It’s a wild thing living in the age of technology; we enjoy the simplicity of next day delivery on Amazon, the instant gratification of social media, and we can zoom from one end of the country to the other in a matter of hours.
But what happens when we all get a little too obsessed? What happens when instead of conversing over dinner we’re trying to instagram it? Instead of spending an hour soaking in nature at the end of a hike, we’re spending that hour trying to take the perfect snapchat? What happens when instead of focusing on the quality of how we’re spending our time, we’re focused on getting those infamous likes? If you’re anything like me, I’ll tell you what happens- you start to lose the spark that makes you who you presently are.
Like it or not, I’ve been in a bit of a creative slump for 6 months. Its not an easy thing to admit, especially when I’m fortunate to have a dedicated audience of online friends and followers. But I’m human, and I’m not perfect. Its easy to tell myself “you’re going through a rough patch”, but its not as easy to determine the source.
Despite the intensity of my lifestyle, I kept feeling like there were just small things getting between me and that feeling of satisfaction with life. I mean, I’ve been traveling constantly for 2 years and before that I was working and going to school full time, and even then I was creating with ease regularly! I decided to take some breaks from the hustle of life, and during that time I got to do a lot of thinking. I realized some important things about not just being a self employed artist, but about living life to the fullest as a human being.
1. Its Not About The Likes, Its About The Impact- One of the most important things I’ve realized recently with a career built around social media, is that the value of what I create is not determined by the “stats” of how many people liked my post or shared it on twitter or even signed up for my workshops. The value of what I create is determined by the personal release I gain and in turn the inspiration received by those in my audience that respond. The most rewarding aspect of creating and sharing art to a public audience is the messages I receive saying I changed someone’s day, or the person I meet that says they’ve been following me for years and wouldn’t be who they are without me. There are many people who have changed my life and made me who I am, so knowing I have in turn changed someone else’s life is priceless… whether its 1 person or 1000.
2. Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect- The more I grow as an artist, the more pressure I start to face not just from the outside, but from within. As I look back on the growth I’ve experienced, I have this constant nagging in my brain to “Be better” and to “Create the best piece ever”. My focus starts to drift from the love I have for creating, to worrying about what people will think and a fear of failure. The expectation of perfection becomes unbearable and I settle for playing the comparing game as I look at what everyone around me is doing instead of forging ahead on my own ideas. Not only is this mindset toxic and unproductive, it is wasted energy and a complete lie. I have since realized that it doesn’t matter what other people will think, creating from within and for yourself is far more important and productive than trying to reach an impossible standard of perfection. You will naturally have different phases in your creative journey, and that is absolutely ok.
3. Me Time Is The Best Time- Making a living is important; instilling love and appreciation for friends and family is important; fulfilling a desire to do successful things is important. However none of this is possible without ensuring your own personal health and sanity. I get anywhere from 40-100 messages a day between various devices and social media platforms. Despite the fact that I want to be friends with everyone and live to please others 24/7, I just can’t physically do that. I’ve come to realize that I alone hold the power to ensuring my own mental health and sanity, and the less I take care of myself, the more my interactions with the world will suffer. It is important to me that my interactions and productions are all top quality, and this cannot be achieved without taking time for myself.
As of two weeks ago I am happy to say I have actually considered myself “OUT” of the slump! HOORAY! I’m finally thinking of ideas that make me happy again and concepts that are deeply rooted in the experiences around me. Here are a few things that I think helped me overcome my creative road bumps:
1. No More Doing It For The Likes- I’ve been setting some healthy boundaries for myself when it comes to social media; its amazing how small changes in etiquette can save me a lot of unnecessary stress! When I make a post on Facebook or Instagram now, instead of hovering over my computer or phone hitting the refresh button, I’ve been walking away and doing something else for a few hours. Steady practice at this has been instilling a sense of confidence and self-appreciation for the content I’m sharing, rather than the unhealthy obsession with getting likes.
I’ve also limited the number of social media channels I’m sharing to. I’ve decided that the more mindless platforms that were filling all my in-between seconds of life are not necessary to keep me happy throughout the day, and I’ve been enjoying real life interactions in a much richer way. Not only am I getting more quality time to rest my mind, but I’m actually listening to conversations 100% of the time when I’m with people- imagine that! Sorry Tumblr and Snapchat, but my personal time and friends are more important!
In addition to those changes, I now treat my personal days as technology free days, and for entire days or weekends I will put the computer and phone away. Not to mention my "No Phone Rule" during meals and time with friends. Airplane mode is also a nice way to enjoy a distraction free day!
2. Taking Creative Vacation- After years of putting my focus mainly on photography, I realized there are other things I love doing that don’t involve a camera in hand and a team of assistants to orchestrate. I love hiking, I love cooking, I love interior design, I love dancing. I’ve been spending more time enjoying these aspects of life when I’m not photographing, and I’ve been leaving my camera at home while I do it. Boy has life been way more fulfilling!
3. Personal Retreats- This may sound simple, but after months and years of pouring out my energy to others, I finally put my foot down and decided to make consistent time for myself. I’m being my own boss, making it a priority, and scheduling consistent personal retreat time, whether its 1 day a week, 1 week a month or a combination of the two. I have given myself the creative and mental rest I deserve, and not only do I feel more fresh, I feel all around happier!
Technology and social media are great things and have brought us to an amazing age of science and connectivity that we’ve never had before. But just like most things, they function best within a practice of balance. Take some time to determine your own goals and priorities and treat your time as your own, not everyone else’s. Be the change you wish to see in the world, but start with yourself. Life is too short and filled with beautiful multi-dimensional experiences to be spent on a two dimensional screen. And as always, please feel welcome to comment or send me a message- I will be happy to respond during the time I have allotted to do so!
To learn more about my workshops and retreats where you can meet and learn with me face to face, please visit: robwoodcox.com/workshops/events