Ok, so when you get asked to be a guest blogger for Scott, one of the first things to do is check out the competition and see what others have done. The top blog posts as far as comments and reshares have been from Peter Hurley… Seen here hamming it up in our studio:
Photos by Pete Collins
And Zack Arias’:
Photo by Zack Arias
I wanted to be considered as insightful and popular as them. So I did some studying on what they did to get such a good response and it became quite obvious… It is all about the hair! If I am going to get the greatest response and win the top honor as the “coolest, hippest blogger on earth,” I am going to have work the hair angle hard. So without further ado… I give you Peter Bob Ross Arias!
Take that hair club for men!
Now that I have established my hair cred… on with the blog!
The opening paragraph was done in jest and a bit over the top (sorry Bob Ross!), but I wanted to use that to illustrate a point. We are killing ourselves by comparing ourselves to others. We ask constantly ask ourselves… “Am I as good a photographer as _________?”, or “Do I communicate like ______?” We find ourselves on the unending treadmill of trying to catch up with this artist or photographer, and feel like a failure because someone we know is doing it “better” than we are. Please stop doing this. If you don’t read any further than this, I hope you will take this thought with you. “Comparison is the Thief of Joy.”
Warning: If you proceed to read further I will attempt to talk about what hinders us from being creative and alive. I will talk about feelings and ramble on some about our hearts etc… because I truly believe that is where our work comes from. So if you aren’t interested in any of this… no problem, just look at the pictures and perhaps take a look at the list at the bottom as it is a bit more no-nonsense… well, sort of. :D Yes I do realize that some of you are hoping to hear amazing photographic stories or maybe juicy gossip that Scott is really Keyser Soze, but that is for another post… this one is a little more about what drives us.
Let me walk this out for you with an example in my own life. I was asked to write this blog, and I got excited and immediately I started to plan what I was going to do. Thoughts start to swim around of all the things that I can talk about or show. Then I get the brilliant idea of doing exactly what I did at the top of the post. Comparing how other folks did their posts. Suddenly, the excitement I had for sharing my heart and idea with you turns into fear of “not screwing up” and not being rejected. Now I start to feel pressure and the idea that I don’t have what it takes starts to grow inside of me. The voice in my head/heart tells me that I am lacking and that I should just give up and do something safe and boring, or better yet, find an excuse and not do anything at all. The problem with listening to that voice is that my heart and creativity die a little each time I give into it.
So I try to ignore the lump in my throat… and no longer feel excited… scared yes, excited… not so much. What is safe and accepted? You folks like videos… so I should definitely do a video and it shall be really cool! I will create this masterpiece video that shows the behind the scenes here at Kelby Media Group, and highlights the creative process that goes on here and how I get to be part of this. Great idea, but then the doubt kicks in… I haven’t done a lot of videos and editing on that big a scale, and it won’t look as cool as Zack’s… I mean he had a smoke machine and mannequins! Ok, so let’s settle for something safer.
How about I do a neat time-lapse drawing that will amaze and astound all who see it! Yeah, that will be easier I have done those before. But, what should I do? What should my subject matter be? What is normally easy to decide becomes impossible when the pressure of comparison is added to the mix. I need inspiration: that mystical illumination that quiets the voices and brings new wonders to our minds! Desperate, I start to work on playing with words like Inspiration that all have the word ration in them… even though I am feeling anything but rational right now. It might be cool to draw these words over time and do some neat stuff with them.
But then I start to worry that this is dumb and suddenly I don’t like the order of the words so decide that what I need to do is develop a new creative font. Why? So that I can dazzle you guys with my talent and to make up for my lack of hair. Granted this is already late in the evening, and the blog post hasn’t had the first word written. But a cool font is all this needs to make this abomination turn into glory. Hours later I have created something… and boy is it something, I just don’t know what it is and I am pretty sure it won’t work for this. Help!
So now I have spent hours scrambling to find that just right combination of hip creatively breezy elements that will amaze you and have you resharing this blog for years to come. I have visions of folks talking about my blog as The Blog of 2013! Whispering in cubicles across the globe “Hey did you see Pete’s blog?” Of course it would be in different languages according to local dialect, but you get the drift. How is that for pressure? This is no longer a blog… it is my life’s destiny and the fate of the free world depends on my ability to produce something earth shattering. (Please tell me, you have been in a similar situation… Letting your feelings overshadow the importance of a task until it becomes all encompassing. Yes, you there in the back, I see that hand… thank you for sharing.)
So I step back and try to regroup with a Coke… or three and some chocolate. Yep, that calms the nerves right down, don’t mind the seizures. But while I stare at the blank screen, my lack of coolness taunts me. I start to think about my situation and how many times I have been in this very same state of pressure when I am trying to be both creative and safe. How many times have I been so wrapped up in trying to be accepted that I lose the ability to fly. By flying I mean to go where the heart and mind take us without the constraints of worrying about what others will think, or limiting our art to what others will like.
