If you’re anything like me, you’ve struggled with getting things done. You may be all too familiar with the feelings of disappointment, discontent, and even despair that grips you after realizing days weeks or months have gone by and you never actually started/finished that project you were so excited about.
In the past couple months I’ve become the most productive I’ve ever been after years of trying to figure out why it was hard for me to get everything done (like starting this blog lol). I’m going to explain one of the reasons why you cant get the things you want done and how to fix it.
There are many reasons why we start procrastinating, but they main thing that starts it is being forced to do something that you do not want to do. We usually start procrastinating around middle school, sometimes before, simply because of how our society works where you start being forced to do things that don’t feel important. In that situation procrastination kind of makes sense… I mean you if you don’t want to do something you’re not going to be excited to start right away, In fact you might resent getting started. But since you’re being forced, you will do whatever it is, but you’re gonna wait till the very last moment that you can start and still pull it off. And lets say something isn’t urgent and someones trying to force you to do it… well that’s definitely not getting done. When you’re a kid, this happens all the time, you don’t have the control over your life so you have to do a bunch of stuff that you don’t think you need to do because no ones explaining why, and if you were a certain type of kid that meant you weren’t doing any of that crap! YOU CAN’T CONTROL ME (my 7th grade self says in my Kanye Voice).
Here’s the problem.
When you do that over and over, it becomes a pattern, an unconscious pattern where you put things off and delay them unless they seem like they absolutely need to get done RIGHT NOW. This pattern is especially destructive for an Artist because working on your edit’s or planning your next shoot, writing that next song is never going to be something that’s urgent, something that needs to be done RIGHT AWAY… Your art is always something you could put off for one more day unlike the bill you have to pay, or that errand you have to run, which is why those things get done but your art doesn’t. So you’ll do those things first and find at the end of they day your’e out of energy so you put that thing that was important to you off until tomorrow… and after enough tomorrow’s it becomes another idea you never actually turned into a reality.
There are 3 steps to overcoming this…
- Having a big enough and clear enough why
- Differentiating between Important vs Urgent
- Creating Structure
The answer really just comes down to creating a structure for yourself, but we need the first two mindset steps in order to come up with the right structure and stick to it.
Major Mindset Change #1
Step one is simple, you need to have a reason to get things done that you connect with emotionally.
You see the reason you started procrastinating was because you could feel that the things people were trying to force you into were not important for you, so in order to create the habit of getting things done you have to feel like what you are working on is important.
My advice to you in coming up with your why is that your why has to be as grandiose and as specific as possible, and of course it has to be true to you. Your why has to be grandiose so that it feels important, so make it something long term and something that affects more people than just yourself. Your why also has to be specific, so that it feels real. You want something so specific that you can imagine and visualize it just as much as you can with urgent things that may come up.
Major Mindset Change #2
Step 2 is to understand that everything that is urgent is not important, and that things that are truly Important are seldom ever urgent (a prime example is your general health). Let me explain… sending someone close to you a random text to say that you appreciate them is not nowhere near as urgent as texting your landlord that your air conditioning isn’t working. But lets say that close person you were gonna text dies in a car accident, all of a sudden you would have wished you sent that text instead of forgetting because you were texting the landlord. Put into perspective that text to someone close to you is waaayyyyyyy more important… but that text will never be urgent, because there are things that are also important that need to be done withing a certain period of time. Something could be higher up in importance but because there isn’t a set time-frame for it, there is never a sense of urgency compared to something that does have a concrete window of time.
This is where Structure comes in…
In your childhood you fought against structure because you were being forced into something that didn’t fit you. But in order to regain control of your life you must enforce structure onto yourself. But a structure of your own design, a home base not a prison. You need to come up with structure so that you are planning to do the important things withing a certain time window so that they don’t get drowned out by all of the urgent things you have to do that way. There are many systems you can use, one I may try in the future is the bullet journal (I’ve heard great things about it), but before i heard about it i just came up with my own system. You can also come up with your own, just make sure that its simple and easy enough that you’ll actually do it. If you try to do too much at once or too soon you will burn out before the structure you planned becomes a habit in your life.
