Staying Motivated

Yesterday I was watching my three year old daughter at her art table working on a picture. She had a shaker of glitter in each hand plus one in her mouth. She was shaking her little arms and nodding her head furiously in an effort, I suppose, to get as much glitter onto her page all at once.

Afterwards, when I was clearing up, I noticed that there were sheets of tissue paper methodically scrunched up and placed into the glue bowl and a little pile of fabric roses covered in glue and glitter that she had carefully arranged, on the table. Neither had been used in her picture.


For my daughter the joy of making pictures is mostly about the process and about feeling – the sensations of looking and playing with the materials, seeing what happens when you shake glitter into the air and watch it fall gently onto the carpet. The feeling of scrunching up tissue paper and pouring glue on little roses – even more wonderful.

“Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realise that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.” Maya Angelou

This story is really a little reminder to all of us (including me), underneath our incessant doing and planning, to just take a moment to remember that this joyful, creative force is still alive in us, even if it gets buried in emails and to do lists more often than not. Let’s remember that the doing of the work is just as exciting as seeing the results.


So – a few weeks ago I sent out a challenge to you all to take 50 photos a day for 15 days. I heard from a lot of you that you were taking it up. Awesomeness. (For those of you who emailed me about the challenge, I will be setting up an invitation for a public edit of your work in the next few weeks)

The reason I set this challenge was because I am often told by people (who love photography) how they forget to take photos. However enthused and inspired they are about photography, it is all too easy to get distracted by life. This is true for me too.

And yet, we have a deep urge to create. Why? I like what Brene Brown says:

“We are born makers, and creativity is the ultimate act of integration – it is how we fold our experiences into our being.”

(Small aside, Brown’s little RSA video about empathy was amazing, really blew me away when I saw it.)

I also like what Jason Silva says – that we all have this urge to create, it’s like a knot in your stomach. And when you do finally make something, when you do finally output, then that knot, that anxiety goes and you feel a rush of feeling that is euphoric and connects you suddenly with the universe. You go from being alone in your bubble to being totally connected. Beautiful.


So we want to create, we know it makes us feel amazing (or makes us feel something more than what we are feeling right now). How can we keep this thing that feels amazing in our every day (or even every week) life?

Creativity is about balance, it’s the ever-important concept of discipline and excitement and joy in the process. Let’s conjure up the ying and yang symbol as an explanation? Both are the drivers here.

So – what do you want to do now?
Regardless of if you’ve taken the challenge and have lapsed, completed the challenge or not done it at all. I thought it would be helpful to suggest that you think about the idea of committing to your photography in some formal way, keeping discipline in the back of your mind.  Especially as we head into the autumn, a time that is usually very busy and distracting.


Be committed
Take my 50/15 challenge, details here, or do something smaller or more long term – have one day per week, or a couple of days per month that are your photo days.

Some questions (for you)
And how about asking yourself a couple of questions to get yourself on track so you can make your photography and creativity really significant in your life over the next few months:

  • ·         What does photography give me?
  • ·         How do I want to be creative in my every day?
  • ·         Which of my photos or projects am I really proud of?

I ask these kinds of questions because we all know how to make rules for ourselves, rules that generally don’t work or frustrate us or make us feel crappy for not following them. But when you think about the benefits of what a photographic practise brings to your life, you are more likely to stay motivated and on track with this thing that brings you so much joy. (I know my daughter will stay fully committed to using up all of her glitter in the ten glitter pots that my wife bought over the next few weeks). Finding what is as motivating for you as glitter is to my daughter is the key to keeping up a fulfilling creative practise.

But what if you find it hard to get started? Or create enough momentum to keep you going? I think what holds some people back is a little bit of fear of being, well, rubbish. Producing work that is mediocre. We all want to be great, don’t we? But the vision of greatness, that tendency we have to lean into perfectionism is a trap; it’s a dark hole that we can fall into and struggle to emerge from.


“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” Anne Lamott

So you know what – just start small:

“You may never know exactly what you need to do, or exactly where you’re going. But if you are willing to start taking tiny steps, and keep going, the dots will connect over time to create something beautiful and fulfilling.” Lori Deschene

And let’s remember this:

“Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.” Ken Robinson

(Another aside – I love Sir Ken, whose Ted Talk ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity’ inspired my wife and I to totally transform our kids’ education. It is completely amazing if you haven’t already seen it.)

So let us commit to our creativity.

Now something else to motivate you…
I see so many wonderful photos and projects every day from the work we do in our workshops, my Light Monkey’s Photo Collective and from people who share their images with me. I have been thinking for a while now what a shame that it’s just me, or a few other people from a workshop, who get to see the photos that you take.

And so I’d like to curate an online collection of images of some of the best photos that you are taking. And we’ve love you to submit your work, whether it’s from doing the challenge or from another time. I would like to send me your very best 5 images from 2015 (and only 2015 I’m afraid, we are not resting on the laurels of past success. It’s all about the now, right now). Deadline is November 30th, so get thinking and snapping, you’ve got time.


Last words from me….

Is there anything that you would like to see me cover in our blog? Any burning questions, pressing interests, subjects you’d like to see me explore?

I really really want to know what would be helpful or useful for you.

It would be great to receive suggestions for posts. I will look at them all and see if I can bring an interesting investigation to the subject.

I really appreciate you reading my blog – please comment with any feedback on my site – and send to any friends or people you like/love if you feel the urge. That would be super helpful.

Happy photographing!

Anthony & Diana

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The above photo of me was taken by the very wonderful Monica Fritz, who is a photographer based in Istanbul. She ran a great photo walk for our group on my last workshop in the city. 

All the of the photos in this post are of Istanbul.