Last week I had the opportunity to go up to Milwaukee, WI to meet up with a friend who was in town. I love Milwaukee, I do. It’s a really down to earth city with some very cool architecture, which, you know, is sort of my thing. We made plans to check out a Basilica, it’s one you see from the highway every time you drive into the city, then a cathedral and possibly the art museum. So what’s the problem you ask?

Yeah, that.

Me. I’m the problem. I took my camera with me and never took it out of my bag. Not even once. Who do I blame, what do I blame for this lack of enthusiasm for getting out shooting lately? Well, again it’s me. I could blame the heat, the fact that I kept thinking while we were inside the Basilica, me overthinking what will I do with these images … that right there stopped me from shooting. It was beautiful, the light was gorgeous, the stained glass windows, the structure but it did not inspire me enough to actually create images of it.

I’m bringing this up because I feel like it’s important. We all go through periods of this. It’s normal. We lose our muse. She’s hiding, resting, being uncooperative and just doesn’t want to play at the moment. We’re told to go anyway, pick up the camera and work through it, force the issue.

What happens when we do this? Well, for one our images tend to suck. Why? Because we’re not feeling what we’re seeing, we are not being where we are and not SEEing what is around us. We’re too busy moaning in our heads that we’d rather be home in the air conditioning, or worrying about the work that needs to be done, the laundry that has piled up or the TV show we’d rather be watching. Basically, we are not present or in the moment.

Being in the moment is a big factor for many of us in what and how we produce our best work. We take the time to breathe, to observe and to feel the location we are in whether it’s some far off city or our own backyards. By slowing down and being aware of as much of what is around you as possible you’ll see the beauty where you thought there was none, you’ll see the interesting shapes and shadows instead of overlooking them.

What can you do to help yourself through these times?

A few things can help:

  • Shoot with your phone only until you get that feeling back — that “oh, yes, see that, that is so cool” feeling you get that makes you want to photograph.
  • Pick one thing. Study it, walk around it, view it from all angles. Now take your camera and challenge yourself to create something creative from just that one thing. Be one with whatever it is you’re shooting (that’s sort of a joke but not really.)
  • Read. Find an inspiring author or photographer you love and read about their work. Take your camera out and try to recreate the same style in your own way. It will get your mind going, you’ll start getting excited about being challenged to make it your own.
  • Create a theme. I once had a project I named the Garbage project. Why? I shot garbage, in the street, from my car at a stoplight, everywhere. Was it pretty? Not exactly. Did it make me pick up my camera every day? Yes. It also sparked an idea about something more long term and meaningful.

I could go on but I think you’ll see the point here. The main thing is to try hard not to become discouraged, resist the urge to sell all of your gear and find another hobby. Give it time. Give yourself time, rest, relax and feed your creative soul. Sometimes we forget to do that, pay attention to our creative side. Listen. To yourself and to the world around you. Your muse will thank you.

(The images included in this article were all taken with my phone.)