Talk To Yourself

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Talk to yourself. Don’t worry, it’s not crazy. We all do it. Speaking your mind can help you become clearer about what’s on it. It’s your choice, whether you decide to speak your mind silently in your head or speak your mind out loud, either alone or under the right circumstances in the presence of others. No one ever has to know how much you talk to yourself; they rarely know how much they talk to themselves. Everyone has an ongoing internal dialog. We see things, we hear things, we feel things, we do things, we react, and all the while we interpret what we’re experiencing. It takes years of training not to do this. Most of the time, we’ve become so accustomed to the familiar voice inside of us that we’re often unaware of what’s being said and who’s saying it. It seems natural to us. That’s just the way it is. But, in reality, that’s the way we are. If we actively listen to ourselves, we become more self-aware and realize we have many more choices available to us.
We may even come to realize that we have many different voices within us – aspects of ourselves that can be seen as being distinct from one another; a child, a warrior, a lover, a dreamer, a scientist, etc.  We can make the life of our inner community richer and more dynamic by encouraging these separate voices to speak in turn and even to speak to each other. Over time we may even discover that each voice has a consistent set of concerns and perspectives and knowing this can help us decide which voice to call on in a given situation. This imaginative exploration can be extremely revealing. We not only come to better understand ourselves and what makes us truly unique, we also come in contact with vast sources of information and understanding that we often leave untapped. The best thing about listening to our selves is that we come to realize we have many more perspectives to draw from and opportunities to choose from than we had previously imagined.
If you really want to learn a lot, put a neutral moderator in charge of these conversations. His or her job is simply to listen and observe non-judgmentally. Nothing shuts down communication faster than criticism. At times your moderator may direct specific questions or make a motion to move on to other subjects. Later, when all is said, you can weigh the evidence, draw conclusions, and make decisions about what’s to be done or not done.
We all want to be heard. When was the last time you wished you had someone to listen to you? When was the last time you listened to yourself?
Go ahead, speak what’s on your mind. Who knows? Other people may want to hear what you have to say.
Find more inspiration in my Creativity Lessons.
Learn more in my Digital Photography Workshops.

Engage Your Inner Coach

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“If someone in your life talked to you the way you talk to yourself, you would have left them long ago.” – Carla Gordon
We’re told that to improve and reach our full potential that we have to be our own worst critics. 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 there.
Professional athletes have coaches who not only train them but also encourage and inspire them as well. When was the last time you coached yourself? Even if you’re lucky enough to find a creative coach (they’re in extremely short supply), they can’t do all the work, you too have to do some of it. You can’t afford to wait and find your perfect creative coach. Instead, become that person.
Energize yourself. Affirm your abilities. Set tangible goals. Provide yourself incentives. Reward yourself. Celebrate your accomplishments. It will help if you give yourself specific feedback and focus on concrete results. If you don’t have any accomplishments to speak of yet, frequently use positive affirmations until you do – and continue doing so afterward.
When you talk about yourself or your work, do you use positive or negative words? Many times, when we speak about ourselves as artists and our work, 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, sharing your enthusiasm for your subjects and your medium.
Not feeling it? Act as if you do. With just a little practice you will begin to feel it. Practice makes perfect. And the right coach can help guide you to perfect practice.
Find more inspiration in my Creativity Lessons.
Learn more in my Digital Photography Workshops.

Make Your Inner Critic Useful

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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 affects. It can quickly identify potential areas for improvement. It can provide all sorts of extremely valuable feedback.
But, the inner critic has it’s 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 it’s feedback isn’t placed in a useful context. If it goes too far astray, its affects 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. You might even give it an alternate project to work on. Stay calm; it 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.
Find more inspiration in my Creativity Lessons.
Learn more in my Digital Photography Workshops.

Doing It For The Love Of Doing It

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The word amateur comes from the Latin word amator (lover). Amateurs simply do things for the love of doing them. Over time the word amateur has come to mean doing things with less education, discipline, and craft. Amateurs rarely create great works of art. Yet, we’d all be wise to reconsider the original meaning of the word amateur and do more things for the love of doing them – even if we have to learn or relearn to love the things we have to do. No great work of art was ever made without this kind of passion. Passion is a prerequisite for excellence.
One danger professionals face is losing the spark of passion and the thrill of discovery along the way to achieving proficiency. I often recommend that creative people who have developed a significant proficiency in one creative discipline become amateurs in another creative discipline. It can be extremely challenging to engage in a creative discipline you know well to be spontaneous and to give yourself license to experiment within it. But that’s exactly what you need to do to do your best work and to make break throughs.
When we experiment we tend to be less results oriented and more process oriented. When we experiment we don’t expect perfect results the first time we try something; instead we hope to find new insights that can later be perfected. When we experiment we don’t fear failure; in fact we consider it part of the process. When did we forget that learning from failures is how we make discoveries and improve? When does our fear of failure keep us from succeeding in new ways?
Working in a secondary creative discipline can give you a fresh perspective on your primary creative discipline and the creative process in general. How are the two similar? What creative strategies are most useful in both? How are the two different? Is there a way that practices in one could be applied to the other? You can find ways to hybridize the two and energize your primary creative outlet. You may even find that your enjoyment of the creative process is higher in your secondary discipline, even thought the results you achieve within it aren’t as polished. This may lead you to the most important question of all, “Why do you do what you do?”
So dare to be an amateur. Do things simply for the love of doing them. Enjoy yourself. Experiment. Become more aware of your process. Do some soul searching. Make these things you do regularly.
Learn more about the word amateur at Podictionary.
Find more inspiration in my Creativity Lessons.
Learn more in my Digital Photography Workshops.

