Why The Best Part Of Making Plans Is Breaking Plans

image: dan james
image: dan james

For this month I made a plan for my photographic adventures. In short, I would use just one camera, shoot only black and white photographs, and mostly in the streets.

Over halfway through the month, I haven’t taken a single b/w street photograph…

But I have invested in two new camera bodies, and shot colour film, mostly in the woods.

So you might ask, what was the point of making such plans initially, when they’ve been almost completely disregarded?

Well, although I haven’t followed my original agenda, I feel it was essential to set it out in the first place for two reasons –

Firstly, because I laid down the intention to create.

In this case, to make photographs.

It meant I had pre-decided to show up and be creative, so that wouldn’t be a decision I ummed and aahed with at a later date.

Showing up consistently with the intention to create is always preferable to endless internal mental debates about the pros, and cons, and the whens, hows and whys of creating.

If you want to be an active current artist, and not a former artist, doing beats debating every time.

Secondly, by starting with some detail to your plans, it gives you the opportunity to begin, and to find how relevant and true to where you are right now those plans are.

Again this is about beginning, making marks on the page, canvas, film or fabric.

It matters little where you start, because as soon as you do start, you know whether it’s something you want to be doing, and a direction you want to be exploring.

If you want to travel towards the sun, it doesn’t matter where you start, or which direction you’re facing.

Once you get moving, you adjust, and make the progress you need.

In this case, for me, since the autumn here is unravelling more slowly than expected, and there is still so much beautiful colour  around, it felt a tragedy to be loading a camera with b/w film and missing out on probably the most visually sumptuous season of the year.

And regarding two new cameras, a recent return to a different camera I’d used before – a Canon AE-1 – and got wonderful results from, reminded me of its creative capabilities. Or maybe that should be the capabilities of my and the camera’s creative partnership.

So I looked at what I didn’t enjoy about the camera, and explored similar ones of the same brand that addressed these shortcomings. And found two new (old) cameras that provided me with more enjoyable and useful creative tools, for similarly pleasing results.

This is also evident in how I approach writing, whether it is creative writing like poetry or haiku, or articles like this.

Making an initial plan – however sketchy – is essential to begin.

I’ve lost count of the number of times where I start writing what I think is an article about one topic, only to find a couple of paragraphs on it’s evolved into a different one entirely – but one that feels far more relevant and true to where I am at that point.

So many times I’ll write a piece, then in editing remove the entire first two or three paragraphs and make the new beginning the part maybe 100 words in where I actually got down to the juicy, relevant stuff of the moment.

Again, the point is that by having an initial plan as a start point, then beginning with intention, we soon find how accurate that compass is (or where the sun is, going back to the previous analogy).

Then we can see whether we need to adjust a few degrees North East, or do a complete about turn and sail in the opposite direction…

My initial photographs this month have been very pleasing and I will continue down this course with these two new cameras. It makes sense right now, and means I remain enthused and excited about my photography.

How do you make plans in your creative life?

Do you sometimes refrain from making any plans through fear of making the “wrong”ones, and “wasting time”?

This is a common fear.

But like we’ve already talked about, if you want to be an artist who actually makes stuff, rather than one who endlessly thinks about making stuff, you need to show up and make those marks on the page or canvas or film or fabric.

And to do that, you need some plan or other, just to begin.

So what plans are you going to make (and then maybe break) in the coming week?

Join the conversation to let us know…


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