How often do you make something that surprises you?

As the great photographer Jerry Uelsmann once said, and I paraphrase – if he has any goal, it is to surprise himself.

I think that is one of the most profound statements an artist can adopt. It is so difficult to surprise ourselves. After all, we are ourselves. To do something so out of our usual comfort zone that even we are surprised by what we do or the outcome of what we do is my mission.

I found that recently I wasn’t very surprised by myself. And by recently, I mean the past handful of years. I took risks, but they were calculated. I took risks that weren’t really all that dangerous. So, were they risks at all if I have to categorize them as baby risks? Probably not.

When I started photography I would have done anything – misshapen bodies, weird contortions, grotesque imagery. I think that as my taste for imagery grew, so did my images. But, they became more normal.

I’m beginning to shed that.
I’m beginning to stand out.

I’m doing it in small steps. I’m working my way back to the macabre. But I’m going there, little by little, day by day.

In today’s video, we’re looking at a step back to those ideals. Some philosophy, some shooting, some editing…and of course, my spine.

(Well, not my spine. My elk spine.)

Essentially, it comes down to this. I want to be willing to look into a strangers eyes and not break eye contact. I want to be able to stand proudly with my art, as dark as it may be or become, and be willing to stand by it. I want to represent my art by not backing down, but presenting my vision and not caring if it is weird or makes me an outsider.

I’m working on it.

How often do you create something that surprises you?



  • April 16, 2018 - 7:33 am

    Vicki Kurasz - You amaze me. The things your brain comes up with, your personality, and the ending cracked me up. Keep it all coming! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2018 - 7:55 am

    Sara Harley - It has been a few months since I surprised myself, which means it has been too long. I have actually been struggling with this concept for a while now, feeling a lot of angst without really knowing why. It was just this morning (before reading your post) that I decided to shake things up. I had joined instagram in January, but found I was posting things just for people to “like”…not for myself or my creative process. So I made a few decisions this morning to change my process and the way I spend my time. I want to share my creations, but not through the standard instagram or facebook paths. Your post has perfect timing for me, and a message that I am starting on the right path for me.ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2018 - 8:28 am

    Amy - So proud of you! At your level of success it must be much harder to take creative risks, but you should! That is one of my main goals with my career, never to fear whether my work will be loved and to create whatever I want despite what people think. I find that although I appreciate the support of others, I’m most satisfied when I love the image and connect with it myself (these usually end up being the least popular of my images now that I think of it… Not sure what you mean by surprising myself. Could you clarify on that? I planned the pictures so I’m not surprised lol I look forward to watching you grow ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2018 - 10:23 am

    Vali - i did something surprising lately. it has been a long time since I did. it reminded me of when I started 40 years ago and was squashed into thinking a) i wasn’t an artist and b) i wasn’t an artist. c) be normal. your video to day…o…thank you. perfect.
    I”m not sure where “risk” is for me now, but I do know “vulnerable” so that is the edge for me to stand at..and “look into its eyes.”ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2018 - 11:29 am

    Julie - I don’t surprise myself nearly as much as I used to surprise myself. Your blog really resonated with me. Right now, I need to spend some time discovering the now me, while revisiting the before me. And, beyond the thought process, I need to journal these awakenings as not to forget. I wish I had a pensieve to sort and contain my thoughts as I’ve found that my mind becomes bogged down with trivia and experiences throughout the years. I’m reminded of this weekend course I took many years ago, Landmark Forum. During that weekend one of the presenters shared this (my interpretation of what was said): When we are young we don’t have walls and fences built up around our hearts and minds; we act bizarre, we do whatever –dancing, screaming, making silly faces; then, someone tells us, ‘no’, we shouldn’t do such things. If we do those things someone might think ill of us. Slowly those fences and walls start to take shape, and before we know it, there’s a well constructed perimeter placed around our heart and mind. Right, shouldn’t we concern ourselves with how others’ perceive us? We don’t have to be so vulnerable when those fences or walls are strategically placed. It’s time to become surprised!ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2018 - 1:49 pm

    elizabeth reynolds - Brook-

    I’m sure you hear this all the time…but your blog and email
    help me immensely take action to (albeit slowly) crack out of a
    cement chrysalis I’ve been stuck in most of my life.

    My dream is to create images and little by little I see my path open to myself. You’re an intricate part of this for me. Thank you for unwittingly being part of my personal healing team.
    My personal growth team.


  • April 16, 2018 - 3:35 pm

    jeanne - sadly I”m at the beginning of the learning here and to say I would be surprised at my work would be I”d be surprised if I got it to look like I wanted it to. I shall keep working at it!ReplyCancel

  • April 16, 2018 - 7:25 pm

    Gallagher Green - My first thought when I saw this photo was “That is the creepiest thing she has made in a long time!” and I like it! The second thing I thought was “The elk spine is back!” LOL. Is the spine still held together naturally, or is it now glued?
    I love the idea of creating to “Shock myself”, I have been feeling a little non-creative in the photography area lately, so hopefully this will help!
    Wonderful video, thanks. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 18, 2018 - 12:29 pm

    Jon Miller - I would say the last time I create something that surprised me was 3 days ago, I did a shoot expecting a certain result and got something better than expected.. Needless to say I was quite happy about the results. This does not happen often but when it does it makes all the reading and calculating and drawings worth it.ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2018 - 9:15 pm

    Ruth Bilowus Butler - I created something surprising several years ago, but I didn’t think too much of it until I unearthed it awhile back.
    That happens with a lot of my images… I need to get away from them for awhile and I appreciate them as if they were created by someone else.
    Always loved Jerry Uelsmann’s work and his partner wife(?) Maggie Taylor. I took photography from Les Krims attending Buffalo State when Cindy Sherman was there and the Hall Walls group evolved.
    I’m on video 77 of your creative live series which is filling in a lot of creative and technical gaps for me. I so appreciate the convenience of learning and being inspired from home. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • April 23, 2018 - 7:30 am

    paulla - A couple of years ago I started making selfportraits, I called them selfies with a different approach. Simple things, simple editing. Mainly bw. I came across your work and I thought, oh my, I should stop this. But I didn’t. Since then I’ve surprised myself so many times. Some are nice, some are not, but there’s this need to continue to surprise myself and do better, learn other things.
    You are a true inspiration. Keep on doing, teaching. We really need people like you in this world. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • May 9, 2018 - 6:19 am

    Neviekur - I’m nobody in this world of visual creation and my abilities are very limited, so my opinion is not very important, but I understand and share this reflection.
    People are often obsessed with finding their own style. Do not worry, we all end up having our own style. Because we all have reduced tastes, preferences and very limitations. We are not omniscient or almighty. Sooner or later we end up repeating ourselves, turning our tastes into tics and obsessions that become familiar. That is what we usually call our own style. Finding it gives us a sense of identity (I am unique and singular: I have my own style) but it also becomes a golden cage. Being totally identical to ourselves, we are already unable to surprise ourselves. What was once an unusual find has become familiar and trivial. That’s why maybe people who do not get to know themselves completely, who have some unexplored inner landscapes (although sometimes they present themselves as chaos, anguish, pain or any other apparently negative feeling), are the people still able to surprise themselves and others. This is expressed in the myth of Phoenix: to be able to ignite an euphoria that incinerates us, to be reborn from our own ashes. A myth of symbolic death and creative rebirth.
    The unusual and surprising is born into the frontier of the known and the unknown, the self and the non-self, the conscious and the unconscious, the light and the shadow. Monotheism of dark is as reductionist as monotheism of luminous. A complex gaze about world and about us needs both. Darkness saves us from the blindness by an excess of light, light saves us from the blindness by an excess of darkness. Beyond the manichean opposition of light and darkness, maybe it is inside of chiaroscuro, in the misty border between enthusiasm and desolation, joy and sadness, reason and imagination, reality and desire, tragedy and comedy where beats the heart of lucidity.
    In order to continue surprising ourselves, perhaps we must accept that we are frontier creatures and that there is not identity more creative than the one born of our own contradictions.

    Sorry for this so long comment. I hope you’ll be able to be reborn from your own ash layer and come back to surprise yourself, like a photophoenix bird of textures and brushes. LolReplyCancel

“Heavy Hands”, 2016, Model Jen Brook.

Read to the end for today’s free giveaway
+ to read my practical tips for an art business!
This is a long one but it sure is juicy!

Folks, I need to admit something to you. I’m not terribly organized.

However, after I started sharing about my work days (on Instagram Stories) and how much I get done, I started getting messages (like, a lot of them) about how I stay organized enough to get all of those tasks crossed off my list. It became too overwhelming to write to each DM I got, so I told everyone I’d make a blog post about it. Here we go!

I say that I’m not organized because in many ways, I’m not. I’m sort of like a confused type A personality. I like things in a specific way, I like to know that my life is in order, but ask me to keep my life in order, and well…I just can’t. Or, rather, I haven’t learned how…YET.

I will be the first to admit that I spend about 20 unnecessary minutes everyday doing something that I should have had organized long ago.

And I work on this, slowly, and not fast enough to make my family believe I’m working on it. I am also highly productive. I always have been and don’t have ambitions to slow down in my productivity. Shifting focus, yes, but not becoming complacent.

All of that to say, the two words – organization and motivation – are not the same thing. They come from different universes and sometimes they commingle. Let’s take a look at some simple practices we can all apply to become more proficient in the art of getting stuff done.

    1. PRIORITIES. My decisive nature and enormous passion collide to make it easy for me to choose priorities and let them shine. Be honest with yourself about what you want, how you will get it, and then learn to follow through (yes, I realize that is the whole point of this post – FOLLOW THROUGH – so read on, comrades!). More on this topic in an earlier post.

    2. Write your to-do list THE DAY BEFORE. This changed the game for me. Productivity increased, I was more goal-focused, and I felt better every time I crossed something off my list.


    1. The 30-MINUTE swap. Take a moment to look at your normal day schedule. Can you find 30 minutes of time that you spend doing something that doesn’t serve your goals? It could be TV, Internet, meals that could be prepared more efficiently, naps, etc. Once you’ve located those 30 minutes, swap them out for extreme productivity time. Spend 30 minutes daily that you have actively traded to hunker down on your goals and GIT THEM DONE.My personal kryptonite is the Internet (whose isn’t though, really). In order to combat the time I spend, I put a website blocker on my browser so that I can only spend 15 minutes a day on Facebook. That means I speed up the time I spend working on social media, and when I do open Facebook, it isn’t to chat with friends. I go straight to my business page, I post, I reply to comments, and I get the heck out of there.I use the browser add-on StayFocused.
    2. Figure out YOUR productivity hours. My husband is a night owl. Like, up until 5am coding his heart out. My best hours are from 6am-11am. I know this about myself, so I utilize those hours. Of course, your schedule might require you to be flexible with this, but first, identify YOUR hours. When do you most easily enter a state of flow? When do you feel your best? When are you more productive? And then the opposite – at what hours are you good for nothing (well, that’s a bit harsh – when is your energy low)?Once you know those hours, intend to get your to-do list mostly finished inside of those hours each day. If I didn’t prioritize my goals/time in this way, I wouldn’t be able to get half of the things finished that I do each day.

