The Number 1 Reason Not To Should All Over Yourself – Or Anyone

We have so many choices in life. As a teacher I’m frequently asked questions like these.

“What should I do? Should I do this? Or, should I do that?”

I invariably reply, “What are you trying to do?”

Our choices imply our intents and we don’t all have the same goals, visions, or styles. (Thank goodness; our variety makes life so much more interesting.)

And then I recommend rephrasing those questions to get better results.

Here are questions that you can use instead.

How many ways can I do this?

This question is a creative challenge designed to open up many possibilities. Start here. Don’t skip it before rushing to the next question. (I recommend you write down all the answers you can think of and keep adding to your list over time.)

What happens when I do that?

This question provides clarity on the most likely consequences of your choices. It’s cause and effect, which can sometimes change in different contexts so add when and where into the equation.

Why am I doing this?

This question helps identify goals. (If you’re unsure of your goals ask “Why?” five times in a row. You may not find your final answer this quickly but you will develop a clearer picture.)

Should I do this or that?

It’s a question that limits your choices to two. This question is useful only after you’ve identified your goals, limited many possibilities to two, and you’ve asked the next question. So ask many other questions first.

Whenever possible, avoid using the word should. It’s limiting and in most situations, you have more choices. The word should often implies obligation. There are reasons you choose to do what you choose to do. You may not like all the choices you have and sometimes have to make the least objectionable rather than the most favorable. Still, you choose it. So own it.

Self-talk matters. Becoming more conscious of the language we use internally has many benefits including increased awareness of what’s going on outside and inside us as well as our reactions to these psychic events … and with that awareness comes choice. Once we’re aware of what’s going on inside us we can choose to let it flow uninterrupted or we can influence its speed, course, and tone. It’s not just stop or go, it’s also how and where would you like it to flow?

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

Listen To Yourself

Glory I

You can learn a lot just by listening to yourself. Listen not only to the words you actually say, usually to others but also to the words you use in your inner dialog. When you speak about yourself, your creative life, and the works you produce, the words you use can be very revealing. They mean something to you. You choose them. Often you do this without realizing it and once you do new creative connections and opportunities will open to you.

Ask yourself …

Do you keep repeating specific words?

Do you use different words that all point to similar meanings, orientations, or attitudes?

Do the words you use share common concerns?

Do you tend to use more nouns (things), verbs (actions), or adjectives and adverbs (qualities)?

Do you tend to speak actively or passively?

Do you tend to speak in the past, present, or future tense?

Do you speak specifically and concretely or do you speak more generally and abstractly?

Do you finish your sentences or jump to new ones before you do?

It’s best if your observations about the words you use are made without judgment. Simply make observations. You can use this practice to savor the qualities of your everyday experiences that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It can be helpful to expand your statements; say more to describe it better and find its connections to other things. After that, it can help to distill it all back down to what’s most important. If you do this you’ll feel freer, clearer, and more energized. 

Becoming more aware of your concerns and attitudes will ultimately help you make more considered choices about your actions, reactions, emotional responses, and even self-image.

Greater awareness of the words you choose and how you use them can inform the images you make in many important ways – how you make them, the images you select, how you sequence them, how you process them, what you title them, what you write about them, how you talk about them, how you present them. Your words can help you discover and shape identity, meaning, and purpose.

Thinking too much about the words you use while you’re using them can sometimes get in the way. When this happens, record yourself and listen to it later.

It can also help to talk with someone about a subject that’s important to you. They can help you get your tongue rolling and keep it going by asking you helpful questions and offering you useful reactions while you’re talking together. Again, make notes while this is happening, or better yet record it and make notes then so you can stay in the flow while it’s happening.

It only takes one important observation to make the practice of observing how you speak extremely worthwhile – give it time and it will lead to breakthroughs if that doesn’t happen instantly.

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

Sarah Kay On The Power Of Spoken Words

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“If I should have a daughter, instead of Mom, she’s gonna call me Point B … ” began spoken word poet Sarah Kay, in a talk that inspired two standing ovations at TED2011. She tells the story of her metamorphosis — from a wide-eyed teenager soaking in verse at New York’s Bowery Poetry Club to a teacher connecting kids with the power of self-expression through Project V.O.I.C.E. — and gives two breathtaking performances of “B” and “Hiroshima.” Sarah is also the host of TED’s podcast “Sincerely, X.”

