Life inevitably throws numerous moments of frustration at you. You begin to feel like you can’t catch a break, and you look to the things that act as a release. That can be music, photography, or any hobby or interest. They all act as a release. But what happens if that release is music, and it no longer seems to work? What happens when an escape route ends up being blocked by your own subconscious telling you that what you’re doing, sucks. You pick up a guitar now and it’s the same things over and over again; you see no progression - making what you normally see as a release, become another symbol of frustration. You have a ton of ideas that float through your head on a daily basis, none of which manifest to anything more than just that - an idea. So what is this? What causes you this almost inherent frustration? Writer’s block.
Creating something means allowing yourself to explore your abilities - to see what you can do when you focus on an idea. It enables you to measure your level of dexterity in the things you do. I recently attended a talk from the fantastic Jazz pianist and composer, Laurence Hobgood. It was refreshing to see someone with so much talent, to be so grounded as a person. Having won numerous awards including Grammy’s, he has a very simple philosophical approach. His analogy in describing it made perfect sense. Hobgood spoke about how as creatives we tend to strive to be at a certain level in terms of our dexterity and ability. But most people expect to be able to get from the bottom to the top in a short period of time, with little effort. His analogy focused on people visiting the Sears Tower, in Chicago. You go there, excited and ready to get to the top of the tower. As you arrive at the building you realise there’s a massive cue to go up the tower, and there’s a waiting time of over an hour. Reluctantly you join the cue, standing there for a moment. As you wait, you begin to think; “hey, there must be an easier way to get up there. This building is huge, there’s bound to be more elevators..” You walk away from your place in line, and into the businesses section of the ground floor. The foyer opens up in front of you and you search for elevators. You spot an escalator - it takes you up three floors. It’s not the top, but it’s progress. You look around the floor and find an elevator. This is it. You’re going to the top! You step in, only to realise that the elevator only travels up for another 5 floors. You take it anyway, arriving on the 8th floor of over 120 floors. Again, it’s progress. You walk around the floor looking for more elevators only to realise there are none. You go back down, again searching for an elevator to go up. The process repeats itself, but you get frustrated, and never reach the top. Defeated, you slug your way back to the back of the cue on the ground floor, waiting to go on the right lift to the top.
The analogy serves to represent the difference between focusing and letting time help you, over trying every shortcut to get to the top. The shortcuts leave you missing something, and inevitably you come back down to where you were. To reach the top level with things you’re doing, you need to wait, to persevere, and learn all the small things as you go. This whole idea is central to dealing with writer’s block. If there’s something you can’t progress with, then you need to work on it. You need to spend a lot of time working on the little things, which in time combine to make something much bigger, and better. Be critical of yourself, but not in a sense that makes you stop working at things. Be constructive. This criticism can be helpful.
Make yourself work on the elements you fall down on, and most importantly give yourself space to breathe. A relentless pursuit makes it feel like work, like something that is forced. Forced creativity works in instances, but not as a constant.
Focus on the development of your skills, and practice a lot. If you’re struggling with creativity in one sense - such as musically, then pick up something else, such as writing, or photography. Anything. Try to be creative that way. When you return to the initial problem you can approach it with a fresher mindset, tackling the issue you had head on, without taking shortcuts that will only serve to let you down in the future.
In time, this level of openness to your shortcomings can only serve to make you improve and better at the very things that plague you. Perspective.
Fragmentation - Cutting social media ties.
As someone using Social Media regularly, I’ve started to think more about the way I share content, and how I connect with people. I’ve gotten to the point of wondering: “hey, do I want or need to use this anymore?”.
How many social media sharing/services do you utilise? Here’s my list:
- VSCO Grid
The strangest part here is that a lot of people never step back and begin to think about what they are using, and more importantly, why? The implications of each of the above differs in terms of how you use them - personal, professional, or both?
I recently asked myself ‘why’ I use the services that I use, and how often. What follows is a brief overview of the same:
- Facebook & Skype - FB Used daily, for personal use and college group work. Used from a promotional aspect for Youth Project I work on. Skype, also personal use. Has its place.
- Twitter - Daily, sharing interesting links, my images, etc.
- Tumblr - Primarily been used as a display of images shared elsewhere, such as through EyeEm, Flickr, or Instagram.
- VSCO Grid - my favourite; there is such a wealth of fantastic images being shared through the VSCO Grid. My Grid is a selection of images that I have captured and feel as though they are worth sharing. I’m becoming much more self-critical with every image I take, and as such the frequency with which I share on VSCO Grid is perhaps less than those of other services, such as Instagram.
- Instagram - had been my go-to for sharing images on my iPhone. Now, it seems more about selfies, and likes than about the images themselves. VSCO trumps it every time.
- EyeEm, Flickr & Pressgram - Great sites in their own right. I like Pressgram’s concept and community; Flickr’s new site/apps and full-res images; EyeEm’s interface and community. However, their use is a bit more forced. Instagram seems ubiquitous, as does the VSCO Grid.
- Pinterest & Path - have their uses but I like the idea of community, neither of which is strong amongst my friends on these sites.
- Vimeo & YouTube - both very different for me; Vimeo is so much more creative in terms of film and interesting content. YouTube is for just about everything else. They both have their places and I wouldn’t drop either.
- SoundCloud - the de-facto standard for audio sharing. Love this site, though the player settings could be much better. Still seems counter-intuitive.
- LinkedIn - industry obligated. Great for professional networking but just not an enjoyable service to use otherwise.
- Google+ - obligated to opt-in thanks to Gmail & YouTube. Some interesting communities, but despite reported growing usage it still feels like a waste of time, especially on a personal level.
So where does that leave me? What do I scrap?
While I feel Facebook is doing things wrong in a number of ways, the sheer volume of my friends using the service, and the accessibility of the site itself makes for a very valid argument to stay using it. Twitter is enjoyable, brimming with interesting content and interesting, helpful people. SoundCloud, VSCO Grid and Instagram are my go-to’s for the rest. LinkedIn remains a professional obligation. Google+, EyeEm, Pinterest & Path are surplus to requirements. They’re great, but for me they just don’t provide enough of anything to warrant their continued regular use. Flickr is still a great source for archiving images.
Which brings me to Tumblr. I’ve used it as another source of sharing my photos, and while it’s been nice to do so, I think it’s time I started to treat it as more of a collective creative outlet - that is to say, to use it for more than just photos. It’s time I began to explore writing - something I’ve neglected for years; to share more audio, to still share some images, and to curate the amazing content I stumble across on Tumblr.
With that in mind, prepare to see more from me than just images - hence the new theme on my site.