      My schedule is this:

      05:45 Wake up
      06:00 Emails
      06:30 Social Media
      07:30 Misc Business/Computer tasks
      09:00 Breakfast/Reading
      09:30 Creative Work
      11:00 Reading Break
      11:30 Yoga
      12:00 Lunch/Reading
      12:30 Writing
      03:30 Hiking
      05:30 Dinner
      06:30 Family timeIt may surprise you to see that my work day is generally only 8 hours. When I travel, this schedule and my work hours are out the window. But when I’m home, I’ve got an awesome routine.I work fast, efficiently, with a clear mind and I really get things done. Find your opening and try to take advantage of it!


    1. Surround yourself with what UPLIFTS you. Sometimes changing our surroundings takes time. Let me share some of my choices with you for context. I grew up in Pennsylvania, went to college in Philly, moved to Los Angeles…all knowing that I hate cities. I thought there would be opportunity there, that it was necessary…some of this is practical, and some of it is sheep-talk (in other words, listening to what other people said because it seemed easier than forging my own path). I made the choice the move away to a tiny town in the mountains and I’ve never looked back. I left behind what I knew for a place where we knew no one and I LOVE IT. Why did I do it?

      – I know I hate cities, so why stay in one?
      – I wanted to be in a place where no one knew me at all so that there was no expectation.
      – I wanted sunshine. A lot of sunshine. I moved to a very sunny place.
      – I wanted nature all around me. I’ve got mountains, creeks, forests, desert. Everything.
      – I wanted a health conscious place where I could find yummy vegan treats. Check!
      – Mostly, though, I wanted a place that I felt joyous to wake up to every day. And I do. So much.

      I know what at least half of you are thinking. But, I can’t do that, because I have ________ (insert family, job, responsibility, etc.). I get it, I truly do. And some would say I made the selfish choice, moving away from everyone I know and love. But you know what? Selfish choices aren’t always as selfish as they seem.We punish people so harshly for desiring a better life. For creating a better life. It is, I believe, those people who create the life they want to live that set an example for others who believe they could do the same (and especially for those who never considered it). Let the life you create be an example to your family, to your children, to your friends that you can choose the life you want to live.That puts practicality aside, of course. This might not be an option for you right now, or not even in a couple of years, but you can work toward it.And if that isn’t an option right now, let’s talk about smaller pieces of joy you can put into your life. Surround yourself with plants, or art on your walls that you love, or frequent outings to your favorite places.The more joy I feel when I wake up, the more productive I am. Simple as that.


    1. TREATS! What kind of productivity list would this be without mentioning treats? I am obsessive about rewarding myself. I seek a pat on the back any chance I get. In fact, my husband likes to say that I pat myself on the back because I don’t count on anyone else to do it for me. Fist bump! How do I reward myself? In three simple ways:

      – The SMALL reward: I cross something off of my to-do list. I equate that to-do list with my worth for the day. That sounds massively wrong, I know. And I don’t mean it in a major way, but listen…I work for myself. I have no boss, no one telling me if I’m doing this right, if I’m doing a good job, etc. So, when I finish a task (whether it was done right or not), that gets tallied into my worth for the day. I wish I could find a better word, but it’s not coming. Suggestions below, please!

      – The MEDIUM reward: FOOD. Let’s face it, I love food. I love it SO, so much. My rewards are usually health based because I try not to eat added sugars or processed foods. But they are still so good! Here are my big food rewards: Avocado toast on THIS BREAD (I make a batch every 2 weeks or so), chocolate nice cream (or a chocolate smoothie – same recipe, more cashew milk), or applesauce.

      – The LARGE reward: TV. Some days I’m just over it. Over productivity, over my routine. So, I plop down on the couch and I watch Merlin or Doctor Who, or some other silly sci-fi show, or even a travel show.


    1. NOTHING is better put off until later. In our deepest of hearts, we know this to be true. That is why I don’t procrastinate. That was a lie. I do procrastinate sometimes, but rarely, and I never enjoy myself when I do. I’ve become much better at doing things right when I see they need to be done. From emails every morning to categorizing receipts for taxes, dishes when I finish eating (sidenote: I hate dishwashers) and cleaning when I finish a shoot.

      Make your life a LIFE OF NOW. When you see something amiss, do something about it. I feel good when I do this because I feel proud and productive, and it keeps me physically organized as well as mentally organized. If I know that my possessions and tasks are taken care of, I have more space for creativity.


    1. Depression, Anxiety, and downright sadness. This is not a funny point or one that I enjoy pointing out, but I must. I wake up some days and I am not okay. I wake up some days and I feel like my life is a mess, like it’s not worth working for, like everything I do is crap, like no one cares, etc. I’m willing to bet that everyone reading this has had some semblance of those feelings. It is serious and I do not suggest you SOLDIER THROUGH IT. I do NOT suggest that. There are times and places where you must – I just taught a 2-day workshop immediately after getting off a plane from Greece with the flu. Trust me, a large part of me wanted to call it and stay in bed all day, but that was not the time for self-care.
      (It turned out to be a time for losing my voice while piling into a bed with 40 people. And it was awesome…No explanation necessary. If you were there in Maine, you know.)

      Instead, consider some softness toward yourself. When I wake up in those moods, I sometimes try to push through it and get things done. And you know what? I don’t do good work. I just don’t. Listen to your heart, mind and body. When it is upset, tend to it. A day spent caring for yourself is preparation for a much better week ahead.


    1. Try the BUDDY SYSTEM. It is much easier, in my opinion, to stay productive when you are held accountable. If you are not a naturally self-starting individual, set up a little team. If you don’t know anyone who fits the role, COMMENT BELOW AND MAKE FRIENDS! Do you have any idea how amazing this community is?! Gosh golly. It seriously is.What I suggest is this: Set a time to meet twice a month on video chat. Talk about these 4 points:

      1. What did you accomplish?
      2. What are you proud of?
      3. What do you think you could have done better?
      4. What are your new goals for the next 2 weeks?I suggest making your group anywhere from 2-5 people so that the calls don’t last too long.


    1. Figure out what motivates YOU. I said in the first topic that we would talk about FOLLOW THROUGH. All I can do is tell you what motivates me, what keeps me moving forward. I can also tell you what stops me from moving forward: Fear of wasting money, fear of wasting time, fear of something being difficult. Let me tell you something that on bad days I have a hard time believe, but I know to be true: Time spent getting closer to your dreams and goals is never wasted. Live within your means, yes, but mean to live beyond that. Work for it.I told you about my motivations – finishing a to do list, food, hiking…but those are superficial. What truly motivates me is knowing that I am paving myself a glorious road to my dreams.It boils down to growing your confidence. Anyone, ANYONE..can you hear me…ANYONE can do this. Anyone can decide, at any time in their life, that they are worthy of pursuing goals to get to dreams. ANYONE can change the course of humanity, can make a dent in society, can weave together a better life. Let that ANYONE be YOU. Let yourself sink into your dreams.


The Giveaway!

Well my friends, here we are – the ending. And I want to host another giveaway. This time I’ll be giving away 5 spaces for a group chat. THE BUDDY SYSTEM, hey! Comment below your thoughts on this topic and tell me if you’re interested in being chosen to participate in a Motivation/Accountability Call.

The call will be: 1 hour, 5 participants + me, and we’ll continue the discussion about productivity, business, creativity, and I’ll be there to help each of you move forward with your big goals. 

What motivates you?
What percentage of the time do you feel productive?
When are your most productive hours?

P.S. This is my new desk setup. I had two desks from when I had an assistant and it never really got used. It just sat there gathering dust. So, I made a step toward my dreams and I moved the desk into my bedroom, which is too big and empty, so that I have a designated writing space. It feels so good to make this change, not only symbolically of my continued commitment to my writing craft, but physically.

P.P.S. Here is a list of ways that I organize my business. I hope this is helpful to any other artists out there!

  1. I use an Excel spreadsheet in Google Drive to keep track of prints that I create. I add it to the list no matter if I’m keeping it at my house, sending to a gallery, a charity event, or sending to a client. I keep the following information in that spreadsheet: title, size, edition number, paper type, sold or unsold, who has it, and any additional notes I may want to take.
  2. I do the same thing for licensed images! Except for licensing, I write the following information: title, type of project (book, album, etc.), who licensed it, exclusivity, price they paid (this varies based on many variables unlike print sales), date/contract length.
  3. Yet another Excel spreadsheet! I do my taxes on a monthly basis, exporting my PayPal, credit card and debit card statements. I then record the following on each line: receipt type (physical vs online), type of cost (based on US tax categories), and what specifically that cost was for (photo shoot, print sale, etc.).
  4. I keep a filing cabinet for all of my paper statements and contracts.
  5. I keep a folder on my computer called “Stock” where I have every type of stock image separated into their own folders, like “birds”, “water”, “textures”, “smoke”, etc.
  6. I have contract templates for licensed image contracts, gallery contracts, model contracts, certificates of authenticity, invoices, and more. This means I can always use a pre-written document so I’m not starting from scratch.
  7. I use information packets to send to anyone inquiring about prints, events, etc. They are 1-2 page PDF documents that explain my rates, my topics – anything relevant that they might want to know presented in a beautiful way that they can easily reference anytime.
  8. Email templates! I get asked a lot of the same questions, and while it pains me not to answer every email with a long heartfelt reply, there are some emails that I can shorthand. A good example is that I get asked for interviews by students a couple of times daily and I couldn’t possibly do them all, so I have a template that I can send that gives them links to previous interviews I’ve done publicly.
  9. This one is obvious by now, but I structure my day very carefully! My magical to do lists! I use the “Tasks” feature in Google Mail to make to do lists in my email browser, but I tend to prefer physical lists. I make them as I finish my work day for the follow day. Like I said, GAME CHANGER.
  10. I photograph things that are of importance to me. For example, if I’m fortunate enough to be featured in a magazine, I photograph it. Chances are I don’t have space to keep all that content physically, so I keep digital records.
  11. I color code my costumes. Sounds silly? Let me convince you. I have about 50 costumes hanging in my garage. We built a rack just for them! I ABHOR hanging them up. I think I might be allergic. However, when I see my dresses hanging in a rainbow looking so fluffy, it makes me feel a little more accomplished. (I color-code my personal wardrobe as well).
  12. I charge my camera batteries immediately when I finish a photo shoot so I’m never low on battery power.
  13. I use a password scheme. I use the same root word for all of the websites I access for my business and just change the last few letters or numbers based on the website itself. Here is an example (that doesn’t follow my scheme at all, so let’s not try that…): Root word – Waterm3l0n  | Ending – Fac  This would be a great one for Facebook, as the password would be your root word, Waterm3l0n + your ending Fac (the first 3 letters of the website you’re on) = Waterm3l0nFac. Keep your root word, change the last 3 letters per website when you sign up. You can make up your own scheme! You’ll never forget a password again. You’re welcome.

I hope these quick tips help your business!

  • April 9, 2018 - 7:55 am

    Bekkah Clifford - Great post Brooke! I really resonate with this. This Thursday I had an epiphany…I was cleaning my room and instead of my usual mental process of contaminating my time (I don’t have time for this, I should be doing something else, etc.) I saw it as this beautiful meditative process that is integral to producing art. Like we have to take care of our artist and get the obstacles (distractions) out of the way to free our minds and hearts to create our best work.