All The Words Of The Rainbow

ColorWheel

spectrum

The language used to describe color has a long storied history; sometimes tied to association, sometimes tied to manufacture, sometimes tied to marketing. What it lacks in precision it makes up for in expression. You’ll enjoy exploring this collection if you’re trying to find out what color a word refers to or if you’re looking for the right word to describe a color.

Red

apple, beet, blooming, brick, blood, blush, burgundy, burning, carmine, cerise, cinnabar, claret, cherry, cochineal, coral, crimson, damask, fire engine, fire hydrant, flame, florid, fox, garnet, glowing, gules, lipstick, madder, maroon, pink, poppy, rose, rouge, rubicund, ruby, rufous, rust, russet, sanguine, scarlet, strawberry, tomato, vermillion, wine

Pink

amaranth, blush, bubblegum, carnation, champagne, coral, crepe, flamingo, flesh, fuscia, hot, lemonade, lipstick, mary kay, neon, peach, powder, puce, punch, rose, salmon, taffy, tickle me, watermelon

Orange

apricot, basketball, burnt, cantaloupe, carrot, chanterelle, chestnut, citrus, copper, coral, creamsicle, flaming, fiery, ginger, gold, marmalade, merigold, minium, monarch, neopolitan, orangatan, papaya, peach, pumpkin, salmon, salamander, sandstone, sherbert, soda, starfish, straw, sunflower, sunrise, squash, tangerine, tiger, yam

Yellow

amber, banana, blonde, ash blonde, bottle blonde, strawberry blonde, bumblebee, butter, buttermilk, butterscotch, canary, corn, cream, daffodil, dijon, egg nog, flaxen, gamboge, golden, goldenrod, honey, imperial, indian, lemon, macaroon, medallion, mustard, naples, neon, ocher, orpiment, parmesan, pineapple, pollen, sandy, saffron, straw, topaz, tow-colored, tuscan, wheaten

Green

absinthe, acid, apple, army, artichoke, avocado, aquamarine, basil, bosky, bottle, celadon, chartreuse, clover, copper, crocodile, fern, grass, emerald, evergreen, fir, forest, grass, jade, jungle, juniper, kale, kelly, leaf, lime, lincoln, lush, malachite, mint, moss, neon, olive, parakeet, pea, pear, pickle, pine, sage, sap, sea, seafoam, seaweed, shamrock, spinach, spring, terre verte, verdant, verdigris, vert, viridian

Blue

admiral, agean, arctic, aquamarine, azure, baby, berry, beryl, bice, bright, beryl, cambridge, cerulean, cobalt, cornflower, cupreous, cyan, deep, denim, egyptian, electrix, erubescent, frost, ice, incarnadine, indanthrone, indigo, lapis lazuli, midnight, navy, oxford, peacock, persian, prussian, robin’s egg, royal, sapphire, saxe, sea, slate, sky, spruce, steel, teal, titian, turkish, turquoise, ultramarine, vivid

Indigo

azure, blueberry, deep, glastum, indigotin, midnight, navy, prussian, ultramarine, woad, zaffre

Violet

amaranthine, amethyst, archil, berry, boysenberry, eggplant, grape, heather, heliotrope, iris, jam, lavender, lilac, mauve, magenta, mulberry, orchid, periwinkle, perse, plum, pomegranite, purple, raisin, royal, sangria, violet, violaceous, wine

Brown

allspice, auburn, bay, bran, beige, biscuit, bister, bottle, brick, brindle, bronze, brunette, buff, burnt sienna, burnt umber, cafe au lait, camel, caramel, carob, cayenne, cedar, chestnut, chocolate, cider, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, copper, drab, dun, dust, ecru, espresso, fallow, fawn, ginger, gingerbread, granola, greige, hazel, henna, hickory, kasha, khaki, leather, liver, madiera, mahogany, mocha, mousy, mud, mushroom, nut, nutmeg, oak, oatmeal, ochre, peanut, pecan, penny, puce, russet, rust, saddle, sallow, sand, sepia, sorrel, spice, tan, taupe, tawny, terra-cotta, toast, tortilla, umber, wheaten, whey, wood

