Create

A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me to help shoot some work for his portfolio. Flattered, and always happy to help a friend, I joined him on a tour around town to shoot his work on location over the course of an afternoon and evening.

Usually, my time behind a camera is casual and unfocused, just waiting on a moment to capture. I’ve talked about it before. Happy accidents. You frame things well enough and click the shutter enough times and something is bound to be pretty. Sure, it’s more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

Shooting a subject for a specific purpose is wholly different. You’ve got a specified amount of time to capture a shot or group of shots. It feels completely different. You are a photographer and this is your subject. It’s more focused, more serious. There’s a stronger connection between the action of shooting and the outcome, a photograph. It’s not simply an activity you’re participating in. It’s the creative process, the creation of something.

It reminded me that I make things. Some days, I make web sites. I used to make music. I used to write. I’ve been known to draw when forced to. And paint. Hell, once or twice, I’ve even built things out of wood. I used to take lots and lots of pictures.

Not so much any more.

When was the last time I made something I was really proud of? There was a time when I’d post a dozen or so photos on flickr per month. I used to write here two to three times a day. As recently as three years ago, I was in a band in which I was the primary songwriter.

So what happened? I could easily go line by line and rationalize what caused each artistic endeavor to fade. And they’d all be true. They weren’t all happening at once. They’re phases. But I was always making something.

I won’t deny that growing up and finding new responsibilities has an affect on this (see High Fidelity – heartbreak/pop music monologue). But, I think that’s a bullshit excuse for a lack of creativity, so I’m barely acknowledging it.

In my case, I think it might come down to simple laziness. Or technology. Yeah, let’s blame technology.

Our (that’s right, I’m turning this around on you. It’s a trap!) sense of accomplishment has gotten all a skewed. Since when did completing a marathon of TV on DVD/Netflix count as a valuable use of time? Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Breaking Bad, but it used to be when I was bored, I’d play guitar, maybe write a song. Now, I knock out a few pirated episodes of Californication.

I’m not making some new discovery here, but let’s look at the iPad, or tablets in general. Sure, there are some outlier instances to the contrary, but you don’t make things on a tablet. Sure, Damon Albern can produce a Gorillaz album on an iPad (nevermind it’s their worst), but most of us are simply checking our facebook pages and playing Plants vs. Zombies. Maybe it’ll happen eventually, but tablets seem more about output than input. The Kindle Fire will be worse in this regard.

I wonder if there’s any way to quantify the wasted creative energy on Twitter and Facebook? I’m not saying either isn’t valuable for information sharing and even sparking creativity. However, I also know that I only have but so many creative discoveries and thoughts in a day, and if I share them on Twitter, they’re not going to go back into the creation of something else.

I’m not trying to hate on tablets, Netflix, or social networks. No way. I only bring them up as major contributors to our increasingly content-consumer society. They make it way, way easy to relax on the couch and consume some one else’s creation. I guess I just miss making things myself.

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So, what then?

It’s time to start making an effort. Not to force a hand, just to remember that it’s fun to make things. Stop just taking. When in doubt, take a picture. Pick up a guitar. Build something. It’s OK to spend time watching TV or catching up on your social network of choice. Just don’t forget to put something back.

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