Get Physical With Your Subjects

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To truly touch your viewers you may have to touch someone or something else first.

We have many intelligences (intellectual, emotional, physical, etc), but when it comes to making images we often leave many of them out of the mix. Try energizing your creative process by using all of you.

Get physical. The power of touch can reveal volumes. Imagine how much and how quickly an extended hand or a pat on the back can say. This doesn’t only apply to interacting with people and animals. If you physically make contact with any subject, even inanimate objects, you’ll come to understand it better; its scale, texture, density and much more. You may even decide to make contact with more than your hands. Press your face up against a window. Step into the currents of swift-flowing waters. Lay down in shifting sands. Experience your subjects from many perspectives. Doing this will lead to many new ideas. It will also inform old ideas. As your understanding of your subjects grows, your images will take on new dimensions and new depths.

Find more resources on Creativity here.
Learn more in my digital photography workshops.

Writing Artist's Statements

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It’s important to learn how to make the visual verbal, by crafting artist’s statements. Many artists feel that images are better seen and not heard. I understand their point of view. But, face it, things will be said and written about your images. If you don’t do it, someone else will. You might as well become involved in the process. After all, as the author, this is one arena where your words are definitive.
You don’t have to be a professional writer to write. Just write. Write like you speak. Write with your voice.
Like making images, writing is a process, a process of making thoughts and feelings clearer. Often, you don’t know what shape the final product will take, until you finish.
At first, I resisted writing about my images. Now, I find the process so valuable that I’ve made it a part of my artistic process. Every time a new body of work arises, I write. When I’m ready to release a book of the work, I write again. As a result of writing, I gain a better understanding of the work I did, the work I’m doing, and the work I’m going to do. So do the people who see my images, surprisingly, even if they don’t read what I write.
This is an excerpt from a longer essay Artists’ Statements. Download it here.
Read my artist’s statements here.
Read the text from three recent books here.
Learn more in my Fine Art Digital Printing Workshops.

Breaking the Rules

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In his book Photography and the Art of Seeing, Freeman Patterson offers excellent advice. List all of the rules of photography. Then break them. If you do this, you’ll develop a better understanding of the medium.
I recommend you take this advice one step further. List all of your rules of photography. And break them. You’ll either find confirmation that what you’re doing is right for you or you’ll make new breakthroughs. You’ll develop a better understanding of your personal relationship with the medium and your unique way of looking. Keep going. And revisit this list frequently.
Find my lists in my PDF Breaking The Rules.
Find more resources in my Lessons here.
Find out about my digital photography workshops here.

Take Inventory of Your Associations

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Before you photograph, write. After you identify the things happening outside you, take a little time to explore what’s going on inside you. The events around us trigger many associations and emotions, sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic. Often, it’s the inner dimensions of ourselves that we bring to image-making that make our work truly moving to other people. We all bring something different to each and every moment. To really be there, you have to know who you are. Find out. What are you bringing to the picture? Did you show up?

Write spontaneously and unselfconsciously. Give yourself freely to the moment. Be thorough. Go deep. Write until you have nothing left to say. And when you feel you don’t have anything left to say, ask yourself if that’s really so. Don’t evaluate your results or yourself until after you finish. Tell yourself how you really feel. Later, you can decide what to share with the rest of the world and how you’d like to do it. This kind of personal research will help you gain a greater understanding of your world, your self, and your photography. As a result, all three will improve.

Explore the power of words in these related resources.
Learn more creative techniques in my Illuminating Creativity workshops.

How To Identify Actions With Verbs


This article is part of a series …

1.    Take Inventory With Nouns.

2.    Discover Qualities With Adjectives And Adverbs.

3.    Identify Actions With Verbs.

Develop the habit of making lists and you’ll dramatically sharpen your powers of observation and retention. (We’re 72% more likely to remember and act on what we write down.)

After you identify the things (nouns) in your environment, identify what’s going on or the actions taking place (verbs).

For photographs to transcend becoming simplistic visual inventories they need to tell a story. That means something has to happen in them. So you need verbs. However, actions come in many flavors. They can be dramatic or quiet, fast or slow, active (peak action) or passive (a frozen gesture). Often we don’t recognize all the things that are happening around us simultaneously and making a list of them all will help you be more observant.

Don’t let this practice get in the way of capturing peak action. If you see something significant about to happen get ready ahead of time. Not surprisingly, if you’ve been making your lists, you’ll be more prepared and practiced and so more likely to notice it before (not after) it happens.

Usually, there’s so much going on around us that we miss things. Periodically putting your camera down and just looking carefully will help you see more. And, if you become more mindful of the events around you and their interconnections, you’ll make more insightful images.

Is it enough to simply make mental lists? It’s a start, so do it. But if you always take this shortcut, you’ll be missing out on some of the long-term gains of developing this habit – wider, deeper, more memorable, with the ability to identify patterns either in your environment or in your ways of relating to subjects and your medium. Again, action speaks volumes and pays dividends.

Find more ways to boost your creativity using words.
Learn more creative techniques in my workshops.