White

alabaster, albino, allysum, antique, bone, bright, brilliant, chalk, chantilly, chiffon, cloud, coconut, cotton, daisy, dove, eggshell, gesso, ghost, putty, hoary, isabelline lead, lace, lily, linen, lucent, milk, mother of pearl, parchment, pearl, porcelain, powder, pure, salt, snow, swan, star, titanium, vanilla, whisper, winter

Gray

aluminum, argentine, ash, cinereal, charcoal, cloud, coin, cool, cove, clam, dolphin, dove, dusky, elephant, fog, fossil, frost, graphite, grizzled, gunmetal, gunpowder, harbor, hippopotamus, hoary, lead, iron, metal, mouse, neutral, nickle, oyster, payne’s, pearl, pebble, peppery, pewter, platinum, pigeon, powder, rhino, rice, sere, silver, tin, sidewalk, slate, smoke, squirrel, steel, stone, thunder, warm

Black

atramentous, calciginous, charcoal, coal, crepuscular, crow, dusky, ebony, flint, grease, ink, kohl, lamp, lava, jet, leather, mars, melanoid, metal, midnight, obsidian, oil, onyx, piceous, pitch, raven, sable, slate, soot, spider, stygian, tartarean, tenebrous

Contrast this with the simple and precise numerical language of HSL.

Read more in my Color Theory resources.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

How To Use Words Improve Your Creativity

 

Use Your Words

 

Watch Your Process 
It’ll change your life.

Take Notes 
See, remember, and produce more.

Talk With Yourself 
Don’t worry, it’s not crazy. We all do it.

Listen To Yourself 
The words you use reveal a lot.

Turn Your Inner Critic Into An Ally 
Your inner critic can be a terrible adversary or a powerful ally.

Coach Yourself
Energize yourself. Affirm your abilities. Set tangible goals.

Avoid Should
Instead ask, “What happens when I?”

 

Discover & Develop Your Story

 

Every Picture Tells A Story Free to Members
Every picture tells a story.

Discover Subjects With Nouns 
Make a list to identify more subjects and more about your potential subjects.

Discover Actions With Verbs
Make a list to find out more about what’s going on around you.

Discover Qualities With Adverbs And Adjectives
Make a list to find how you really feel about your subjects and put that into your images.

Seeing With New Eyes
Ask these questions to uncover new perspectives and ideas.

Guiding Questions 
Generate ideas and guide your work with these essential questions.

Ask 100 Questions 
This exercise is sure to stretch you, reveal personal perspectives, and generate new ideas.

Free Associate To Find Feelings, Thoughts, Memories, Connections
Identify the things happening outside you and take time to explore what’s going on inside.

Association  Free to Members
Learn how to deepen your relationships with your work.

Form, Feeling, Content  Free to Members
What kind of story are you telling?

Metaphor Free to Members
Use metaphor to guide you deeper into a subject.

 

Clarify Your Vision & Style

 

The Differences Between Vision & Style 
Vision is what you have to say; style is how you say it.

What’s Your Vision ? | Coming

What’s Your Style ? Free To Members
Identify the basic visual elements in your work.

What’s Your Theme ? | Coming

Motivation – Dig Deep – Ask Why Five Times | Coming

Make Plans  Free to Members
Increase your productivity and fulfillment by making a plan.

Define a Project  Free to Members
Focus your creative efforts and create an action list to achieve your goals.

Developing Personal Projects 
Defining a project is one of the single best ways to develop your body of work.

Clarify Your Mission, Goals, Projects, Actions

Make Your Bucket List 

 

Tell It Your Way

 

The Way You Tell Your Story Is Part Of Your Style | Coming

Tell a Story Three Ways
Tell the story of your subject. Actually, tell three stories.