I used a simple to do list:
- As I have Ideas i write them down in my phones notes.
- On Sundays I refine that list to only the ideas i think are worth perusing These are the important things.
- I begin to schedule errands chores and urgent things day by day Monday - Friday.
- I leave the weekend unstructured to give myself a break and time to finish the things that may slip through the cracks that way I don’t have to beat myself up if I miss something here or there on my M-F schedule because I didn’t have time or because something came up.
- I make sure that for every 2 urgent things I have to take care of for the day I have 1 important thing on my list. This (1:2 ratio of important to urgent is mandatory in order to feel fulfilled, 1:1 would be better but i know for many people that’s unrealistic with all of the things that they have to contend with in life, but if you ever let it fall below 1:3 be ready for the depression lol)
- When I started I would only put 3 things on the list for each day so that I wouldn’t overwhelm myself. (over time I was able to add more and more things onto the list per day but if you try to do too much at first you will burn out and if you let that happen the habit will not stick)
- If I i could do all three things on the list I win the day no matter what. (mentally you gotta let yourself have it, reward yourself with something physical too if you need to, you need to feel like you won for the habit to stick)
This is what worked for me so you can try it, or try the bullet journal, or try your own thing. But 100% you need some sort of structure otherwise there’s no way of making sure those important things happen. Create a structure for yourself, or keep hoping and wishing the things you want just appear and see how that work out for you.
If you’re not used to it structure is difficult to adhere to…
So make sure you don’t forget the principles outlined here if you want to start consistently getting stuff done and moving your life and your art forward. Know your why, know what’s important, then apply structure.
I really hope this helps! And when you start to feel demotivated, just imagine yourself on your deathbed having never accomplished any of your dreams. (I’m serious)
I hate when people tell me that it’s admirable how I’m able to take things I’m interested in and actually learn them, get pretty good, and then make money with them… Because It’s usually followed by them saying how they wish they could do the same.
I’m not here to pat myself on the back, because while I have been able to turn my love of computers, music, and photography into revenue generators for myself, I think anyone could do the same. I’m not incredibly disciplined (in fact that’s only now something I’m really starting to work on). And I’m always just as clueless as anyone else, having no clue how I’m going to go from knowing pretty much nothing, to actually being skilled enough to make money.
I’m going to share with you guys how I started photography so that you can see that you can do it too! I’m also going to see if I can out out some lessons to make your creative journey. Now that I’ve learned a few different mediums I realize that there are core principals that aren’t specific to what kind of art your making, and we’ll get into a few in this post.
lets get started!
Before I even got a camera…
I was always kind of interested in video so I would borrow my mom’s camera when I was in high school and i would make videos of myself playing guitar and I started messing around with taking some pictures since I had the camera a lot. I even tried some light painting one night when the power went out, but I wasn’t really perusing photography at all it was just a cursory interest.
Don’t be afraid to dabble and try things, if you think something might be interesting or fun, give it a shot!
You’ll never know what could have been if you never try. It would be a shame if you had genius level talent at something, or if you could have found a hobby that would give you a lifetime of fun, enjoyment, and growth, but didn’t because you didn’t give yourself permission to dabble. dabbling is a good way to get started, I dabble a lot and then I stick with the things that really resonate with me the most.
I started a now defunct YouTube channel called jplaysguitar and kept using my mom’s cameras for videos. When I left for college I didn’t have access to my mom’s camera anymore so I kind of fell off of making videos until I decided to just get a camera of my own for making videos. I wanted something that could help me make high quality videos so i did a little research and found out the best quality would come from interchangeable lens cameras. At that point I want even intending to take photo’s and there was a lot of talk about Panasonic video so I got a Panasonic GF2 (which i still own) and hacked it to get higher video bit rates (quality), this was a common thing you could do with early Panasonic cameras.