I bet you are like me and the best art you produce is when you are doodling while on the phone or waiting for a friend at a coffee shop. Why? The pressure is off and the only reason you are doing it is for the pure joy of it. Life Example: My kids don’t make a picture and then throw it in the trashcan or hide it… they want us to display it and stick it on the refrigerator because it is something they put their heart into and they see it as good. But, as they get older, comparison creeps in and starts to tell our children… “Your sister draws better trees than you,” or “That dog looks stupid!” The result is that they stop drawing altogether or they draw “safe” pictures that are acceptable. But their hearts wants to draw wild things. And guess what… we are just kids in grown up bodies.
This reminds me of an idea I have for a kids book that deals with our needing to forget our past hurts and failures so that we can be free to live, love and fly. I call it Dilbert the Forgetful Elephant, because the way most of us deal with life is a lot like how an elephant deals with captivity… but more of that in a minute… I can’t talk to you now; I have an idea for this blog! Yes! I laugh at my angst earlier… I am now inspired and I start sketching elephants that will amaze you: and to be honest they looked better in my caffeine soaked brain than they do on paper. I need to study how elephants look and how to draw them. But at least I am excited about the direction this is taking.
So I Google “drawing elephants” and God being the gag writer that He is… wouldn’t you know it, the first three hits to appear are from my friend Aaron Blaise, animator and illustrator extraordinaire who has some wonderful lessons on drawing elephants.
If you haven’t seen his work, make sure to check him out at AaronBlaise.blogspot.com
Crap! Just when I was starting to feel ok about what I was doing, now I am going to compare every sketch I do with his. My sketches start to lose all life and joy as I try to sketch like Aaron. I know what he has done is good, I don’t know if what I can do is good, so I try to slip on the mask of another that I know is accepted, because that will mean I will be accepted too. Won’t it? I have shared this drawing before, but it still is one of my favorites that I have made to remind me of our tendencies to hide ourselves behind masks that in turn imprisons us and keep us from be real and alive.
The problem is that creativity lives in the land of freedom. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and start living. The story of Dilbert is an offshoot of what is probably an urban legend that goes like this… “when elephants are very young, trainers use rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break the rope so they never try to break free.” It is a great illustration of the mental bonds that we can place on ourselves in regards to who we are and what we can do which we place upon ourselves by comparing ourselves to others.
So I wanted to create a story about an elephant that is forgetful, and as a result forgets that the rope is stronger than him and flies away. (Now you will have make the mental jump with me as I use the idea of an elephant as a balloon to represent the natural pull to fly as rope/string dangles beneath him representing what use to hold him back).
If I can stop comparing myself with others, I will be truly free to be creative and the result will be a better me. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy… the less I worry about others the more of me shows through, and the unique beauty that only I have to offer is seen and cherished by the ones who get to see it, which encourages me to show more… etc… etc… The world does not need more masks and copycats, the world needs more folks that are truly alive and free to create.
Yeah, yeah Pete we have heard this before… be free and be real… yada yada yada. Well, to be honest, I don’t mind repeating it because I need to hear it daily, if not hourly because I forget. I fall right back into the trap of comparing and I shut down and cling to the easy road of mediocrity. The world is filled with mediocrity; we need folks who are brave and reckless enough to be excellent.
Photographers don’t’ worry I haven’t forgotten about you. Below is an excerpt from a blog post that I started a while back that I never finished because something shiny came along and distracted me, but I think will tie in with what I hope is the heart of my thoughts today, which is don’t settle… don’t make excuses… fight to go beyond mediocre. Strive for joy and life… learn to fly!
“Over the past while I have had the privilege of watching Scott, Matt, RC and others like Joe McNally and Joel Grimes give photo critiques. I have also been able to watch the comments that go on during those critiques and I have noticed a societal trend. Often there is a rush to excuse why something isn’t right, or to try to give the benefit of the doubt due to exigent circumstances. But, is our goal to be ok? Mediocre? If so, then here are some ways to keep attaining that safe yet heart killing standard.
Don’t worry about telling a story… who cares if it is boring.
Don’t worry about what is in the corners… distractions and lines add excitement.
Don’t change the angle of your shots… tripods should always be shot at comfortable heights that every other photographer uses.
Make the same shot as others… You’re ok, so I’m ok.
Only shoot when it is convenient and then blame the bad lighting for why it is not better.
Limit your shooting to your surroundings and then ask for a break in judgment because the locations are boring. It takes to much work to go somewhere else to shoot.
Demand fairness and equality even if your images are not good and not special. Your heart was in the right place, even if your camera wasn’t.
Mediocrity can be attained by everyone, and that may be why we are not happy with our work when we settle for it. You are created in a dynamic and special way, and when you listen to the voice of comparison and settle for safety and excuses, you cheat the world of the special vision and voice that you have to offer. I need you to fly so that you can remind me to fly. I am one elephant trying to help the next one loosen the ropes that keep us tied down.
The question at the end of the day, and the end of this long post is… are you going to stay tied down to that stake of comparing what others are doing, or are you going to forget about what tends to hold you back and fly?
You can see more from Pete at PeteCollins.com, and follow him on Twitter and Google+