    I have been in a motivation/inspiration slump lately, so I really appreciate reading this. I have a new business idea/website that is really exciting, but I’m feeling stuck. And then I get bummed about that and it becomes a slippery slope. I need an accountability group SO badly. Pick me, pick me, pick me!ReplyCancel

    • April 9, 2018 - 8:19 am

      brookeshaden - Hi Bekkah! I LOVE hearing about your breakthrough! I feel the same. This past weekend I cleaned out my office and garage, filled my car with Goodwill donations, and reset. It was awesome. I’ll definitely let you know if you’re chosen (I sure would love to chat with you!). It’ll be a random selection 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 7:58 am

    Diane Miller - I am looking for tools like you just outlined here. I realize that I need to prioritize and also become a better business woman to do professional photography. Since I am still working my day job, time is precious. I don’t care about t.v so that is a plus.
    I am getting more confident and feeling like I need to participate in a motivational session to give me a big boost. Perhaps you would like to give me a session to experience this?ReplyCancel

    • April 9, 2018 - 8:18 am

      brookeshaden - That’s great Diane! I wish I didn’t care about TV sometimes, but then I remind myself that it’s a good way to unwind. I’ll let you know if you’re a winner – it’ll be a random drawing 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 8:15 am

    Chrystal Kelly - Hi! Happy morning! So I totally relate to this post. Organization is definitely something I struggle with daily. Motivation though, well I motivated by being inspired, by deadlines and by being excited about a project, also by wanting to show my son that dreams and life passions are achievable (sometimes I need to remind myself too). Some days I’m definitely more productive then others, somedays im productive for 10-12 hours especially when working on something that excites me other days I have a 5-6 hr window. I think I should start waking up earlier and getting to it earlier, because I tend to be more productive from 10am-8pm it changes tho. Somedays I get so overwhelmed by what I need to do I start spinning and that’s completely the most unproductive thing I can do.ReplyCancel

    • April 9, 2018 - 8:17 am

      brookeshaden - Oh my goodness Crystal, when you said you’re motivated to show your son passion – my heart exploded! More of this!ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 8:30 am

    Andrée - Good Morning!

    Now that was a great post! (another one albeit) — but so packed with inspiration on concrete example of how to organize one’s time.

    I am starting a new business (the “art” photography has to go on hold for the short term) with drone photo/videography here in France.

    Some days I am so organized and get a lot accomplished, and others, I allow little “non work” stuff to get in my way.

    I definitely tell myself to stop cleaning the house during “office hours” because I need to treat myself as a business.

    Thanks again for always being there.

    You’re a great inspiration.ReplyCancel

    • April 10, 2018 - 6:36 am

      brookeshaden - Drone photography in France! To me, that sounds like a dream!ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 8:53 am

    Sam Harnois - Hi Cookie!

    Thanks for writing another wonderful blog post. I don’t normally comment, I’m sorry, but I do read almost every single one of them!

    Right now is a huge time in my life, LOTS of changes are happening fast. School is almost done, I plan on moving away from everyone and going to LA, and continuing my dream of online teaching…but also hopefully something else… I’m definitely confused.

    There are so many things happening that keep pushing me away from photography. It’s like photography is a car driving away and I’m hanging on by the bumper, I really don’t want to let go!

    Very similar to you, I am motivated by living my dream life. I feel like I am definitely headed in the right direction right now, even though things are crazy. I have been wanting to move out of this state for years, and it is finally almost happening. It’s been amazing being a teacher throughout college, which I realize is definitely unusual for my age. I am not just a student.

    Productivity is hard for me. I either have days that are like 10% productive, or I dedicate an entire day and am extremely productive that day. I struggle with routine. I feel like I generally do the same things, but not necessarily in order.

    I think my most productive hours are between 11-3 PM. I like to wake up a little, listen to some music first and get my head in the right space before I begin doing something.

    I hope to be chosen for the buddy system, I definitely can say I really need it.


    • April 10, 2018 - 6:39 am

      brookeshaden - I need a nickname for you, like…sprouts. I don’t know. Hmm.

      You do have a lot of change going on and you know I’m always here for you! Big hug!!ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 9:01 am

    Amy - I don’t know how you always manage this, but I really needed to hear this today (especially the part about how anyone can change their lives). This is something I TRULY believe, and most days have no problem accepting and believing in my biggest dreams as my future reality, but today that annoying little voice of self doubt popped up to contradict. I am SO grateful to you. I hope you know how much you have helped and inspired me (and I’m sure many many others) to continue pursuing our dreams.

    I am super organized (feeling pretty proud that I actually do all the same things as your PPS list – though I’m still trying to figure out the difference between a bill of sale and an invoice :p) but I do struggle with the follow through on occasion, mostly when it comes to stuff I find boring like making contract templates and figuring out how taxes work. I would love to chat, as I think you are pretty awesome and could definitely use some accountability in my life. 😀ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 9:08 am

    Julie - I have an enormous passion for creating mental health awareness through art/photography. I am passionate about sharing my journey with others through my art, it makes me alive, it brings me joy and it helps me to dream big dreams. I’m motivated and inspired by successful people such as yourself….I’m inspired by your art and by your business sense, it helps me to see that my dreams can come true and it keeps me on track. I’m also motivated by my 4 kids. I’m working hard to teach them to dream big dreams through example!
    Not a huge percentage of my day is productive. I feel like I have spurts of productive times of the day, usually between 9-11 in the morning and again at around 1-2pm….sometimes after dinner, but I prefer to hold that time for family time.
    Thank you for these incredible blog posts, you really help to keep me going!!!!ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 9:15 am

    jeanne - Thank you so much for sharing and encouraging me to think a new way. I am a hobbyist or however you call it and I know photography is what excites my soul. Your work is so inspirational and thank you for helping me find my way to this new art form. I would love to be accountable but I can’t “run with the big dogs”. I need a group of true beginners if there is such a thing.
    I am in awe and gratitude of/for you! Always.ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 9:43 am

    Jen Holden - I can totally relate and am inspired by your approach to organized chaos. I suffer from being too quick out of the gate and very easily get thrown off into other directions before an idea or project really gets the legs to see itself to completion. I’m either living in the moment or dreaming about a big/broad future. I’m not good with structure and anytime I try to keep a routine, it never seems to stick. I rarely know what I am going to do or create when I wake up in the morning. I wonder if I am even working towards my bigger creative goals when I do a smaller project. I am one of the lucky few who has no real obligations. I’m trying to start my creative photography business and have very few other responsibilities. Looking to up my motivation and output to make the most of the time I haveReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 9:48 am

    Marlene - Brooke,

    I just finished reading this post, as I enjoyed my lunch on my break. This is “me” time, and I decided to spend it on your wonderful post.

    Thank you for sharing your tips and thoughts with us, I loved your perspective, and I find that I can apply many of your suggestions in my day to day tasks.

    I loved it all, but this… This almost made me tear up: “Let the life you create be an example to your family, to your children, to your friends that you can choose the life you want to live” That is my dream.

    Many blessings to you, and I hope you get to achieve all of your dreams.ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 10:32 am

    Francois - Brooke, great post. On my side, I’m very organized, or at least I think so. I’m have a scientific background. I did many commercial photo projects like weddings in the past. Last year I was on the verge of a depression, and it is very very rare that a professional photographer talk about these things and about anxieties. So at the end of last year I decide to do what I like and do photo projects for me. I’m planning/organizing projects as we speaks with models. I follow your work for about 2yo now and I saw your process and I will imitate some of your technics. The buddy concept is always great, the problem is, like to write, to find the right person or group. I was a leader of one those groups, but very soon the group when dead. To get a mentor where I am to push myself is also difficult to find. If you wish to talk about photography contact me, I’m open. I also speak French.ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 10:45 am

    Sheila Eden - Hi Brooke I would greatly adore and allow that call to impact my life

    What motivates me is storytelling. Allowing others to tap into feelings and emotions that have been suppressed for weeks, years, decades. That the precise pairing of visuals and my music, and there is a huge release whether burst out laughing or scream-crying. RELEASE TO LET GO. what motivates me is helping others heal. I have been given a unique set of skills and my own majik to help especially women. My original dream when I left college with a degree in International Business and Entrepreneurship was to help women overseas create their own businesses and empower them. From there I got pregnant and decided to stay state side. I got into refugee resettlement and especially helped the women and children, and men to restart their lives. From there’s became a energy healer and Reiki master worker and teacher, and now work heavily in film as an actress, musician and makeup artist for film. Truthfully all those things are in my bag of tricks but I feel I must choose a direction to push forward strongly.

    I feel productive 50 percent of the time, 30 percent truly productive. Because my energy is dispersed and chaotic across these fields. It feels like I can never get as far as if I selected my dream, and allowed everything else to fall into that, or fall away. And I get de motivated without strong goals and clarity. This year I need clarity. I see the power and magic I have to influence others, allow them to not feel alone. I want to tap into that. I want 70 percent of my time to be clear and focused and, be willing to take the step necessary to live a life I love.

    My most productive hours are either 7-9 am if I can focus and not taking daughter to school, or 6-10 pm. I used to be a morning person but things have sure changed being a momma to two goddesses, and life balance. I find I wax and wane between huge inspiration and can’t do things fast enough (anxiety), and feeling depressed and pushed back.


  • April 9, 2018 - 11:01 am

    Chandra Jahnke - Good morning Brooke! This post is amazing. I have been stuck in a slump, questioning myself about what I’m trying to do, if it makes sense, if I can make my dreams come true. My website is under construction, as in I’m rebuilding it from the ground up. But there are so many things that pop up in my daily life that I feel water logged. So over the weekend, I soul searched and today I was feeling a little lost. I decided to look at Instagram, and there was your image, leading me here, and in perfect timing. I thank you, for sharing, for being so so inspiring, for being you.

    Love and light to you!

  • April 9, 2018 - 11:06 am

    Federica - Dear Brooke thanks for this article. I’m honestly shocks how productive you are in the early morning. My problem’s always been that I love to sleep late into the morning. The time you did 5 tasks already I’m waking up! I learned from that to be quick in what I do, when I start I’m very productive but I still think I miss something not being able to get out of the bed earlier. I’d love to know more about how you manage to stay so focus and motivated so I hope I can be part of the coaching group. Big hugs FedericaReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 11:06 am

    Jason Nicholson - If ever I needed a boost, it’s now. I’m three years into my business, which has been my primary art, and I am a mix of scattered creativity, passion for new challenges and overall angst over what I’m in fact doing. I’m also a teacher, so motivating other and being motivated myself are constant challenges as the two sometimes conflict. My energies are sometimes in opposite directions. Add to that the realities of family life, bills, and a full life, I welcome every word you write here. Thank you! Probably the most difficult challenges for me are sticking to the tasks ina disciplined way, since my priorities demand attention when they need them. This, carving out time to explore, create, guide, mentor, manage and function all seem to be in a whirl. I’d love to share my experience and be a part of a buddy system to help guide me. I love everything about my life right now, but I don’t feel like I can maximize everything I am blessed with. Thanks always for your honest self-appraisals and reflections, Brooke. They mean a lot to virtually share in them with you.ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 11:12 am

    Chandra Jahnke - Shucks! I forgot! I am motivated by the deep desire to create. Create photos and moving into composites, create a better life for myself, my children and grandchildren, create more time in my life for things I love (especially hiking, photography, and family time). I am most creative/ productive at night and my prime hours are between 10pm and 4am.

    Love and light to you.