I kept making videos and in an attempt to improve my video quality I started learning about lenses because I wanted a blurrier background. Now I was a broke college students so I couldn’t afford much and ended up getting an old manual focus fd lens with an adapter for my gf2. I was really shocked and how good the quality was for the price and then it occurred to me finally that “hey I could take pictures with this”.
You see at this time I had started taking a lot of pictures on my phone. Instagram had come out and i would take pictures of just random stuff I would see around and throw on a filter and I thought it looked really cool. There was one time in particular when I went to a beach in Toronto with my family, there weren’t many people there that day so it had a really interesting calm vibe and i just walked around taking a ton of pictures of things I though looked “aesthetic” those pictures are still on my Instagram if you scroll down far enough. (or just look above)
That dabbling in cell phone photo’s and dabbling with interchangeable lens cameras for my YouTube videos is what led to me having the aha moment that I should try photography on an interchangeable lens camera.
When I started shooting…
I would take the same kind of pictures I would with my cellphone. Shots of nature, you know street and still life kinds of stuff. I was on tumblr a lot so i used to do things like take pictures of flowers and put some kind of moody or inspiring text over it (something I’ve gone back to doing recently but now with portraits).
I would just shoot around casually for fun and just look for things that had an interesting appearance, I learned to use a camera fully manually and would just snap whenever I felt like it. I wasn’t really thinking about turning my photography into anything i just did it because it was fun.
Always remember part of making art is having fun. We never start our creative endeavors trying to make ourselves depressed we just do it for fun, remembering that above all else will get you far.
I wasn’t even really that conscious of myself doing photography as a pursuit until i held my first prints. I was just taking pictures thinking nothing of it, but I would have my cameras with me a lot so i guess other people could see i was kind of into it. My church was having a youth art gallery and inviting local painters and other artists to participate. I guess since people knew i was taking photo’s they asked me if i wanted to display some prints of my stuff in the gallery. The leader of the youth program was also a photographer so he made my prints and helped me mount them. This experience made me feel a little more legit because I was displaying my work with some “real artists” that were actually good, and because of that I wanted to take photography more seriously. I still have those prints because no one bought them, at the time this was disappointing but I’m actually glad now that I still have them.
Once you get past starting don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Yeah we make art based on our own vision and a lot of time it’s like a form of therapy. But if we’re keeping it real, we know that we still want other people to see our work and acknowledge it. A lot of times were don’t start or don’t put ourselves out there because we’re afraid of negative feedback. But honestly, it’s never as bad as you think its going to be and it never kills you, it makes you a stronger and better artist.
I never really intended to get into portrait photography really. I’m pretty introverted and at the time thought I wouldn’t be very good at shooting people, but because I’m willing to dabble in anything to see if it sticks so i started taking pictures of my friends, and people on tumblr thought they were good so i kept doing portraits along with the other types of photo’s, and making my YouTube videos.
At this point I realized I needed a new camera because I had been using my gf2 so much i became aware of it’s limitations. I decided to get a Canon 60d because it had a flip out screen which was good for youtube, and a lot of portrait shooters I saw around my campus also shot on Canon. This was at this point one of the single biggest investments I made into my art, this camera was bigger and more expensive and professional than my gf2 but I was willing to make that investment because I knew that using the camera was something with would give me a lot of joy. I was also familiar with the idea of investing in good gear to get the job done right from being a musician. At this point I used to play more gigs than I do now and I would save up my gig money to buy better guitars and amps so i could get the sounds I wanted for my own music. I didn’t know how exactly but i knew I could do something similar with my photography.
