for play. I think of it as a healthy form of self care – if you can spend an hour on a treadmill you can spare a few minutes to photograph your favorite tree.

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2. Experience A Different Time Of Day

Be amazed by magic light! Drag your sleepy head out of bed and watch as the dawn moves across your windows or play in the dappled light under a canopy of trees at mid day.

3. See What Your Eyes Can’t

Get yourself  a tripod and shoot after dark. You could even use an intervalometer  to make a time-lapse of yourself while you sleep and you may solve the mystery of who has been stealing the covers.

4. Explore

Wander about and  catch yourself in a smile. Notice what you notice and make a record of what resonates. Photographer Keith Carter says, “Time spent in reconnoissance is never time wasted.”  Time enjoyed is never wasted, whether you make a picture right then or return later with a wagon full of birdcages and clocks.

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5. Be Inspired By Your Favorite Song Writer Or Poet

Pay homage to the song that got you through a bad break up or spend some time with  Mary Oliver as she tirelessly guides you through the natural world.

6. Put Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes

Try on a different point of view. Find happiness in shooting a scene while lying on your belly or standing on your tippy toes with your arms stretched up overhead. Any advice involving shoes makes me happy …

7. Lighten Up

Ditch your inner critic. Just because Edward Weston made an Iconic picture of a bell pepper doesn’t mean that you can never photograph a pepper. Just make pictures. In fact the one most people think of is entitled “Pepper No. 30”  but he must have had an amazing time playing with creepy pepper #14.

8. Learn To Composite

So what if that cloud was in San Francisco and that ocean is in Maine ? Perhaps they would like to meet in a photograph?

9. Make A Print

Hold the joy you have experienced in your hands! Put it on your wall. Glue it in a book. Or mail it to your mother-in-law to thank her for loving you. I make my prints on an Epson printer – and I am deeply in love with that part of my process – but a print in any form (Cibachrome, cyanotype, or collodion) anything with three-dimensions is joyful to me!

View Ardie’s photographs on Instagram.

Visit Ardie’s website.
Inquire about one-on-one online training here.
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39 Great Quotes On Listening & Hearing

Quotes_Listening
Enjoy this collection of quotes on listening and hearing.
“Hearing is a form of touch. You feel it through your body, and sometimes it almost hits your face.” – Evelyn Glennie
“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.” ― G. K. Chesterton
“Looking but not seeing is the hearing but not understanding of the eye.” ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana
“We have two ears and only one tongue in order that we may hear more and speak less.” ― Diogenes Laertius
“Listen thrice. Think twice. Speak once.” – Anonymous
“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” ― Bernard M. Baruch
“It takes a great man to be a good listener.” ― Calvin Coolidge
“The art of conversation lies in listening” ― Malcolm Forbes
“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.” ― William Hazlit
“The word ‘listen’ contains the same letters as the word ‘silent’.” ― Alfred Brendel
“Listening is about being present, not just about being quiet.” Krista Tippett
“You can’t fake listening. It shows.” ― Raquel Welch
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” ― Ernest Hemingway
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ― Stephen R. Covey
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” ― Roy T. Bennett
“It takes two to speak the truth – one to speak and another to hear.” ― Henry David Thoreau
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