  • April 9, 2018 - 11:21 am

    Candice - I’ve always been terrible at routine, but lately I’ve been trying my best. It’s hard being a freelancer, you never know where they day is going to lead you, but I always have my morning routine to make me feel like I’m productive.
    I make my bed first thing, straighten up my area, then get my coffee and take care of my animals and my plants. After that, I check my emails, then the day can go anywhere depending on what I have to do.
    I am such a night owl, but you’ve been inspiring me to wake up earlier. Once I woke up at 5 am by accident, so I got out of bed and was amazed at how much I got done before 10 am. I felt so happy, so I’m gonna work my way up to an early wake up.
    I use the wunderlist app on my computer to organize my task lists, and I love it! I’d love the opportunity to chat with you and other creators, so please add me to the drawing. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 11:58 am

    Anna - So funny that you write about this. I am reading “When” by Daniel Pink right now and he talks about “when” are your most productive hours, how timing can either make or break something, etc.
    I, too, moved away from a big over-crowded city. I wanted to see more nature and our new home has mountain views! Something I never thought possible. There are also so many parks and natury things to do near by. I just love it!

    Okay so regarding your questions

    WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? I am motivated by proving to myself that I can dream as big as the sky and accomplish those dreams. I am on a mission to follow my heart, whole-heartedly, and see where it takes me. We so often choose to ignore that voice and follow “reason” instead (you know how you were talking about self-care?)
    WHAT PERCENTAGE OF THE TIME DO YOU FEEL PRODUCTIVE? Depends. In my current job about 60-70%. I am about to embark on persuing an Artist career full-time so we shall see. Looking back at when I had my wedding photography business I would say 30-50%. This time, I am soaking in as much information as possible and working on designing my schedule to be more productive and trying to hold myself accountable.
    Morning for sure! 7am-11am although I get up at 4:30am to try to write my book for 30 minutes before my “self-care” hour before breakfast and work.

    I would love to be considered for this giveaway and it is very awesome of you to do this for people <3ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 12:33 pm

    Soraya Anderson - Talk about timing and relevancy! Thank you so much for this post! I have been struggling with motivation too. I love shooting and the creative process. The struggle is with creating something authentic…something that goes beyond the superficial. Hence…I ride the motivation struggle bus far too often!

    Your comment about intention resonated with me though. I am realizing that I have to CHOOSE how I spent my time. I started forcing myself to be intentional in how I spend my time and in my choices. I’ve been pushing myself to start creating again but I don’t have a circle of other creatives to engage. My friends and family zone out when I start talking about things that I am working on. Pick me! Pick me! I need an accountability group!

    1. What motivates me? I too am a list maker so checking things off my to-do-list is HUGE. Oh…seeing one of my images matted and framed always gets me going!

    2. % of time most productive: Ugh…not as much as I want. I spend way too much time surfing IG and FB. I need to get that blocker you mentioned.

    3. Most productive hours? Depends. I need long, blocks of uninterrupted time to create. Most times, it is Sat/Sun early morning / afternoon.ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 1:09 pm

    Susan - Hi Brooke! This is the first time I’ve commented. I love your work. I’m obsessively watching all your CreativeLive classes in the evening. When I’m not watching your classes, I’m watching Photoshop classes. I relate to this post! I’ve struggled since my divorce a few years ago. So many mornings I wonder if I’ll even make it. I raised 3 kids (which was awesome and is still rewarding). But, I put my husband and kids first for years. I worked at home as a part-time medical transcriptionist and hated it. Now I’m learning to support myself with my photography. I was a visual arts and communication major in college. I thought I would have time to build a business and work on my art after the divorce. Unfortunately, the ex didn’t hold up his end of the legal agreement. Now I’m scrambling to make ends meet. My art photography is my passion and love. I’m using event and real estate photography to help pay the bills (which I do not love, but it’s better than working for the man!) I’m also writing for a website content company in the mornings as well. I relate to you so much because I love my photography, and I love to write almost as much! I have a website that is an art-selling platform, and I keep a blog there as well. But, it’s a total mess as far as continuity. Just trying to find myself and figure it all out. Trying not to feel completely lost in the meantime. I hope you know what an inspiration you are! And a personal conversation would be amazing! I am MOTIVATEDReplyCancel

    • April 9, 2018 - 1:11 pm

      Susan - Arrgh!! Sorry for the super long comment and the fact that I accidentally hit submit before I was ready.

      I’m MOTIVATED to succeed personally.
      I feel PRODUCTIVE about 70% of the time.
      My MOST productive hours are in the morning – from about 6 am to 1 pmReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 1:48 pm

    Gallagher Green - Wow! That was a long post with a ton of information!
    I have to get more organized, I waist way too much time, and it makes me mad but I just keep doing it! So I am going to follow this to a T.
    My best time for writing is from 10:30 pm on, I am normally the only one up and it just clicks. But I want to change this, I hate getting up late, especially in the summer. In the winter it’s cold, it’s dark, who cares! LOL
    I would love to throw my hat into the ring for a live support group chat thing.

    For anyone out there that doesn’t have anyone for a suporte budy, there is a Facebook group that some friends and I started call “The Light Space – A challenge group”. We named it in honor of you Brooke, because we all meet through your FB Challenge classes, and we became really great friends! The group now has 104 members, so I know we could set up “Buddies” organizer for anyone. There are members from all over the world, so time zones aren’t a problem. 🙂

    Thanks for the recipes! I love frozen banana drinks, you can also add a little coffee. 😉 And that bread looks great! 😀ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 2:23 pm

    Kaleigh M - Thank you so much for writing this!! I so get what you mean about “worth” being based on productivity and I think a lot of freelancers can relate. It’s an easy thing to get caught up in, but by focusing on the path right in front of you it can go a long way. Thank you so much for including all you did at the end of this blog post about keeping the business side organized, it can get so overwhelming without a system.

    I moved to the US from Canada to be with my husband and have been yearning for a creative buddy system- I love this idea so much!ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 2:29 pm

    Wendy Baker - Hi Brooke, Thanks so much (again!) for the inspiration and practical advice. I always love to see your name in my inbox.

    I am motivated by my morning meditation time, song lyrics and by other photographer’s/painter’s beautiful work. I have a variety of notebooks that I keep on my desk, in my purse, next to my couch, etc. for writing down lyrics that inspire me. Often I’ll be listening to music and I can see the image that I want to create in mind’s eye. So I write the lyric and quickly sketch the idea. I have a selection of fine art photographers that I follow on Instagram. Whenever I’ve got down time (usually waiting for an appointment or stuck in some line or another) I pull out my phone and look through the latest images. Never fails to spark my imagination 🙂

    I feel productive about 60% of the time. When I’m not directly working on my to do list, I’m actively open to inspiration from my current environment– whether it’s the changing seasons off my home deck, driving in my car, or from a new city that I’m visiting. I have been working on cutting out “wasted” time on the internet and I love the browser timer. I didn’t know about that.

    I’ve realized that I have two productive times in the day. From 8:00 am- 1:00 pm and from 8:00 p.m – 11:00 pm. Other times I cook, eat, exercise, shop, chat & play with friends, daughters & grand kids, and enjoy time with my husband–who also counts in that 8:00-11:00 time as we shift from home offices to couch/laptops–listen to music and occasionally share what we’re working (or wasting time) on.

    Unless I have a looming deadline– weekends are for lazing, reading, hiking, photographing, and spending time with loved ones– in, on or near water (my sacred, happy place.)ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 4:23 pm

    Jen Kiaba - Holy crap Brooke this post is amazing and I feel like I need to print it out, it’s so full of helpful information.
    To answer your questions:
    Healing motivates me. Healing for myself and healing for others. It doesn’t have to be momentous. Even a small moment of feeling seen for someone can be the beginning to a lifetime of healing. My creativity, and when I teach with a local non profit, are all about finding and sharing the tools in that process. So for me it means that maybe not all of my creativity comes in the form of a work of art. But if the output helps someone else towards a greater feeling of wholeness, then I feel fulfilled!
    Coming from a background in finance and marketing, I know how to make myself productive all day. But that’s not healthy and leads to burnout. I’m most productive either in the morning or at night. Mid day needs to be about walks, and learning and resting the brain a little bit! <3ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 6:06 pm

    Sandy Taylor - I love the organizational take aways that you listed here. Lots of wonderful advice! It tickles me pink that you color coordinate your wardrobe. I do that as well and get lovingly teased by one of my best friends for it!
    And I’d love to be considered for The Buddy System! ❤️ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 6:15 pm

    Ashley Mitchell - I love this post! I miss Promoting Passion videos but this was awesome!ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 6:59 pm

    Benny Eichert - Great and helpful post!
    I am the most productive when I mindfully make it a goal. When I make a list and go to bed and wake up early, I am usually an unstoppable force. My motivation is real connection. The kind without ego or agenda. That makes me feel alive. That feeling I had the entire time at PPC17. It motivates me to want show people that connection also.
    I would love to be considered for the motivation/accountability call. For me, sometimes I get in my own head and it holds me back from progressing. But now that I am starting to believe in myself more, maybe it’s time to give it a try. Why not jump against the current and see where the water takes me?ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 8:32 pm

    Mari - I consider myself to be a rather productive person. But I keep doing things at my work and house and only then I go to the computer and start working on my pictures. So I spread the time for photography according to the time left when tons of things have already been done. Except for photography. I guess it happens because photography is not my job. And i feel guilty doing it when not all the work is done, dinner cooked and so on. So I have to really work on the first thing you’ve mentioned Brook. It is setting priorities. I would love to be a part of motivational call.ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 9:52 pm

    Tori - i do really well having accountability to someone else … but struggle finding good accountability partners! so many good tips and ideas in this post, thanks! I’m struggling to figure out a good workflow and establishing better habits. A big challenge for me is an unpredictable heath condition that can make planning hard, but I do need more structure than what I’m currently incorporating heh! I’d love to participate in a motivation/accountability call!ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 11:43 pm

    Anca Clivet - Dear Brooke, thank you for your post. It really give me hope that this yea I could finally start my business going. all your remarks make so much sense to me and are so helpful.

    Being a mother of two children under three, my motivation is found in my children’s happiness and in my desire to create. I want to be with my children and in the same time I want my children to have a good model in their mum that follows her calling. Therefore, I believe that being part of the buddy System would really help me make giants steps ahead in fulfilling my dream. At the moment I think I am productive only 40 percent of my time, as I am working from home and I have a 6 months old boy with me. Also due to the new family changes I think I most productive in the morning even before 6 a.m. although I have never been a morning person. Hope we will meet to talk more about this. Have a wonderful and creative week.ReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2018 - 1:27 am

    Julie - Yes please for the motivation call!
    I need to stop using excuses! Fitting in a creative life with a family life can be hard and I find my photography often gets left to the bottom of the pile or vice versa; my Photography takes over and then the washing piles up!
    Your to-do list sounds like it might help me achieve a balance I so desperately need, will definitely be giving it a go!
    Thank you BrookeReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2018 - 6:19 am

    Erica - This post is so full of incredibleness! I would love to be considered for the motivation call.

    I am motivated by crossing things off my list and by daydreaming about the life I want for myself. I often sit and think about what it would feel like to structure my day the way that serves me. This keeps me going through the rejection.

    I feel productive about 60% of the time, but unfortunately sometimes my productive energy goes into my job and my photography suffers.

