Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Death by a Thousand Colors (The demise of a Canon 20D)

Wandering the grounds of Edith Wharton's estate, a writer friend and I became involved in a discussion of creative blocks—the motivations of both writers and photographers to create, how they differed, the similarities, and the differing approaches to overcoming  impediments to the creative impulse.

A woman walks the grounds of The Mount.


At the root of it all, "writer's block" is the inability to produce. The spark of creativity is not something within conscious control, and the loss of that spark is a painful experience for any creative person. The desire to make something is there, but the "what" is gone, and seemingly unretrievable. It's minimally frustrating, and at its worse can lead to madness. 

Writers live in a different world of creative production than photographers. Writing projects tend to be long, many-stepped affairs, which are often outlined and diagrammed and table-of-contensed. The writer has control of the project because the story is within the writer's mind. 

In contrast, even when a photographer is working on a large project the events which present themselves as opportunities for images may or may not work out for reasons beyond the photographer's control: the light could be off, the action might not fit the concept, or there just may be nothing interesting to see. These are blocks to creative production, but the blocks are external. For the photographer, the solution is to keep moving and look for a better situation, a better angle, better light. 

Where photographers experience something more similar to writer's block is when the ability to observe suffers. Sometimes there are too many distractions, or stresses, or the consciousness is too absorbed to allow the mind to see well (like when one is having a conversation about creative blocks). Then, it matters little what the event is or where the scene takes place—if the mind can't see, then images don't get made.

It's frustrating to experience any kind of creative block, but the answer is often the same: to shock the mind back into action. Which led to the question I asked my writer friend: "How much would you pay to get rid of writer's block? $100? $1,000?" When the mind has gotten stuck, it's a fair bet that a person would pay quite a lot in whatever form to be able to move forward again.

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