Daily Dips And Extended Immersions

photography by dan james
photography by dan james

As you probably know, I’ve long been an advocate of creating little and often.

Building daily creativity habits by beginning with just a few minutes at a time, can evolve into an incredibly powerful approach.

Write just 200 words a day, and in a year you’d have a novel.

Shoot a single photograph a day, and in six months you’ll have plenty for a book or exhibition.

Knit five rows of wool a night, and by next winter you’ll have new jumpers for the whole family.

But often as artists we also yearn for deeper, longer periods of creating, where we can utterly immerse ourselves in the process, the materials and the experience, and forget the rest of the world exists.

These extended sessions might be more akin to diving off the pier into the depths of the ocean, rather than a quick dip of the toes in the water on the shoreline.

For the vast majority of us, the ideal in our creative lives is not entirely one or the other of these methods of creating, but finding a meaningful and workable combination of the two.

I’m realising this more than ever in my own creating, and whilst I always feel I would like more time to create, the harmony between daily dips and extended immersions is currently working pretty well.

Being open to different ways of photographing has taken this to a new level of enjoyment.

For example, using film cameras, I most enjoy the extended immersions – an hour or two or more off exploring with camera (whether urban or rural) and taking my time to discover and attempt to capture the beauty around me, is one of the most rewarding experiences I know.

The longer sessions fit well with the slower, more sensual, and deeper experience that shooting with film seems to offer.

Using vintage cameras and lenses is very appealing and tactile, and shooting with any kind of film camera has a special kind of magic that I haven’t found with digital.

Talking of which, since rediscovering digital photography in recent weeks, it’s greatly satisfying the daily dips side of this creative balance.

I can pop out for a walk in a lunch break or an evening, staying very local, and seeking out the more immediate beauty and interest.

Digital is less engaging and immersive, but that’s also its strength – I can capture something worthwhile in a few minutes, then return to what I was doing before, feeling rejuvenated and in touch with the artist in me again.

Digital is far easier to get in and out of than film.

Again the sea analogy comes to mind – once you’ve dived into the ocean, you can’t hop out instantly again, you have to gradually make your way back to the shore.

With digital, your toe can dip out of the sea again just as quickly as it dipped in.

As well as the art making itself, we can apply this dipping/immersion balance to some of the surrounding and supporting activities of our creative lives.

For example, I like to browse other people’s photographs, read photography books and sites online, as well as equipment reviews and so on.

These can all be done with short dips, in between the longer, deeper sessions when I’m out with a camera.

It all feeds the same passion.

If we waited only for when we had a clear four hour block of time to begin our creative work, most of us would never begin.

We need to find the cracks in between – these tiny toe dips in the water – to keep our hunger buoyant and our interest keen.

Once we start looking for, and making, these opportunities, they automatically seem to become more readily available.

Which then gives us greater motivation to make time for the extended immersions too, because we connect more often with the kind of feelings and thrill that only creating can give us.

How do daily dips and extended immersions feature in your creative life?

Would adding more of one or the other help you be more creative, and feel more satisfied in your creating?

How could you modify your creative practice and/or embrace new ways of working, to allow for this to happen?

Come and join the conversation to let us know…


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