    My productive hours are 7:30am – 1:00pm. Once afternoon hits, I’m no good!ReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2018 - 6:41 am

    heather hughes - Motivating post! Definitely some nuggets of great wisdom coming at a much needed time. I’d be very interested in a buddy system call if chosen!
    WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? sunshine! my kids! flowers! the mountains!summer!
    WHAT PERCENTAGE OF THE TIME DO YOU FEEL PRODUCTIVE? I am productive maybe 25% of the time when it comes to art. Have on a lot of hats at the moment and how to split time is a struggle.
    WHEN ARE YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE HOURS?Mid-morning is my best time. 8-12 and could probably stretch that to 2ish. Its odd that that is my new normal as I used to be a hardcore night owl!ReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2018 - 9:23 am

    Geetha Slock - Hi Brooke!

    I love this post. I was a huge procrastinator and often felt too depressed to really be productive. I’d keep things up for some months at a crazy pace until I’d burn up all my energy. It took a huge turn of events to get me to look at my life and make changes. My productivity peak is definitely in the morning, between 6am and 11am. I love waking up when it’s getting light out. It makes me soooo happy. My boyfriend hates it :p. I used to be able to pack up my gear and go out for photoshoots and I loved it. I moved to the city though for my dayjob and it’s been a real dealbreaker in the creative department. But I make sure to go some place that inspires me to create every weekend. I also decided to make more stock images so I have options when I’m holed up inside. I made a blogpost about how I’m upping my creative game for my website which is going live soon. I also make a ton of lists. I have a Yucky list for the things I absolutely hate and make sure that’s as empty as possible. What motivates me is knowing that I can shape my own life and that you have to work for your dreams. Bad days come and go and breaks are definitely necessary for mental peace sometimes but you can find happiness if you search for it. That was a tough lesson for me to learn and I still need reminders at times. 🙂

    I’d love to be in the buddy system but I’m terrible at logistics lol and not sure about the time difference since I live in Belgium. Also I might be too late with this comment :).

    Thank you for the tips!


  • April 10, 2018 - 9:27 am

    David McRoberts - What motivates me? Exchanging ideas and work with others.
    What percentage of the time do you feel productive? 50%. I really struggle with pushing myself vs taking a break.
    When are your most productive hours?
    4pm-8pm. I work full time as a federal employee. So, I try to accomplish as much as I can when I get home. Through trial and error, I have found that I need to start “windingReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2018 - 1:35 pm

    Mana Mauri - Dear Brooke,

    I so loved reading this blog post. (To be honest I love probably almost all your post. They never disappoint and always deliver food for thought). This one hit especially close to home as I’ve been trying to implement mayor changes into my life in the last couple of months and I can feel how I get more and more productive but I also have those days where I feel like everything is slipping away again and it scares the living s**t out of me. Those days are usually when I’m not well rested and so fighting my eating disorder that I have been dealing with for over then 10 years now gets harder and takes up a lot of willpower and energy and makes it exhausting to focus on anything else. So these days I try to prioritize sleep and healthy food, meditation and exercise. It sometimes feels like I then don’t have enough time left to pursue my creative goals but I also have to admit to myself that fixing this area of my life needs to be a priority because otherwise the lack of mental clarity and energy will keep me indefinitely from creating all the pictures and videos I dream about. I have been thinking about finding accountability partners but so far haven’t been able to really implement a regular schedule with the friends I asked about it because we all were lacking the necessary discipline so if anyone is looking for an accountability partner I’d be super keen. Thank you again Brooke for sharing your thoughts and tips on this topic and for creating this unique and awesome community. ♡ReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2018 - 4:39 pm

    Andrea - I am motivated by knowing that my best work is ahead of me, but only if I do the work. Generally, I’m pretty productive most of the time, but I have a hard time staying productive part of the year because in my job I get deployed overseas for 4 months every year. I don’t mean this as an excuse. I should be able to have a routine and stick with it, but just when I feel I’m making a lot of forward progress towards my goals, it’s time to leave again and it throws me off every time. It’s my biggest pain point and I just haven’t figured out how to keep being productive while I’m away from home and hold myself accountable. Better systems would certainly help and having someone other than me to be feel somewhat accountable to would also probably help… Thanks for the great tips!ReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2018 - 7:39 pm

    Angel - Hi, This was very helpful to read about right now. I am in a period of change and upheaval and it is challenging to balance being productive and creative while juggling family needs and other things that happen day to day. I could definitely use an accountability/motivational call lol. I am trying to create more and take more time for myself to learn and practice my art, I think some of the tips you listed in this post I will try! Thank you so much for this!ReplyCancel

  • April 11, 2018 - 5:59 am

    Angie Dornier - I, too, like a pat on the back as motivation. And following through on tasks used to be so hard for me but I’ve gotten much better at not putting things off. I go through ebbs and flows of productivity. I will have days where I tackle all the projects and then there will be a day where nothing gets accomplished. I find that my most productive time is morning. Usually up to about 1 o’clock. After that, my brain goes mushy and I head to yoga or for a walk or I do something related to keeping my home clean. I’m very interested in being chosen for a group call!ReplyCancel

  • April 11, 2018 - 12:59 pm

    Shan Cahoone - First of all…I am oh so very interested in being chosen to participate in a Motivation/Accountability Call as I am struggling with having any motivation if I am completely honest.
    I do not feel productive the majority of the time.
    My most productive hours are the hours I have alone…when everyone else is asleep…
    Man, I sound like such a downer! Lol
    It is fantastically wonderful that you have devoted time to this topic. It is actually nice to know that you struggle with these issues! Even if we can’t participate in your group call-thank you for the post. It is so helpful!ReplyCancel

  • April 11, 2018 - 2:31 pm

    Emilie Cattin - Hi Brook,

    First of all, I have to tell you that I love your work. I’m sure a lot of people have told you this a million of times…
    I try to motivate my self every day, unfortunately it doesn’t always work… I have a full day job and I don’t have always time to make pictures and then work them on photoshop.
    My life is gonna change soon and I’m really afraid of what’s gonna happen next… New job (or not..) studying everything is confusing and I’m really afraid. But anyway, I’m not the best organized person… lol And sometimes I wish I would be.
    At least I have my morning routine with my cat.
    Sorry for my English, my mother language is French…

    Thanks you for you this great post and I hope to read more from you. ( I’m new here☺️)ReplyCancel

  • April 13, 2018 - 4:24 pm

    Sandy - So. Introvert here. Accomplished career professional in college administration. Of an age where I can honestly say, enough, retire from that. Now, time to find ME.. Intermediate to expert level self taught photographer (not my career) who NEEDS photography to get through life. Hide, Explode (yin-yang) in doing photography and digital expression, Mostly abstract because the world is too complicated to boil down. Thankful for your openness, showing me the way to be me, honestly, without grandstanding. Just authentic struggles, universal dilemmas, mostly ones I think will overtake me… until I pick up the camera or sit at the computer or learn there are others like me… out there. Hello, others. and Thank You.ReplyCancel

  • April 14, 2018 - 12:42 pm

    Angela Butler - Hello Brook, thank you so much for posting such an informative and motivating blog post.
    I love what you wrote.
    I am planning on either printing it, or just re-writing it in this new motivation book/journal I am starting, to help keep me more focused on work and the like.

    It would honestly be an absolute honor to be a part of your motivation/accountability call. I do feel like something like this, right now, could be exactly what I need to get to that next level I have been oh so desiring for so long.

    Thanks Brook, for helping to make the process of opening up a little bit easier.

    All the best,
    Angela Butler
    (Angela Butler Photography )ReplyCancel

  • April 15, 2018 - 4:08 am

    David E Thomas - What motivates me is a vision I develop about how a photography project will look when it is completed. This vision helps me plan the tasks that I must accomplish and I attack them with determination. I am very efficient (80-90%_ about getting this done.

    Where I almost fail… is the post processing. I can’t make artistic decisions. I can’t commit myself to finish the images because I’m afraid my work won’t live up to my original vision. I start procrastinating and become very inefficient.

    I’m stuck and fearful. Help.ReplyCancel

  • April 15, 2018 - 4:24 am

    David E Thomas - What motivates me is a vision I develop about how a photography project will look when it is completed. This vision helps me plan the tasks that I must accomplish and I attack them with determination. I am very efficient (80-90%) about getting this done.

    Where I almost fail… is the post processing. On my current project I can’t make artistic decisions. I can’t commit myself to finish the images because I’m afraid my work won’t live up to my original vision. I’m procrastinating and have become very inefficient even when I am working during my most productive hours (10-2 AM).

    I’m stuck and fearful. Help.

    (Yes I’d like to do the telephone session with you)ReplyCancel

(Read through to the bottom to enter a giveaway for a free portfolio review!)

I have tried and failed to put this idea into words for years. YEARS. But I finally feel like I understand it well enough to talk about. So, let’s talk. Please. Talk this out with me.

I am a Creative Professional. I say it this way because, depending on the day, I fall into different roles: Photographer, Writer, Speaker, Educator, Philanthropist.

Depending on the day I might spend my hours writing emails and proposals, out in the forest taking pictures, writing blog posts (such as this very one!) and more.

It may surprise some people to learn that photography was not my first professional creative outlet; first, I was a filmmaker. Not a successful one, and not one who produced anything, but nonetheless, that was my goal. I worked for a couple of production companies and I have a degree from college that says “Filmmaking” on it.

When I began photography, I remember feeling a SENSE OF GUILT all the time. Every time I blew off hours that I could have spent furthering my career in film, I was instead gallivanting around taking pictures. It wasn’t until I started earning money from photography that I changed how I thought about it. The guilt went away because a photo shoot could equal a paycheck.

This is not to say that I was motivated by money – quite the opposite. Nothing stopped me from creating no matter if I was going to do it for free my whole life. What did change, however, was significant. I started to equate photography with money, and therefore I didn’t feel guilty about spending my time doing it.

Fast forward to now, 9 years after I started photography, and I’m pursuing writing. I had a book published years ago called Inspiration in Photography, and because it was published widely (and it was about photography), I didn’t feel guilty about writing it. It felt like proper work.

This piece of writing is different. It is an entire career shift.
[not leaving photography behind at all though!]
I’m writing a novel, and it takes hundreds upon hundreds of hours. I need to commit to the process, surrender to it. But, every time I started writing, or researching, or spending any significant amount of time on it, an old voice came back to haunt me:

it would say,
“you could be spending your time creating an image, or writing emails, or sending proposals.
This book stuff is ridiculous.
You’re wasting time.

The real heart of what my alter ego was telling me is this: If you choose to spend your time doing something else, you’ll see a faster return on your investment. If you focus on what you already know works, you’ll gain more business, more money, more relationships, and more prestige.

I have always known what an absurd notion that is, but NONETHELESS, it doesn’t stop me from thinking it.

I’m just being honest here, because if I’m not, you might have a vision in your head of me pleasurably writing a novel
(obviously in which I’m wearing a sundress and wide-brimmed hat scribbling away in an old notebook in the French Riviera…)
(P.S. That’s not reality. I live in Arizona and it’s awesome but not French Riviera awesome. And I can’t write a novel with a pen because my brain moves too fast. And also, my hands would ache. Plus, I get cold easily. Back to the point…)
in an idealistic setting when that is not the case.

