For me, the moment after the start of a new project is the most difficult. Whether it’s a song that I find rudely interrupts my thoughts and takes over my head, an idea for a novel that I’m scribbling down on the back of a napkin, or a project for work that takes over my imagination in the middle of a meeting, first of all there is an explosion of activity where I can almost feel the mind tangling together into new patterns and ideas. The creative burst of being in the zone, and letting the idea take us on its flow. And then when I flinch, or bite my lip, or step away for a day too long, the flow is fully interrupted, and that’s when it’s hard to lose myself in the dizzying patterns again and remember where I started and what I wanted. If a project was like a mountain, this would be the time when I’d be hurtling down it on my bike, the wind in my hair.
But I like this time a lot too, because I know that if I keep teasing it out, and inch slowly down the path, then I’ll come to those moments of sweeping inspiration again. Maybe sometimes it’ll be a hard slog, a climb uphill where it will take all my strength, and sometimes I’ll have to even get off and push it up, with the occasional break for rest. No journey is ever the same. I thought that successfully being creative was the burst of inspiration that carries you through to the end, but I’m starting to learn, slowly, that if I feel like an idea is solely a stream of consciousness inspiration, with no substance, then actually, those are not my better ideas. Then I need to step back for a bit, drink some tea, maybe even take a prolonged break along the trail to work on a new path, and then come back to it later, refreshed and ready.
Anyway, this January I decided it was time to buy a new camera. I have been considering for a while to do this but always the idea of putting a financial decision into an idea has put me off. Actually in reality, I don’t think my financial decisions have been really wasted, because I’ve always learned something from it, and sometimes the lesson is sharp and teaches us a lot, and sometimes of course, it is far more rewarding. This, I think, is one of the more rewarding decisions!
The decision to make this little change is when I was traveling in Cuba in December. I met so many amazing people and learned so many stories, and I was fortunate on my first day, as I walked along the Malecon alone looking out at the beautiful sea, to stumble into a group who I spent a lot of time with over the next several days. One of them was a photographer from New York (who was also fluent in Spanish, making my work traveling around the country much easier). I had brought my own old DSLR with me, which he showed me how to use properly for a day, then kindly he lent me his own photography equipment, and even more kindly his time and patience in helping me and teaching me how to use it and to develop an eye for photography. The chance encounter and the kindness he showed me left me determined, not just in the days after I returned, but for weeks afterwards, to return to something that made me see the world in a new light. And so here I am!
Here’s one of my first photos I took in Cuba. These guys were so fun to meet, and very willing to be the subject of our photography lesson!
I have put a lot of my energy into other projects over the past year which has left me a little bit tired over this winter and ready to recoup some of my energy. So it has felt refreshing to take the time out and learn something completely different, with no strings attached. Another project this past month was that I developed another thing that was very unrelated from my normal work and writing and composing. I went back over some of my old videos from travels on the road, and found all my videos that I made in Australia. I haven’t looked at them for a few years, but I sat down after the festive season, when I had one or two days to myself, and found myself intricately drawn up into editing a long video about my travels in Australia, learning how to piece together the separate videos, speed up moments and slow down to the music, and be selective about the parts I cut out.
Without meaning to, I was learning a skill I had never even tried before. And really, it wasn’t so hard! It was such a great feeling, after a day and a night spent on the computer, to come away with not one, but seven new videos about my travels. It was a wonderful reminder that so many of my barriers are mental, and what one person considers an insummontable mountain is for others an intriguing and exciting trail. When I write or draw or compose music or otherwise do something that I feel has a great ramification – a project that I know will not be completed for days or weeks or months or even years down the line – I feel this is a reminder to treat it, not with fear and dread, but with excitement and curiosity. That way, I can even get past the teeth-gritting and difficult moments, for the view at the end.
So now, I like taking pictures and trying something new, and seeing where this adventure takes me!