When you get right down to it, creative endeavors really are all about personal growth. And since that’s kind of a nebulous statement, let me talk a little bit about what personal growth is!
Personal growth can mean lots of things. For many of us, it means self-exploration. It gives us a chance to dig into our own minds and learn more about our creative sides. That’s an important part of creativity—examining and learning what it is that inspires us and motivates us to create. Once we’ve learned enough about our own creativity, we can learn to tap into it or trigger it at will so that we can create as the need or opportunity arises.
But there’s more to it than that. Personal growth can also mean pushing past your limits. Setting ambitious goals for yourself and your photographic accomplishments. Learning new things to build on your repertoire of skills.
At the end of the day, personal growth is all about discovering something new—something about yourself, a capability you didn’t have before or something more than that. Let’s take a little time to examine some of these areas of growth a little more deeply.
What Creative Growth Means
Creative growth is probably the hardest kind of personal growth to come by because it’s already such a vague term, and it requires a lot of self-examination to figure out what makes your creativity tick. It helps to start by asking the question, “What makes you more creative?” And the answer can be anything. Perhaps the ideas flow best when you listen to music, or maybe you need complete silence in order to envision the photographs you want to create. Creativity is as much about creating the right mood as it is any other factor, so spend some time thinking about what it takes to place yourself in a creative headspace.
Another helpful thing to do is to go back through your portfolios or your archives and examine your most creative images. What were you thinking, feeling or doing when you made them? Was it something about the location or the subject material? Perhaps you’d heard a good song that day, or you’d just finished reading a good book. Lots of things can trigger creativity. The trick is to find out what those things are for you so that you can replicate them as the need arises.
Our own limitations are another area of personal growth to focus on. We’re always running up against some limitation or other. Sometimes, it’s a lack of knowledge. We simply don’t know how to execute a particular technique, or how to accomplish something in post processing that would enhance our images. This is your chance to rise to the challenge and expand your skills.
Insights are another limitation. Sometimes, we just don’t have the insight we need to properly photograph a particular subject. Here again, this is another time to rise above those limitations. Take the time to study the things you are photographing, learn them through and through. You’ll gain the benefit of more knowledge, and that will lead to the insights you need in order to create the photographs you want.
In a sense, limitations are really just opportunities. They’re something to overcome, push past and outgrow so that you can keep moving forward.
Growing through Goals
Goals are another way through which we can expand our horizons. In making them and then achieving them, we grow in a couple of different ways. We develop the discipline to set our sights on something and then follow through, and there is also a nice sense of accomplishment that comes along with our achievements.
There are lots of different goals, you can pursue, too. When it comes to photography, there are both short term goals—like going out to take a few photographs today, or sitting down to post process a digital negative or two—and longer goals, like saving up for the camera you really want or mastering a particularly difficult technique.
And approaching these goals comes in different forms, too. Small lists of daily goals are a wonderful way to get you accomplishing something each and every day. These can be little bite-sized goals: read a chapter in a photography book, work on post processing an image, or brainstorm a short list of potential photo ideas to pursue later. Working on them and marking them off your list throughout the day will leave you feeling satisfied, and even more, it’s a good way to keep your progress steady and consistent over a longer span of time.
There are also medium and long-term goals to think about, too. Medium goals are those things you’d like to see accomplished after a month or a year. These could be things like photography projects that you’d like to complete, classes you’d like to gain something from, or new skills that you want to pick up.
In the long-term range, be thinking in terms of years or decades. These are the career goals. What do you want your body of work to look like in one year, five years or ten years? What places do you hope to have visited and photographed by then?
All of these goals are ways to motivate yourself and give yourself discipline to keep on accomplishing things. Growth comes through learning and doing, so setting goals is the perfect way to help ensure your continued progress.
As I said earlier, creative endeavors are all about personal growth. In order to keep creating better and better images than those older ones in our portfolios, we need to keep forging ahead and improving ourselves in every way that we can. The areas of growth that I’ve cited are just a few examples, too. There are lots of other ways for a photographer to grow, become more experienced, and thus, to expand their artistry.