Can you force creativity? Should you force creativity? The answer to the first question is most definitely yes—you can force creativity. But for the second question, things get a bit murky. My gut instinct is to say that no, you should not force creativity. But, sometimes, you have to.
For some of us, photography is much more than just a hobby. For a few of us, it’s what pays the bills and puts food on the table. And I’m sure those of us who have made it a career can agree on this: Even though we may love our careers as photographers, still, there are some days where we just don’t feel creative enough to do it. We do it anyway, however, because we must. As a line of work, it is what keeps other aspects of our lives going.
So yes, sometimes creativity must be forced. But, I think that somewhere in all of this, there is a dividing line. Sometimes, we must force it, but perhaps if we don’t have to force it, we shouldn’t.
That dividing line lays between personal projects and paid projects, I think. It may be that you have to go and photograph an evening wedding tonight even though you really don’t feel creative and up to the task—but that doesn’t mean you have to spend the morning creating those still life images you’ve been tinkering with in your spare time. If you’re not feeling creative on a given day, then it might be prudent to skip those personal projects and just focus on what you have to do in order to meet your responsibilities.
That, too, comes with a problem, however. Letting those personal projects slide too much can spell trouble down the road. That’s because, to my mind anyway, it leads to a lack of discipline. If you do it regularly, it becomes too easy to just say, “eh, not today.” And then, those projects that we dream of completing never quite get finished.
There’s a balance to strike. Ultimately, for everyone, this is something that will require a bit of thought and maybe even some planning. For those of us who are paid for our creative works, yes, we must get the work done one way or another, even if we don’t feel creative.
But for those creative projects that aren’t putting food on the table? We need to think carefully about how we approach the days that we don’t feel like working on them. Perhaps if the demotivation is only slight, then we should push ourselves to go out and take those photographs. We may discover that once we’re out creating them, the motivation starts to flow.
Or, maybe it’s just not a day for photography. That doesn’t mean it can’t be a day for something photography related, like reading a book about it or enjoying images that others have created. And when the motivation just really isn’t there? What happens when you can’t summon any energy for something creative? Well, that’s probably the right time to take some time for yourself. Let it slide with the awareness that you won’t make these skips habitual, and spend the day doing something not related to photography, something that relaxes you and helps you unwind.