You don’t make art out of great intentions.

 – Gustave Flaubert

Everyone has something that gives a slice of sanctuary, relief, peace and pleasure in life. For some, it’s gardening, birding, hiking, sewing and for others it’s baking, running or even cutting grass. If you’re anything like me, photography is a “soul feeder.” I love making images of things I find interesting and beautiful, no matter what the subject. And, while not every effort is rewarded with “stellar,” it’s the act of doing and the experience that provides the “food” – the excitement, the sanctuary, the awe and the lessons. So, why don’t I make more time to simply do what I love? And, why don’t you?

The chosen passion doesn’t matter. What matters is that you keep doing – for you – what feeds you. I enjoy doing a lot of different things, including and especially photographing flowers, nature and old things. (I also love to cut grass!) If I’m out with my camera, I can find all kinds of ways to smile and enjoy the moments. Walking shorelines, woodlands, gardens and roaming the rural landscapes are good to me and for me. Even painting walls and refinishing furniture is. But when I make time for myself to spend time with my camera and subjects that speak to me, bigger and better things happen.

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. – Thomas Merton

Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder. – E. B. White

When I slow down, sit down and am present in the moment, all other life or work concerns evaporate, if even for just a few moments or an hour. My breathing slows, my shoulders drop, and all the mind clutter is swept aside or away for that window of time. No matter how long or short the duration, that uninterrupted and undivided time is just what I need. The key is to plug in – completely, which is not always easy.

You might think that because photography is both my vocation and avocation, being with my camera and being “in the zone” is a continual and natural state. Not true at all. For example, if I am scouting for a workshop and also shooting, my attention is focused on the locations and thinking about what is there for my clients. Is it safe? Will they like it? What is there to work with photographically and, yes, is there enough parking and does it have a bathroom? Not to mention, where’s the nearest restaurant or what do we do about food in the boonies? This is a necessary form of mind clutter and important for my work, but it is not helpful or conducive for my getting “in the zone.” It’s about taking care of others, not about taking care of me.

Art is when you hear a knocking from your soul – and you answer. – Terri Guillemets

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. – William Butler Yeats

HEART TAPPING

I can look back on my work and remember when I was working and when I was feeding and refueling my creative spirit. I can recall my headspace at that time. The execution may not reveal the differences, but the emotional impact for me will. There’s a difference between being technically correct and tapping into the heart. Neither one is right or wrong necessarily. However, if you’re one who responds to things by how they make you feel, then the “heart tap” in your work really matters. It is what separates certain images I’ve made from others. I can often remember how I was feeling when images were created, what in life was swirling, how long it took for me to unplug, and when the breathing began to slow. I can remember when the distracting “noise” began to fade and my awareness and connection to what was in front of me became stronger.

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. – Pablo Picasso

MAKE THE TIME FOR YOU

We need to Make the Time to Take Care of ourselves, creatively and otherwise. If we don’t, we can end up in a state of wither and disappointment. And, we need to do make this time without feeling guilty about it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard and still hear, “I really miss doing ____________, but ‘life’ keeps getting in the way.” Or, “I haven’t picked up my camera in months (or even years) and “I’ve been in a slump.” You know what? We need to take better care of ourselves. If we enjoy something (anything!), we need to make the time to do it – even if it’s just for an hour a week. It’s a good start.

Here’s the thing: We all have calendars and make appointments. We keep those appointments with others and even add more to our schedule for everyone else. We don’t put ourselves on the calendar. We are more likely to “intend to” do the things that involve taking time for ourselves. I get it. I’m guilty of this as well. For those of us old enough to remember Gilda Radner as Rosanne Roseannadanna, “It’s always something.” True – that’s life. It’s what we live. Life is not in the way. We make the choices.

Be yourself — not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be. – Henry David Thoreau

GET STARTED WITH AN APPOINTMENT

Here’s an idea for you and for me. Get your calendar out and make one of those unbreakable appointments with yourself. Be realistic. I’d love to mark out whole days, but that’s not always feasible. If you only have one hour, block that time and keep that appointment. It doesn’t matter what you do with that time: take a nap, read a book, take a walk, sit and listen to the birds and the leaves rustling in the wind. This is YOUR TIME. Oh, and how about you grab your camera and one lens and find something interesting to photograph.

Don’t make it complicated. Enjoy your appointment. If you’ve been in a slump and beating yourself up for not taking time to do for yourself, for not making time to do what you love . . . stop. Just stop. It’s not helping you or your creative spirit, the one that is aching for relief and to be fed. Remember, we’re only starting with one hour a week. That’s one hour out of 168. You can do it. If I can, so can you. We all need to. REMINDER: This one hour is for your creative space. It is not for laundry, dishes, dog walking, errand running or anything unrelated to taking care of you and whatever will feed you in that hour (or more) to get you going again and feeling plugged in and refreshed.

I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers. – Claude Monet