The more you dig into advice about photography—and really, probably advice about anything—the more you will find conflicting advice. One of these contradictions is within the way we’re taught to work on or to pursue our art.
On the one side, photo-a-day projects are popular—with good reason, too. Photo-a-day projects, or commitments to do something photography related each day, helps us to build good habits. If you commit to a photo-a-day project, you will learn how to create good photographs even when conditions aren’t right or when you’re just not in the mood. If your commitment is to read something about photography every day, then you’ll build a habit of constant learning, which will build you an incredible knowledge base that you can always rely on.
Whatever it is we commit to, most of us have probably been told to always be doing something with regards to photography. It’s that level of dedication that makes us really learn, grow, become more creative, and become more adaptable. And there is nothing wrong with any of these things!
But on the other hand, though, sometimes taking a break is a good thing, too. Sometimes when I recommend photo-a-day projects or create a habit involving something related to photography on a daily basis, I hesitate to recommend these things for long stretches like a year at a time.
Why? Well, sometimes you really just need a couple of weeks or an entire month off. And by off, I mean well and truly off. Put the camera and gear away completely, let Photoshop sit, read something other than photography-related literature. Just shelve photography in and of itself for a little while.
It might sound strange, but sometimes taking a break like this can be really beneficial. The thing is, no matter how much we train ourselves with workouts designed to hone our creativity, non-stop creativity really is draining on a mental and emotional level.
If you’re like me, after enough time grinding away in the field, you end up feeling like your mind is cluttered up with all the ideas you’ve had over the past year, and all the projects you’ve been working on. With all of this floating around in the confines of your skull, you just need a little time to decompress. Let everything settle and absorb, let all of these stray photographic thoughts you’ve been gathering fade away. It’s a lot like creating for yourself a clean mental slate. While you’re cleaning that slate, you’re giving yourself time to let your energy really recharge. It’s only when this house cleaning and recharging process is finished that it’s time to jump back into photography.
The truth of the matter is that no matter how much we may love something, there will still always be times when we need to take breaks from it. Don’t let yourself be pressured into continuing to create just because everyone else says that photo-a-day project will do you good. Pushing yourself past your limits when you’re starting to feel drained, scattered, or burned out will only serve to make you bitter about your art—and that is the worst possible outcome of all. When we create, it should be with joy and with passion—and nothing sucks the joy out of something faster than feeling like you have to force yourself to do it.
Now go and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through your lens.