Most Stories Have A Beginning, Middle & End | Coming

Explore Different Story Structures | Coming

The Hero’s Journey | Coming

7 Essential Plots | Coming

 

Share Your Story

 

Why Sharing Your Story Is Important | Coming

How To Ask For Useful Feedback
Give the people responding to your work permission to go deeper.

How To Title Your Images
Good titles complement works by giving viewers more relevant information.

How I Title My Images 
Titles have always been challenging for me.

Get Down To The Essence Of It – Tell Us About It In One Sentence, Phrase, Word | Coming

Loglines – Identify The Function Of Individual Images In Sequences| Coming

Artist’s Statements  Free to Members
Learn how to make the visual verbal, by crafting artist’s statements.

 

Play With Words

 

Breaking the Rules  Free to Members

Creative Fear List 

If You Were A …  | Coming

It’s Kind Of A Cross Between …  | Coming

What If … | Coming

Write A Story In One Sentence | Coming

Write A Three Line Poem | Coming

Magnetic Poetry | Coming

 

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56 Great Quotes On Words

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Enjoy this collection of quotes about the power of Words.
“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams
“Words to me were magic. You could say a word and it could conjure up all kinds of images or feelings or a chilly sensation or whatever. It was amazing to me that words had this power.” – Amy Tan
“Words are containers for power, you choose what kind of power they carry.” Joyce Meyer
“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling
“Words are loaded pistols.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly – they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” ― Aldous Huxley
Read More

Finding The Right Words Can Help You Find Your Way

Arabesque I, White Sands, New Mexico, 2003

 In 2002 I went to White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. I photographed for an evening and a morning, exposing twelve rolls of film. When I returned I found two ‘keepers’ and counted myself lucky. It’s my feeling we’re lucky if one percent of the exposures we make are worth presenting.
This image was much more subtly surreal than many of my other images and didn’t fit neatly into the work I was currently developing. I found it presented a very useful creative challenge to me. Yet I was uncertain how to begin and take steps to resolve it.
I lived with the image in my dining room, looking at it both casually and seriously, several times a day for an extended time. I not only collected my own impressions but also the impressions other people share with me. It felt good when my father commented one day, “That’s a good one. You’ve managed to avoid all the west coast clichés.” But I still hadn’t found what I was looking for. Much later, my father-in-law squinted and asked, “Is that water?” Instantly I knew I had found what I was looking for. I wasn’t photographing grains of sand, I was photographing the waves that moved them.
I returned to White Sands to develop a body of work around this theme. As I moved through the dunes, I constantly returned to the word wave, asking, “How many ways can I make photographs of waves in this environment.” Photographing for the same amount of time and making the same number of exposures I found ten ‘keepers’; the clarity I had found in one word dramatically increased my productivity.
Walking out of the dunes I took shelter in the shade of a park sign that explained how “these dunes move three feet a month”. I had intuitively sensed this and it got into my work. Now my conscious mind had more information to work with and a direction to give it.
While looking at the new set of related images I quickly realized that they related both thematically and formally to another series of images – seascapes in fog, Condensation. This new body of work bridged my desert and seas work. One realization cascaded into another. Waves are a common theme that runs through a majority of my work.
This image reminds me of the power of words. When I first made it, I couldn’t put it into words. Words help me find out more about where I’ve been, where I’m going, and where I want to go. Words helped me understand what I had done and what I wanted to do next. Words helped me understand my life, my work, and myself. Time and time again, I’ve found the power of words to be extremely helpful.
How many ways can putting your experiences into words help you make stronger images?
Find more related images here.
Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

Use Words To Tune Into Hidden Dimensions – Craig Colvin


In my Death Valley digital photography workshop, Craig Colvin discovered the power of words and of metaphor. When he made images he’d find the words that described the relationships in the image before making the exposures. Solitude. Community. Birth. Loss. He found that by using the power of words he saw things differently and he saw new things. A few simple words, the right words, unlocked hidden potentials within the subject and within himself.
How can words help unlock your creativity?
How many ways can you think of to integrate them into your creative process?
Read more in my creativity lessons.
Find out more about my Death Valley digital photography workshop.
Learn more in my digital photography workshops.

Writing Artist's Statements

artistsstatements
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.