Everyday is a struggle to sit down and write. This is partially because writing is not just “sitting down and writing”. It is months of research, of brainstorming by staring at white walls, of saying ideas out loud and realizing they don’t make sense, of self-doubt and fear and anxiety. And sometimes, I write words down that make sense. About one in every thousand. And then I feel okay again.

The biggest obstacle I face in writing this book is the simple idea that I might be wasting my time.

How do we know?

For me it is simple and yet entirely difficult: Are you doing something you love? If the answer is yes, it is not a waste of time.

But let’s think beyond passion and focus on probability.

Does this endeavor have a high, medium, or low probability of being sustainable. Sometimes, thinking about big picture ways that we use our time, we need to be practical. If I thought there was an extremely low chance of writing ever being a sustainable way of me spending my time, I wouldn’t dedicate massive amounts of time to it, like I am. However, I am imbued with the most absurd sense of confidence I’ve ever known. So, I believe it will pay off. Therefore, I invest a lot of time into it because I truly believe that one day I will be a writer.

(And, in spending a lot of time on it, I increase the chances of it being a success.)

All of this to ask – do you get it?
Have you ever had this problem?
I’ve been suffering from Wasted Time Syndrome for 9 years.
Have you?

Sometimes being a creative professional can feel like being pulled in too many directions. I have so many passions that I can’t possibly dedicate all my time to a single one of them. So, I shift my time between them, trying to remind myself that what is a passion now might be my career later, so it is worth pursuing.

Here is how you can enter the free giveaway!

Leave a comment on here about this topic,
and I’m going to pick a winner at random
to receive a free written portfolio review!

  • April 2, 2018 - 8:14 am

    Warren Verity - All your posts are inspirational. I don’t think anyone has written on this subject like you have. Enjoyed it a lot thank you ☺️ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 8:16 am

      brookeshaden - Thank you, Warren. I really appreciate that.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 8:23 am

    heather hughes - I am a wife, mother of 4(one of whom is disabled), full-time university student with double majors, an employee at my “survival job”, and an artist. It is so easy to get swept up in
    wasted time syndrome. That time writing that paper could be spent playing with my kids. That time playing with my kids could be spent making art. That time making art could be used studying! I often feel like I am doing all of it wrong! Your post resonated with me deeply.ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 8:25 am

      brookeshaden - WOW, Heather, you have SO much going on and I admire you fiercely for keeping that amazing positive attitude of yours and for being so open to creativity.ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 1:52 pm

      Gallagher Green - Heather, you are a huge inspiration to me. The idea that you can do all of that and find time to still be an artist is incredible. Major props to you! <3ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 8:27 am

    Ellen - Dear Brooke
    Well, I think you put into words what I experience on a daily base. I am a soft sculpture artist and a fine art photographer and I make my money with the first. I have been photographing all my life and this is my calling, but I did not gave the guts to pursue it professionally until about 22 months ago or so. Before I chose photography I felt torn because I was not following my dream, since I started pursuing it though, I feel torn when I take pictures as my time is better paid if I make my soft sculptures.
    The thing is though that I know in my deepest of hearts that writing and photography is what I need to do. I want to take time to do it and yet it is hard to resist the calling of an income that you can “rely” on. It often leads to me feeling absolutely torn, because in my case I don’t want to be a soft sculpture artist anymore, but it needs to keep going and just because I need this income I can’t spend as much time as I would like photographing. It is not easy, yet life is not meant to be easy. I don’t know the solution, but I know that every time I spend time doing what I am meant to do, I am my best self and therefore this time can not ever be wasted…
    I get you completely though

    • April 2, 2018 - 8:35 am

      brookeshaden - YES, Ellen, YES. I hear you loud and clear. We are definitely on the same wavelength. Keep pursuing those dreams.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 8:44 am

    Tom Reichner - Brooke,

    I really appreciate the way that you were able to articulate the feelings that you have, and have had, about your creative endeavors.

    I think I am different than you in one major area; I have never had this feeling that what I am really supposed to be doing is earning money. I guess I was brought up by parents who encouraged me toward fun and hobbies and not towards careers and incomes. Hence, when I am working at a job, earning money, that is when I feel that I am wasting my time, and think, “What I really should be doing is traveling about with my camera”.

    I think that the way we are raised has a great affect on our feelings about priorities, and is probably why I always feel completely free to spend my time doing whatever I feel like doing, without any guilt. It is also most likely why I have spent most of my adult life in near-poverty, inasmuch as income is concerned.

    I epitomize the term, “starving artist”, but that is ok because I think that is exactly what I am supposed to be, and I love living the Starving Artist lifestyle!ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 9:26 am

      brookeshaden - I can actually totally relate to you! I grew up in the same manner, my parents never discussing the need to have a job that makes a lot of money, always encouraged toward our passions. It was pretty awesome. I’ve never had a lot of money, never been motivated by it…and yet, I find myself loving equally these creative endeavors, so my mind says: well, I suppose you should do the one that makes an income. Silly brain! I hope you get lots of time to travel with your camera 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 8:54 am

    Oksana - I’m truly inspired by all your posts, and I actually can’t wait to read your book )) I like the way you see the world, art and your path. I’m doing both portrait and fine art photography, I’d love to concentrate more on fine art. I wish I had more time for writing and painting… reading and learning )) I have a little son, who needs a lot of attention) Overall, I love what I do, I just wish I could do more. There’s so many great things to do )ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 9:27 am

      brookeshaden - Aww thank you Oksana! I bet your little guy needs a lot of attention! But the great thing is that you are pursuing things that you love, and that will be such a good influence on him 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 9:01 am

    Amy - I feel the same way! I have dabbled in photography for years, and always wanted a career out of it, but never really believed it was possible to make decent money. I ended up quitting a really horrible job about a year ago and finally decided to give it a real try, yet I still struggle with feeling like I am wasting time as I have not made any money yet (which is strange to me as I work more/harder now than I ever have in my life). It’s really weird to me how so many are conditioned to believe our only value lies in doing something we are being paid for, so we behave accordingly and give up on so many of our dreams. It is only recently that I have started to accept that money is not the only thing that matters (though obviously important, and I do have a solid business plan to begin making money in the next year or so with my art) and can be obtained no matter what you wish to do as long as you are passionate and never quit. Thank you for your inspiration. I have learned so much from you (about business and creativity, but most importantly believing in yourself and your dreams) over the last year as I work toward fulfilling my dreams. I can’t wait to read your novel, if it’s filled with the same passion as the rest of your work I know it will be amazing!ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 9:28 am

      brookeshaden - YES, you said it – we are trained to believe that our value lies in getting paid. Insanity!! I wish we could break that system of thought (starting with ourselves!). You are so lovely, thank you for being here Amy.ReplyCancel

      • April 2, 2018 - 9:42 am

        Amy - I agree! Changing the way we think about success is so (ironically) important for being successful in our lives. I will consider myself immensely successful to make enough money to spend my life doing something that makes me happy, and I hope to inspire others to do the same. I hope you have a great day! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 9:02 am

    JR - In response to your questions, creative projects always give me anxiety. But, that’s coming from a person who has mental health issues like depression and anxiety, so I wrestle with feelings of inadequacy or that I’m not doing enough “important” work. Too, many people in my life have not taken my creative endeavors seriously and i am encumbered with comments about my work being a “hobby” and sometimes asked when I’m going to get a “real job.” So, it’s been an uphill battle. When I’ve taken jobs to fill the gaps between projects, it has ended up, nearly always, depleting my soul. Creating, and being intentional about making ample white space in my life, is integral to me being replenished, rejeuvenated, and more in a position to serve others and foster relationships. I’ve been in a long stretch of a sort of barrenness in life, unable to create, unable to have the time and space and access to wild places that my soul craves, so that’s what I wish I was spending time pursuing. My primary creative passions are photography and writing, but I also want to get back into playing music, drawing, and begin to at least dabble in some filmmaking.ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 9:30 am

      brookeshaden - I tend to think that a lot of very creative people have similar issues because we feel so gosh darn much – we feel compelled to create because of something inside. At least, that’s how I feel. I suffer from a lot of anxiety myself. It sounds like you have a plethora of creative passions (I relate), which is really wonderful. I hope that you show any doubters what real passion and integrity look like. Big hug!ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 9:06 am

    Margherita Introna - This image is so powerful Brooke! It speaks to me on many levels and I could interpret it in a number of ways. It definitely goes into my being one of my top favourites list from you!
    I spend countless hours on and money invested in my photography. Is it wasted time and money? Never. Not once. It has meant so much to my heart and soul. The experiences, the connections, the lessons, the expressions… These have become such an important part of my life and given me a way to connect. It was what I had been searching for all my years (over 20 years!) of photography. It has been the only time I have taken any of my passions so seriously and being so focussed and committed.
    Over the last few weeks I have been down a rabbit hole of sorts… Not creating new work (although I have plenty of work waiting in my “to-do” folder!), but doing so much administration and preparation for the next level for my work. I have been having so much fun with it! This despite working until 4am most nights on it! Wasted time? Nope. Never.ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 9:30 am

      brookeshaden - Aww thank you Margherita! I LOVE watching your creativity and career blossom. You really do work so hard and I love that about you. I hear you on not creating as much lately. I find some months are better for admin, and others for creativity.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 9:06 am

    Francisco J. - Anxiety? Yes. Depression too. Oh panic, let’s not forget about panic attacks when I work on creative photography projects. How do I get the image that is stuck in my head into a format like a composite image that others will understand and connect with, but hopefully not ridicule or criticize.ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 9:31 am

      brookeshaden - I hear that! Anxiety, panic. Yes, me too.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 9:10 am

    Yolanda - I feel that way all the time! I have too many passions, and I am a professional photographer but that does not pay my bills either. I’m a fine art photographer and live music photographer but I do weddings and e-commerce etc. to get some income. My partner is supporting me, and that’s why I’m able to keep on trying, but I feel terribly guilty if I spend my time in something that’s not related to find a better job, or clients, or stable collabs…

    I feel like an irresponsible adult pursuing some childish dreams instead of being an adult and getting what they call a “real job”.
    And I sometimes feel I’ll never get there, but also can’t stop trying.

    I really liked the post
    Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 9:32 am

      brookeshaden - Yolanda, I hear that. It sounds like you are pursuing your passion with everything you’ve got, and I admire that completely. I believe in you!ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 9:22 am

    Kathryn - I’m been sitting here today thinking of how much time I’ve been wasting lately, in fact my whole life. As I started to try and verbalise my thoughts your newsletter popped into my mail so I just had to comment.

    I’m currently stuck in my latest transition, frozen in a frantic stillness because my mind won’t stop but it also won’t move forward. To take a step forward would feel heroic; any forward movement would be progress. For months now the clock has been ticking and days just pass me by. I’m telling myself it’s just a transition and I will thaw, but its so hard when you have dreams and the past holds you so tightly.

    Brooke, I have no doubt at all you will make a great novelist and can’t wait to read your first novel.ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 9:33 am

      brookeshaden - What timing! Sometimes we do need those transition periods. In many, many ways, I feel that the entire year of 2017 was that for me. It was horrible, but so educational. I hope you get through yours soon, but take time to learn from it. Big hugs to you!ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 9:22 am

    maddison wade - Beautiful worlReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 9:24 am

    maddison wade - Beautiful work.