Never be afraid to invest in yourself. The way I see it the best investment i could ever make is an investment in myself. I am the one thing I have complete control over so if I invest in myself I can make sure I see returns on my investment, no other investment gives you that kind of guaranteed return. And I didn’t just invest in gear. I invested time to practice and hone my skills and time to get info from the more experienced shooters i knew. Nothing beats putting in the work and getting guidance from mentors.
Once you invest, it’s time to grind, that’s non-negotiable. The only way to have any sort of guarantee your investment doesn’t go to waste is you put it to use as much as possible.
Once I decided I was legit into this whole camera and photography thing, I started shooting A LOT, like almost every day. If there’s one secret i could give you guys to learn a new skill or improve your art, it’s to work daily. You’ll inevitably miss a day here and there but I’ve found with guitar playing, writing code, and taking photos, that you get the biggest skill jumps when you start practicing daily. Someone who practices almost every day for two years can easily surpass someone who has no consistency but has been doing something for 10 years.
It’s hard to stay consistent when your’e grinding by yourself. Something I learned when i was teaching myself guitar was that being terrible and working hard to get better isn’t as bad if you have other people trying to do the same as you. So pretty much every weekday me and my friend Tayo would go shoot together, and if we didn’t have a model we would model for each other. We did that for about 4 semesters straight. We learned about using natural light, then reflectors and modifiers, flash, then off camera flash, posing, composition etc. And for the most part we were just shooting our friends, we were lucky that some of our friends also modeled so this made learning posing techniques much easier.
Making art is hard, and it can be lonely so if you want to be consistent you need to find or build a creative community. The people in your community don’t need to be doing the same thing as you they just need to be open minded creators.
I shot a lot and got pretty decent after about two years on shooting constantly. I understood the basics of lighting so i could shoot in a lot of different conditions. I got an understanding of exposure and how to use my cameras and lenses properly. I created some really cool creative stuff (for my standards at the time), but I wasn’t really making any money. Every once in a while someone would ask me to shoot something and i would make $20 here $40 there but I wasn’t making enough to equal the value of the camera I had spent. So I got to planning on a way that I could make a good amount of money…
You have to figure out monetizing for yourself. There’s a lot of ways to make money from your art depending on what you make and what type of person you are. This is something I’m still learning but over time you find what services or value you can provide while honoring yourself. One thing i would advise everyone is before they start building a business around their art they need to deploy self awareness in the planning stages so that you still enjoy art making while making money.
I was still going to college, so I made sure that a lot of people knew I took photo’s just by being outside taking photo’s, I would even take a shot or two of people for free and send it to them. Then when Graduation time came I could cash in. People knew how i shot and knew they could get a cool concept done instead of just the generic smiling photo in your cap and gown in front of a corny backdrop. At that point i was only charging $60 for photo-shoots but I had a lot of free time so i could do a couple shoots in a day. So during graduation season I could easily make more money than people with part time jobs that they hated.
Then I never looked back…
Thanks for reading! hope this helped you realize that there was nothing magical about me learning photography. You can learn whatever you want, you just need to be passionate and patient. So please never make an excuse for not watering whatever flower of creativity you have in you.
Identity is an interesting thing.
We derive Identity in a variety of ways, and many of us feel like we have several competing identities.
If you go to my Instagram profile and looks at my bio one of the first things you’ll see is Artist. People who Identify as artists often struggle with anxiety around Identity, so I’m going to share how I think about it in an effort to get you out of your own head, and get you doing what it takes to actually the the artist you claim to be.
There’s a ton of things artists worry about concerning Identity, I’ll cover just a few:
- I am so creative and do so many things, how can I outwardly Identify myself in a way that people will understand?
- Why don’t people take me seriously as an artist?
- Am I even a real artist or am I just faking it?
Those are some pretty common things that come up so we’ll talk about those. I think that will give you most of the perspective you need but if there’s something else you wanna talk about there’s comments below and other ways to reach me.
OK so I don’t want this to feel like school… however, we do need to start with a definition for Identity, here are several.
