What If Creating Every Day Is Not The Only Way

image: dan james
image: dan james

In conversation with a fellow artist the other day, they were expressing some concern and confusion about the popular idea and advice of creating every day.

The way their life currently was, they didn’t feel that creating every day was feasible, or the best option. But because they had read of so many other artists extolling the virtues of creating every day, and how vital it was, they felt that it was the only option.

Put another way, my artistic colleague felt that if they couldn’t create every day, they should give up ever trying to create at all.

Obviously, an unhappy scenario.

As regular readers here will know, I’m a great advocate of creating every day, and the power of little and often.

In my own life I have daily habits and stacks (basically a stack is two or more habits done one after the other, like “wake up, do yoga, eat breakfast, write journal” for example) that have been effective for literally years.

But they are not the only way to be creative, or to lead a highly creative and rewarding life.

In fact, very recently in my own photography work, I have noticed two distinct approaches that, combined, make for a pleasing whole.

I’ve named these two approaches Snippets, and Sessions.

Snippets are the photographs usually taken singly, or maybe a couple at a time.

These might be taken if there’s a particularly pretty dew or frost across the grass in the back garden one morning, or if I find a scene worth capturing on a walk during my lunch break, or just when exploring new perspectives of objects around the house on a dull and rainy day.

Looking back over my favourite photographs of the past year or two, those taken as Snippets make up a large proportion of them.

Aside from contributing to my body of best work, Snippets also serve to keep me hungry, keep my passion for photography alive and thriving, and they mean that rarely a day goes by without me having a camera in hand, at least for a few moments. Which, regardless of whether I take a picture, is a pleasure in itself!

Sessions are quite different.

These are the far longer walks where I have set aside a chunk of time – usually between one and three or four hours – to go to a specific place to explore with a camera.

Also, these Sessions usually involve me trying out a more experimental film or technique, one chosen just for that trip and destination.

My aim with Sessions is to take anything from a dozen to maybe a couple of rolls’ worth of photographs, to be immersed in the experience of exploring new surroundings and capturing what I find interesting and beautiful about them. They enable greater flow, and for me to become more “lost” in the work.

Sessions also end up contributing a significant amount to my favourite photographs, but certainly not the overwhelming majority of them.

So these two approaches combined – Snippets and Sessions – enable me to have a range of photographic experiences and adventures, in a variety of places, from my own front room or back garden, to cities or woodlands miles away.

Snippets are akin to creating every day.

They are a little and often approach that keeps us in touch with our creativity, can retain our interest and hunger, and build momentum and experience.

Whatever your creative medium, there is a version of Snippets you can try, if you don’t already.

Sessions are like a maybe once or twice weekly or monthly venture where we can immerse ourselves more, without feeling we have to go and do something else in five minutes’ time.

They can be (though they don’t have to be) more complex, and more involved if we wish.

Again, whatever and however you create, there are Sessions of creating that you can commit to, enjoy, and benefit from.

Snippets and Sessions, as well as being powerful and valuable approaches in their own way, become even more effective when you use them in unison.

For example, to make your home comfortable and enjoyable to live in, you might like a soft, tactile carpet, plus some beautiful prints on the wall.

The carpet can’t be laid in five minutes. It takes a bit of planning and arranging, and likely a few hours or more to fit.

The pictures don’t need anything like that long. They can be hung in five or ten minutes.

A room full of beautiful prints but a cold, stark and dusty floor would only appeal so much.

Likewise, a room with an inviting and sumptuous carpet, but completely bare walls would also have limited attraction.

It’s only the combination of the two (the Session required to lay the carpet and the Snippets used to hang the pictures one or two at a time) that make the overall room so comfortable and welcoming.

Creating every day is not the only way.

But it certainly can be a vital element to creating and sustaining an artistic life that works best for you and your specific needs.

Talking of which, how do you currently have your creative life set up?

Are you only a Snippeteer – you do create regularly, but maybe feel you can’t ever really get lost in your work, or get your teeth into a larger project?

Or have you become purely a Sessionist? You do commit large periods of time to creating, but they are too few and far between and you lose momentum and interest in the mean time?

Or maybe you’ve also found a combination of the two that work well?

Come over and join the conversation, we’d love to hear your experiences.


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