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…
When we are out exploring with a camera, we often aim to freeze a moment in time. The camera records the scene exactly as it was at one short, very precise moment. But what if you want to introduce a sense of time into the image? Photographers these days have become very fond of neutral density filters which allow for shutter speeds of maybe several seconds, even in the middle of the day. Hence the popularity of the love-it-or-hate-it milky water seascape and slow-motion waterfalls. It’s quite an interesting technique, and one that is open to a contemplative approach. The whole technique requires you to slow down and really smell the roses.
I love this technique as a way of representing the passage of time…and sometimes there is a sense of capturing the essence of my subject in a way that a typical image might not. Birds in flight, slow motion water, people walking. All showing the ephemeral nature of what we see, a cloud of densely packed molecules moving in space, moving in time.
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.
They say variety is the spice of life and the British weather certainly offers that. From the unseasonably late winter (snow in March?!) to the recent heat-wave in July we have certainly seen some contrasts already this year. Not a fan of hot weather, the main attraction for me is the inevitable storm that will herald the arrival of cooler, fresher days. I love this heady reminder of the power of nature, living as I do cocooned from many of the natural world’s inconveniences in the second largest city in a country where the weather is mostly pretty benign. We might grumble, but on the whole we have a fairly easy time of it. I have been struck recently by a strong awareness of the changes in the weather that we experience over the year. Sitting out in the garden in recent weeks, I have been desperate for a cooling breeze to take the edge of the heat and humidity. At the same time, I felt a deep need to absorb this experience and remind myself of it when I am shivering in the inevitable cold raininess of November or squinting in the sun-glasses-bright snow of February. All of this because Earth is tilted a few degrees on its axis, bringing a cycle of seasons to many parts of the planet that governs the format of our years and the passing of our days. How different our world might be without this axial tilt, or with a greater one. In these little ways does the world remind me of my existence on this planet as it moves through space and prompt me to consider what else I am taking for granted and have not yet learned to see. As a commitment to myself I plan to pay greater attention to this passing, to these seasonal contrasts, and to record this in a project marking the seasonal changes in my world.