    I always come back to you as inspiration when I am in some sort of a rut.

    You always seem to have a calm and content mind and find inspiration in everything you see around you.
    That’s something to admire and envy.ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 9:34 am

      brookeshaden - Aww thank you Maddison, I really appreciate that kindness. I do try – don’t always succeed – but try.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 9:40 am

    Michelle Sibrian - I wanted to answer your thoughtful questions. 1. The only time a creative project gives me anxiety is before I meet the person I am going to shoot. Meeting people gives me anxiety. I am a background person. I don’t stand out so standing out gives me anxiety. Although, I like to do things like wear makeup and color my hair different colors so I believe that deep down inside, I do want to stand out. The other time I get anxiety is when they leave. What if everything I shot doesn’t work and I don’t have anything to show? I love the feeling of creating something really cool from different piece of the shoot. I love the problem solving aspect of Photoshop. I hate anxiety, but I love the rush of being able to fix it and from learning from it. 2. All I want to do with my life is shoot and edit and travel while doing it. I do feel like I am wasting my time not doing more of that.ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 9:43 am

      brookeshaden - Michelle, I so identify with this! I actually cut out the part of my business in which I had to meet people because my social anxiety is so strong. Brava to you for sticking with it.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 9:45 am

    Tanushree - Your words always inspires me and initiate to make me positive.I stay in Calcutta and it feels positive to know that,every year you come here to give expressions to many underprivileged women. I love your initiative.This one words of thought written by you shows up a lot of relatability for me somewhere and thank you for the photo because,it expresses so much about my current condition symbolically:)ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 9:48 am

      brookeshaden - Thank you Tanushree, that is so kind of you!ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 9:50 am

    Meghan - I suffer from the worst form of wasted time syndrome, Analysis Paralysis. When it comes to personal projects, I spend all of my time thinking about what I want to do. I will dream about it, research it, plan it, but I never actually do it. I am so scared I am going to do something “wrong” that I don’t do anything at all. I spend the rest of my time beating myself up about it and subsequently feeling like a failure.
    On the other hand, I am excellent at helping others develop their dreams and determine their true calling. My passion is helping other people find their passion.ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 9:54 am

      brookeshaden - That’s so interesting Meghan! I feel this way a lot too, in every aspect of what you said.ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 10:31 am

      Rose - What a great calling <3 I hope you can figure out a way to help others and help your self to be ok with doing your own projects. Perhaps it will help to talk to your self out loud like you guide others??? If you get what I mean.. hehe. Have a great day. Best of wishesReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 9:58 am

    Vanja - Hehehe, OMG Brooke, have been following you on fb, but this post made it all clear… why I see so much of me in your work.

    Yes, yes and yes… (even now, tiny voice in my head: get the f*** off that fb and back to work.. ) 9 years.. to me ever since I am aware of myself.

    Just unlike you and the gentleman above I had horrible parents that always, always criticised any form of art I was pursuing, I love dance, wanted so much to go to ballet school when was 5, dad said it is for snobs and no daughter of his is going on that stupid dance. Studding, cooking and cleaning were only acceptable means of spending time.

    Needed decades and tons of self-help books to figure out why my master degree in linguistics never got me anywhere, why I have recurring migraines and constant back pain. And more importantly why I feel all the time like I wanna jump out of my own body and go somewhere, just do something else.

    I am 38 now, last winter I finished my first book, sitting a lot but not being in too much pain (go figure), now I am researching for next book and pursuing acting with big wish to also do personal trainer course (hoping to start earning money from my talent but mostly to be able to invest in pursuing more passions).

    Lol, yes, even that bit is same, have so many passions, and want to do them all asap as I am afraid I wouldn’t have enough time… :-p

    PS have left the comment on this photo on fb

    Thank you for sharing this, it is amazing…

    So, to my tiny voice: ‘shush tiny voice, surfing fb moderately introduces us to fantastic people like Brook.’ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 10:09 am

      brookeshaden - Vanja, you are an inspiration! You are chasing what you love despite a past that could have held you back. Such a big hug!!ReplyCancel

      • April 3, 2018 - 5:50 am

        Vanja - Thank you Broke, it means to me a lot 🙂 And you are my big inspiration, sometimes to start writing I look at your photos and listen to classic music… and the worlds oppen for me to enter and describe them.
        I am so grateful we have social media that allows us to meet each other even if it is all just virtually 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 10:04 am

    Mary Lee - Dear Brooke,

    This is my first exposure to a blog. Never have I felt so compelled to say what I’m thinking. Quite the opposite actually. I never saw my thoughts as anything valid enough to share, but I possess certain chords that you seem to strike at the right frequencies.

    I, too, feel the pain of wasted time. I was supposed to be one of the best musicians in the world, but I’m not. Instead, I wasted an entire decade of my own drowning my sorrows with whatever was readily available, preferably Jack Daniels, eventually feeling so ashamed that I tried to kill myself.

    I’m 34 now and a second semester photography student. I was scared to do something completely foreign. I just knew I would fail, but I haven’t. I keep waiting to slam headfirst into the proverbial brick wall of insecurity, but one major thing has changed. My attitude. My chest will start to feel that familiar feeling of panic start to invade my psyche, but I have learned to take back control of my brain… and my life.

    Photography is very new to me. Not the art of it, but the technique of it. I have always seen the world through the eyes of a tortured artist, but I just got my first DSLR last September. It has changed my life. It has taught me how to understand myself. I can SEE what my brain sees. While we inhabit the same body, we have two completely different ideas of how this body should be carrying on. I chuckle a bit as I picture my angel and devil sitting atop my shoulders. They don’t look like me.

    Anyway, I have completely forgotten what my initial thought was about this post although it seems to have gone in a direction that works. That is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned: just because things haven’t worked out the way I planned, doesn’t mean they haven’t worked out. They have and they always will as long as you surrender to what’s important. If it’s important, then it’s not a waste. No one sees the world in the same way I do and to me, that’s important.ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 10:08 am

      brookeshaden - Mary, I’m so glad to have you here! Thank you for your vulnerability, it will help so many who might come across these words. Taking back control – my goodness, is there anything more POWERFUL. My hat is off to you for pursuing your passion with vibrancy and honesty.ReplyCancel

    • April 2, 2018 - 10:28 am

      Rose - That is so true Mary lee. Best of wishes on your study’s and happy holidaysReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 10:06 am

    Rose - I so know this feeling!
    When I was younger it seemed like I was very spontaneous and Easley distracted. But in my early 20s the interests started to show a pattern.
    Dance/movement, music, singing, drawing, painting, photography, design/sewing and all of the above in short films . And around and around the wheel turns.

    My interests and what inspires me and makes me happy is the same now as when I was 8 playing dress up and splashed paint around in my yard, preforming for all my dolls and teddy bears lind up under the rose bushes.

    For so long i felt that all this interests was a bad thing. So I said to my self I need to do photography. So I did end left everything els for the last 3 years. I had some exhibitions and started selling. I felt proud that I invested so much time into something and people suddenly recognized me as a artist and photographer. But I felt a little bit locked and unhappy. And every time I would set down to try anything els, I feelt that voice in my head. Why are you doing this. You should spend time doing photography!!! So I did, until….. i started art school!!! Lol… now i feel guilty if I don’t practice anatomy, or do color study’s, or the school assignment.. I got myself a mentor, she is a fine art aquarell portrait artist (Aine Divine, she is brilliant) and she is the first one that actually encourages me to play and explore. With her guidance I suddenly feel so much more “on my own team”. I am so much more happy, and so much more productive. I am trying to learn how I can move between the different creative spaces in a way that feels good and organic to me! I have been doing things for so long becouse that is “the way it should be done” (or at leased I thought). Now I feel so inspired, and free, and joyful. I am still feeling the struggle, but much less. And now when I graduate I am going to take my time to be that child again that doesn’t judge or questions what you do but enjoy the ride and exploration! Can not wait.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 10:06 am

    Kim McClellan - Brooke, the stories contained in your works inspire, regardless of whether they are told through image or word. In reading your blog, I admire the candid truthfulness and curiosity that wend their way through your words. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for asking the questions you ask and for sharing the answers that work for you. If they are not the answers for others, they are certainly a viable place for beginnings. You have a style of writing that makes me curious to know more about your novel and look forward to reading it, too. You…You are not wasting your time.

    I drove four hours to visit my grandfather this weekend. He is 96 and currently lying in a nursing home bed, scared that his time may be near and chomping at the bit to get home. He doesn’t want to go home to die. He wants to get home to cook some real food and to finish two things. He has an order of wooden wagon wheels to finish crafting for a customer and he is writing a book that still requires some polishing. To my recollection, my grandfather never wasted a moment to inaction or to not pursuing his passions. However, right now, he feels he is wasting time. Very precious time. He would never say it like that, but in his eyes, there is the plea for us to understand how much he needs to get back to his projects.

    This past weekend served as an eyeopener. Time is fleeting. It is a gift best spent on loving life and doing the things that build such a passion for living that you share your experience with others because you want to see others succeed in loving life. I haven’t been practicing this dictum, not with conviction. I want to, though. I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting time. Not anymore.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 10:09 am

    Jay Coy - I suffer from both wasted time syndrome and imposter syndrome so what I end up doing it over analyzing everything over and over and over again because I want it to be absolutely perfect that I don’t end up doing anything. This post has inspired me to start kicking down those barriers to get out and start creating. Thanks, Brooke, for always being inspiring and shedding light on these subjects!ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 10:23 am

    Sara Harley - Hi Brooke,
    I participated in your Creative Live course in October and was inspired to create two series of composited images. Both series were to help myself deal with the emotions surrounding my husband’s stroke. I was anxious while creating the images (28 in total) because I had never created a series of work before. However, I was terrified when it came to releasing them into the world for other people to see. I had my first ever solo exhibit in February thanks, in part, to the inspiration you gave me through that course. I also had five images from my second series selected for a group exhibit at the only photography gallery in Nova Scotia. Those images were composited self portraits and very much outside my comfort zone, but the feedback I received was amazing! One of my images was the only image selected by our provincial newspaper to accompany a review about the exhibit. I never would have had the courage to spread my creative wings without your influence…thank you. I do waste a lot of time, mostly out of fear. I have troubles with having enough faith in myself that I am “good enough” and struggle with that fear daily.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 10:26 am

    Betty - Ohmygod I have this exact same problem! It’s even worse when I have family tell me this as well. All I ever hear is that my major, graphic design is a huge waste of time and that I’ll never find a job. I am also hearing go get a master’s in something else. I told them there is no way I am doing that because I’ll be stuck in school for another 6 years when I’m going to graduate soon in the fall. But it doesn’t stop the voice in my head telling me it’s an entire waste of time and I should be doing something else. It also doesn’t stop that voice from telling me everything I make is utterly hideous as well. I still hate everything I make which is why I never actually look at it for too long after finishing because I will be sitting on the computer until I’m a skeleton fixing every tiny detail.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 10:40 am

    Danielle Bilen - Great Blog post. I can relate. Being a mother of three and pursuing art over the age of 40 I have many days where I think, “ is this worth it..a.m. I wasting my time.” I get sucked into my creative vortex and house work gets put to the side and guilt kicks in. Luckily I married a creative man who continues to support my creativity even when the house is a mess. So learning to balance is always a challenge but most days I know the pursuit it worth it!ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 10:48 am

    Su Hall - Brooke,

    In my 60’s, now, I can relate so much to your thinking. In my life, I want to try it all, do it all and experience everything! LOL I gave it hell, and still do! I made plans, broke them, found other things and, well, it’s been one hell of a ride! All of it. Even, the bad.