- the distinguishing character* or personality of an individual
- the relation established by psychological identification
- the condition of being the same with something described or asserted
- sameness of essential or generic character in different instances
- sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing
I then want to hone in on bullet #2 “the relation established by psychological identification” and look at another definition, this time for identification.
Identification - a largely unconscious process whereby an individual models thoughts, feelings, and actions after those attributed to an object that has been incorporated as a mental image.
Identity is a psychological construct that largely happens unconsciously, this is in my opinion where a lot of the issues for artists arise.
You see, because this process of identification so unconscious, for many of us we end up with these questions surrounding our identity that plague us.
How can I outwardly Identify myself in a way that people will understand?
The issue with this question is that it makes an incorrect assumption about identity. Being worried about how to reconcile the fact that you do a lot of things is more of a branding issue, and in this age of social media people can often confuse their Identity with their brand.
What is brand?
a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer; a characteristic* or distinctive kind
I think the confusion comes because we confuse characteristics (brand) with character (identity).
You have character, you are not a characteristic, and you are certainly not a class of goods (although you may produce a class of goods).
Artists are by nature (and really by virtue of how much effort they put into it) very attached to their work.
But it is a mistake to Identify with your work!
A true artist cannot afford to identify with their art because that so often leads to a crippling downward spiral of depression that takes God knows how long to get out of and when you do finally break out you feel terrible that it stopped you from making art!
If you Identify to closely with you work then this happens:
- people don’t like/respect my art - People don’t like/respect me
- I don’t like my art - I don’t like myself
- I’m not able to produce art - I don’t feel like I truly exist or that life is worth living
OK I got supper depressing on the last one, but you get the point. Identifying with your work is over romanticized. It sounds nice but in reality when you think about it it’s actually pretty unhealthy. I used hyperbole to illustrate the concept, but so many artists find themselves feeling like people don’t like or respect them, or not respecting themselves and their well being, and many times it is because we have unconsciously made mistakes with identification.
So when thinking about the outward, about the product, about the Brand remember you are not limited to just the outward things you are able to easily display to the masses, and that you don’t have to identify yourself with just those things. Remember that Identity is the sameness of essential or generic character in different instances.
Your Identity is that same energy that runs through everything that you create, you don’t have to think about it much, you just have to get to know yourself and just be yourself and overtime that Identity will reveal itself to you.
That’s all great but…
I still have the issue of sometimes people not taking my art seriously or feeling like an impostor.
If that’s you I have good and bad news.
Good news - the solution is simple.
Bad news - the solution is difficult.
The solution is to truly understand your power and use it consistently.
Yes Identification is a largely unconscious process but it doesn’t have to be.
You have the power to be the observer of yourself, and create an identity for yourself and embody that Identity.
For the majority of us, we cannot, or at least do not allow ourselves to do things, that are outside of our perceived identities. This means that you limit your creative potential by not ascribing the correct identity to yourself.
But the beautiful thing is we have a level of control over ourselves, and if we are able to change how we see ourselves not only does that allow you to do your work without the doubt crippling you, but it also will free you from being concerned about the perception of others.
The True Identity of an Artist
An artist is one constantly changing, with every new piece you seek to destroy the artist you were before in favor of a new and better one, more able to express their truth. This is an identity that is centered around the making of art, not the result, but the process a process that continues and benefits you for your whole life.
Through this lens you need not concern yourself if others take you seriously because your focus is not on the art produced or how others view the art. The focus is on getting better at making art, that’s it.
That also sounds nice but it’s a lifelong commitment that mean work that you have to continue to do UNTIL YOU DIE…
That could seem like a daunting process, and something that is too intense to identify with, but you can do it… simply by working, then working more. The more you work you do the more you will reaffirm your identity to yourself.
And through that process you will begin to embody that identity, and it won’t seem so daunting.
But that’s just how I look at things based on my experiences you can feel free to flagrantly disagree with me in the comments or my dm’s.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.