Saturday, December 18, 2010

Asymptotical creativity

I'm sitting in front of the fireplace - It's raining/snowing outside - The Fray is oozing out of the speakers while the TV displays the screen saver of my new home media server. I had pumpkin pie for breakfast. Honestly, it doesn't get much better than this.

To top it all off, I'm re-reading VisionMongers by David duChemin. This is my third time through the book, but my first since taking an Intro to Marketing class. Now that I understand some of the marketing stuff he's talking about, and where he's coming from - I'm enjoying the book more than I thought possible.
Instead of blazing through it like I have in the past, I'm taking time to absorb the concepts he is discussing and I'm applying them to my own small business.

One concept David touches on in the chapter titled "Work work work" is the question that all creatives should constantly ask themselves: "Am I Good Enough?"

Simply put, the answer should always be "No."

I've heard this from successful photographers and photo professors alike - the moment you think you've mastered photography, you should quit. There is always something else to learn, some new mistake to make. If you fail to recognize that, some new young hot-shot will steal the spotlight and you will be left to stagnate while your creativity rots into nonexistence. It sounds dramatic, but it happens all the time. The only way to avoid such a painful creative death is to realize that you can never master your craft 100%. You may get very close, but there is always something left to learn. You can never be perfect.

This illustration is an attempt to show what I'm talking about. The mathematical function is called an Asymptote. The idea is that the line (representing your skill level) never actually touches either axis. It gets closer and closer, but even all the way out to infinity, it never touches. You can never reach Perfection - and theoretically, you can't truly achieve Total Suckage either.

You'll notice there is a period of significant (exponential) improvement right in the middle of the graph. This represents the time period things start to "click" for you as a photographer and as a creative. You understand your color wheel, reciprocity, shutter speeds, f-stops, and ISOs. All the technical stuff that you need to understand on a very basic level. At the same time, you also start to figure out what you want to photograph, what drives you, what you love and what inspires you. While these things may take years to learn, they are still a relatively short period of time on the graph that is your creative career.

We are quickly approaching a new year and a new decade. In the U.S., that means it is time for New Years Resolutions - here are a few questions you might ask yourself while you search for your resolutions.

Where are you on that graph?
What can you do to keep learning, discovering and creating at a higher level?
Do you push yourself to constantly improve?
What are you best at?
What needs the most work?
Where can you find new sources of inspiration?

I know I'm looking forward to spending much of the next week on this introspective thought process, working on my business plan for the next year and reading VisionMongers as a catalyst.

Blog lite will probably continue around here until I get settled back in Colorado for Winter break. See you around!