The Exercise in Alignment I shared last week has got me thinking about lots of things. While I’m not surprised that I’ve been challenged to think, because getting into my heart and head this way always generates some good thought, I am surprised at where the thoughts are focused: Achievement. Finally admitting to myself that this is an inherent need I have and accepting it, and not viewing it as a frustration or annoyance or something to be changed about myself, turns out to be kind of important.
Now, you might be thinking, why is having the need to achieve so bad? Why would I even think this way? I think it comes from the sense that I have this driver, Type A side to me that I want to minimize. Not because it’s inherently bad, but maybe because of my approach to it. Up until a few years ago, I seemed to blindly follow an established path to success. I didn’t stop and ask myself what and how I wanted to achieve, I just sort of picked up the achievements laying around. These were achievements left there by people I cared about and respected – colleagues and managers and teachers – but they weren’t defined by me.
So maybe that’s really been the work the last few years — redefining achievement. I thought maybe I was trying to change my need to achieve, but really it’s about changing what, how and for what purpose I’m achieving. That feels about right.
So as I look at this need to achieve the last few days, I’m realizing I’ve picked up goals and requirements on my creative journey, too. I seem to have set up internal frequency limits for a number of things – creating new work, blogging, sharing through social media, hosting online classes, etc. Some of these started as my own internal goals, and some started as things I heard worked for others with similar interests. Regardless of where they came from, when I’m not meeting them, I feel this internal tension. I feel that I’m not achieving.
There is a really good thing that is coming out of this line of thought — I’m recognizing the tension I sometimes feel around achievement, or NOT achieving, is a good indicator that I need to examine my definitions. When I feel this internal stress from “missing” an achievement, I can stop, set things out in front of me, evaluate and start the process of redefining.
I’ve already done that in the last week. I was feeling a tension around creating new photographic work. I really haven’t photographed or edited much in the last month. Even though I’m out of the dark time of December I haven’t been spending my time creating new photographs. But in the process of examining this, I’ve recognized that this is a “false” goal or achievement. I’ve been doing a LOT of creating in January – I’ve been preparing presentations for several photography talks I’m doing at a regional photography conference in the spring – it just isn’t along the lines of new photographic work. So I took some time to consciously redefine, or reinforce, what encompasses “creativity” to me. It’s more than new photographic work, since I have multiple creative outlets. It’s ok to take a step away from one creative endeavor to support another for a while.
It feels good to redefine what leads to creative achievement. I keep the goals I have, creating on a regular basis, but I get to honor other types of creativity as much as my photography. I get to see the creativity of pulling new thoughts together, writing and sharing thoughts with others as just as important and fulfilling as my visual work. I’ll be honest, as much as I’ve done it over the last few years, up to now I haven’t viewed the sharing of ideas and writing on the same level of importance as creating new photographic work. It’s played second fiddle in my goals. It’s time to rearrange that. Make it equal, at least some of the time.
I think there was always this worry, somewhere deep inside my psyche, that if I took a break from one form of creativity I’d never go back. So if I wasn’t really photographing regularly, I’d lose my interest. Maybe this was rooted in my past, where I tried out a lot, and I mean A LOT, of creative activities to see if one would stick before I really fell in love with photography. I think I’m beyond that with photography now, don’t you? It’s going to stick, even if I take a few weeks off. And when I come back, there’s a good chance it will have changed a little bit, because I will have a different perspective from my other creative endeavors.
Even as I write this, I’m feeling the urge to get out and photograph again. Not only for creative achievement, but because creative space has again freed up. Last night, I wrapped up the first draft of the photography talk I’ve been working on, which means that I’ve finished something. Creative achievement? Check.
As I step away from the keyboard and look outside, I’m seeing a whole world of bare trees waiting for me. I think it’s time to go photograph a few.