A friend recently told me that their job would soon be changing from full-time to part-time. Being a freelancer who always has an extensive ‘to do’ list, on which the fun things are endlessly being crowded up by work activities that spill over into what could have been leisure time, my immediate thought was Yes, please! That would be great! All that extra time to do the fun things I that I never get round to!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if work was confined to just 4 days a week (or less?!), with 3 days for ‘me’ time! However, it turned out that rather than looking forward to the change, this friend was actually worried about getting bored; what would they do with the extra time?
This set me wondering about nature of boredom, and its relationship to creativity. I can honestly say I am too busy to be bored. As fast as I tick something off that list, more things are added to the bottom. The more essential, mundane tasks gravitate to the top whilst less urgent ideas tend to sink to the bottom. What is most definitely not lacking, though, is things to add to the list.
I think that once you open yourself up to the idea that you have time to do stuff, ideas of what you might do start popping up. A friend who was due to retire expressed similar concerns; what would she do with herself all day every day without work? Now, a couple of years later her social schedule is so busy she is rarely at home.
Sometimes we need a little mental space away from the demands of everyday life in order to come up with ideas. When I was working in an extremely pressured environment I felt that my creativity was stifled. I could do the essentials, but please don’t ask me to think!
As a freelancer, I recognise that I sometimes get myself into this situation and then it’s time to take a step back, to come up with a plan that will allow me to feel on top of things again so the suppressed creativity can rise to the surface again. In the meantime, I will keep adding things to my list…
I have not picked up my camera in three weeks now. My overdrive schedule continues apace and I just don’t feel I have the luxury of time to spend on picture-making. Of course, this is exactly when making that time is most important! However, I’m sure this is a temporary hiatus and am reassured by my recent interest in things around me, prompting my inclination to resurrect my photographic endeavours once more.
It’s quite interesting to watch the urge to photograph come and go. Meditation encourages us to take a step back from the thinking mind and recognise the transience of this stream of thoughts flowing through the mind. I watch myself being drawn to particular light, shadows, combinations of objects. I notice the composition of the scene as these random insights jump out at me and a hushed voice whispers “You know, that would make a good picture. Go on, get the camera”.
And yet I resist. For now I am content to merely observe, to record with the sensor of my mind. I know that once the camera is in my hands a few precious hours will fly by unnoticed. It always takes me a while to settle, to truly connect with my subject. I rather like being caught out by the flashes of perception.
To be stopped in my tracks by the unexpected in the ordinary, as I was by this grasshopper. And then exploring that moment as it arises and fades. Perhaps turning this time of photographic reluctance into an enforced abstention has something to teach me about how I see the world. We will see, literally.
In recent weeks my schedule has gone into overdrive. As well as my usual working pattern, I am fitting in weekend trips to care for a sick relative and suddenly it seems everything is being squeezed. Without the weekends to catch up with myself, every moment must count. And sadly, when we feel this sort of pressure it is so often the ‘me’ time that is lost. In my case this means that I am making no progress towards sifting through the photos already lurking on my hard drive and time with my camera to capture more is sadly lacking.
I find myself considering the meditative qualities of the time I spend taking pictures. Photographing in this way offers a boost to my energy levels and makes personal space in my day. It is a time when my mind is fully immersed in something beyond the humdrum need-to-do-today aspects of daily life. It brings many of the benefits of a formal seated meditation practice with one added bonus; I feel less guilty about taking pictures than I do about just sitting on my mat.
Of course, that in itself is a subject for another meditation!
Sometimes it seems as if being busy is a virtue. We are praised for filling our time and fitting so much in. To admit to having time to spend on non-essential activities, or to all intents and purposes, doing nothing, is to risk deprecating looks from our questioner. Societal pressure can make us feel guilty for not being busy, for having a lie-in, for taking time to relax.
And yet, I doubt I am alone in saying that busyness stifles my creativity. My mind needs space in which nascent ideas can bubble and mingle, surfacing at strange times with a ‘What if…?’ It needs space in which to pay attention and to question. In busyness I end up with many photo clichés to delete. With space I can explore.
I believe that being creative is part of being human. Whether that creativity is in photography, cookery or garden design, our quirky, inventive side needs space to express itself. The results don’t matter, the process is worth every moment.