    Life changes. I now have my home to myself. My family is grown. Suddenly, my options are infinite! I never gave this much thought, but, here I am! ‘My’ garden, ‘my’ house, putting things where ‘I’ like them! I have so much to do!

    I may waste all my time on silly endeavors, or, create something wonderful! Who knows? But, it will all be good.

    A creative never wants to waste an opportunity, for sure! But, isn’t the botched attempt just as much an opportunity? If we didn’t fail, now and then, how would we ever know what it is we want!

    I used to be afraid of change. Terribly! But, with change comes opportunity. I see that now. I will go through the remaining days of my life, doing things I love, finding new things to love, and never feeling regret over any of my poor choices. They taught me more than anything!



    • April 2, 2018 - 11:06 am

      Kim McClellan - Hi Su,
      I just wanted to send a huge smile, a hug and a thank you. Your words, “I will go through the remaining days of my life, doing things I love, finding new things to love, and never feeling regret over any of my poor choices. They taught me more than anything!” made me a grinning, smiley kind of misty-eyed. This is exactly what I want for the rest of my days. ~KimReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 10:57 am

    Lisa - Wow, this blog post came at the perfect time for me! I just worked my very last shift of a part time job I have loved doing for 10 years, 2 days ago so that I can use that time each week to really focus on photography, after many years of stops and starts at putting my art out there. I have struggled to make the time for creative pursuits because I run a business with my husband, in addition to the job I just quit. After I got home from that last shift I was having all sorts of doubts and anxiety coming up and “what if” I never make money with my photography and should not have quit that job. Making money with my art has always been my hang up. Putting pressure on myself to monetize photography or it wasn’t worth my time. My husband promptly informed me that I should stop doubting myself and spend my time thinking about “what if” I succeed and that it won’t ever happen if I don’t put the time into it. The truth is that many circumstances have aligned and this feels like to right time to go for it and I’ve made the commitment now so there is no turning back. This post was a great reminder to follow my instincts. Thank you for your authenticity in your blog posts, I get so much out of every post I read!!ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 11:16 am

    Tammy Bevins - I have struggled with this also. I have felt that I had to make excuses to pursue my art. I started entering print competition which gave me deadlines and a reason to make artReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 11:19 am

    Carol Walsh - Brooke, Yes, Yes! I have the same problem — anxiety. But, mine was triggered by the absolute need (compulsion?) to write my memoir. But, every time I sat down to write, anxiety raised its head. I wanted to retreat and do my art. After three years my book is published (Painting Life: My Creative Journey Through Trauma) and I am now emotionally free to create my art as much, or whenever, I want.

    I am now working on a new series of photo-collages that I am excited about. Still, I sometimes question myself, “Carol, is this really important to do?” My final answer is always a loud “yes”. Thank you Brooke for being you. CarolReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 11:33 am

    Julie - In answer to your question, the more something means to me the more anxiety I feel. I’ve learned that this is because I care and it means a lot to me to make sure I bring my project to fruition.
    If I don’t get this feeling then the work I produce is very superficial. Work I produce with heart palpitations I find draws from my sub-conscious and holds deeper meaning than I could ever plan or hope for.
    No time is ever wasted.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 11:54 am

    Anna Bruce - Brooke I love you and to paraphrase you, your book is a gift. You don’t know who it will impact but someone (or many people) need to benefit from your writing so do it. I am a FIRM believer of following one’s heart (even when it doesn’t seem rational or logical). I have plenty of examples when I followed logic Vs. my heart and the not so positive outcomes (happy to explain in further detail if you ever want to know). Writing makes you better in all ways. You are forcing yourself to be creating in a whole new way, which I believe helps you when creating art, writing your blogs and teaching your courses. You are problem solving in new ways and I personally always welcome that.

    So to answer your question… where to begin. I used to feel this way for the last 10 years of my life. I felt like I wasted my art degree by having jobs that had nothing to do with art. I felt like I was betraying my inner artist every time I had a job and wasn’t really creating. But the funny thing is that I believe everything happens for a reason. I learned A LOT about what I didn’t want in life from all of those experiences and I know more than ever (now) where my heart wants to go. I want to be a full-time artist, something that I didn’t think I wanted to be nor was I ready for 10 years ago. I have a new sense of passion and fire and all the while I have no idea if it will work out. One thing I do know though is that anything you commit to, HAS to work. There is no way, if you are true to yourself, pursue it with passion and work hard that it cannot come to fruition. I use you as one of my examples. In your last 9 years of being in business you are an Artist and you make income from your work – that inspires me to keep going and keep creating. Same thing with Sue Bryce, Lara Jade, Chase Jarvis, Elizabeth Gilbert and all of these amazing creatives. If you put in the time and dedication, change your mindset and follow your heart it will work. PLUS, you KNOW we are your tribe and we are all going to support you.

    <3 Much loveReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 12:10 pm

    Sheila Eden - Hi Brooke

    I am an artist and I have an incredible amount of anxiety surrounding that what I am doing is worthwhile. I have been modeling for 9 years and recently my husband who usually supports me, called my modeling ‘an interest’. I was like cant you see his is my life’s work, my passion storytelling. Even though I am not getting money for my work. I am starting to realize I am plenty and I deserve plenty, and opportunities and to grow. I am a model, actress, musician and makeup artist for film and it makes me feel all over the place, and like I must choose just one thing in order to be successful. But what is success? I’ve been finding that my ego must stay in check, and also that time is all now. It isn’t in the future. I feel this time crunch that I must be successful soon before I loose my beauty.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 12:27 pm

    Kelly Cesari - Brooke, thank you for continually challenging and inspiring me. It seems to be a matter of fact for both of us that one lifetime will not be long enough to do or learn all of the things that interest us. Personally, I’m happy to meander from one interest to another with varying degrees of aptitude as long as I’m enjoying the journey, and feel I’m gaining something from the experience. (Mostly I want to stave off the rigors of old age from dampening my brain.) I really love this new composite you’ve created. To me, the hands represent the various intentions, wants, and desires- whether real or imagined, of other people as they pertain to the subject. The subject is a raw, and powerful presence who seems to be fully herself, and is uninhibited by the influences about her. Warm regards. – KellyReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 12:37 pm

    María - In a way, I feel very identified with you, Broke. And it’s very frustrating to feel like that, honestly.

    I spend my life looking for time to do everything I need to do, work and the things I like to do like photography, astronomy, read, paint, take a walk or go to my lovely cinema to watch a new movie.

    The fact is that I never stop because I always have something to do, why? there’s the thing:
    Because even if I’m not doing anything, for a day off during the weekend, or similar, I feel guilty because my head starts to tell me – Hey, Maria, you should be doing something to benefit and not be here without doing anything.

    And what comes to tell me that?
    That little voice we hear is NOT right, only intuition is, the rest is the mind and the ego with its whip whipping us, crazy to take control of every situation (even when you’re resting because you need to doit for do a better work after) .

    So I say that we need to block that little voice and pay attention to what returns us again and again to what our heart really wants and we need. In your case, Broke, write that novel 🙂

    Hope you’ll return at it over and over again till you you got it, if that’s really what your heart need to do <3

    So much love! You're so inspiringReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 1:26 pm

    Martos Hoffman - For me, self confidence, or the lack thereof, seems to become one of the primary reasons why I waste my time, primarily by choosing to work on something that is not as important, creative, or new. This manifests itself in procrastination behavior. Unconsciously, I don’t want to put myself “out there” where my less than perfect attempt is revealed to the world. Learning to accept the process of developing as an artist is hard as I’d like to be fully fledged from the start.

    Thanks for revealing yourself to all of us Brooke as your willingness to show your strengths as well as your insecurities is an inspiration.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 1:40 pm

    Xephyyr - The irony of my commenting is that I typically refrain from integrating with the online community due to the time and attention it takes to do so. Time, despite being a human fabrication born of convenience, holds dominion over all our minds, whether it’s assuring an interviewer of our spotless record of punctuality, lamenting a time-sensitive missed opportunity, or just a glance at the mirror that becomes a stare as our reflection becomes increasingly unfamiliar. Time, like money, has become a human overlord by nature of the power society has imbued it with.

    Because of my life’s circumstances, time has always seemed an aggressor to me. I feel that if I don’t properly manage my time, energy, and resources, I shall never be free of the circumstances that bind me. Simultaneously, I find myself fearful and anxious at the prospect of compromising parts of myself for the promise of freedom, as I’ve witnessed many of my peers do (and with awareness that I am not immune to the temptation myself). The struggle then becomes how does one create something meaningful to both oneself and others while yielding a return that preserves autonomy and doesn’t compromise the sincerity of one’s intent?

    The current phase of that answer I find myself in is that we should utilize our inclinations as benevolently as we know how to, with an organic intent to improve (rather than self/circumstance imposed). That doesn’t mean that we should only prioritize the tasks that we perceive as being the most meaningful and with the widest reach. We are notoriously terrible at understanding the impact of our words and actions, so applying an arbitrary scale of relevancy to hobbies or pursuits seems silly. For instance, the image you posted today was gorgeous and your description encouraged participation. The sincerity of both the image and the description inspired me to not only comment my observations, but follow the rabbit trail to your website and eventually your newsletter, despite the numerous projects I’ve offset to do so. My monetary return is nothing. My progress on my projects is nil. Still, I feel enriched by your words and ideas as well as the dialogue it’s inspired within myself. Despite what my usual indicators suggest, I don’t feel this was a waste of time.

    To conclude this increasingly long-winded response, I believe the key is the cliché of balance. It is important to dream and achieve while being both cognizant and respectful of parameters—both our own and that of the environment/planet we depend on. Our ambition should be supplementary rather than at the expense of those less fortunate/conscious than ourselves. I can’t speak to your internal struggle as I’m not you (obviously), and yet I would encourage you not to let societal definitions sway an image of yourself. You are already a photographer and a writer because that’s what you do—not because anyone rewards your time and effort. In regards to sustainability, you’ll never know until you’re there in the same way that 9 years ago you wouldn’t have known that you’d eschew your film degree in favor of photography, resulting in you swapping ideas with over 200k followers on a platform that didn’t yet exist.

    I’m not sure if that means anything, but I’m inclined to think it does. Even if reading this proves as a waste of time for you, writing it wasn’t one for me. Life is intriguing that way. I, and clearly many others, look forward to the fruits of your labor, whatever they may be.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 1:42 pm

    Monica Leal - I have had that syndrome -always-. I come from a culture that loves art but does not promote it or believes it’s a valid way of living your life. It took me a move to The United States, to Los Angeles, to really understand that I cod do something like this and I could have a shot at being successful (and by success I mean to have the means to keep creating). I have constant anxiety about whether my aspirations are valid, but don’t get me wrong, *I know they are* but I am afraid of wasting my life and leaving very important things in life behind (like a 401k ha ha).
    I’ve sort of accepted the idea that I may die alone with 5 cats, but I wouldn’t want to *waste my life* doing something I hate just to survive. I am willing to compromise and make my dreams sustainable, that’s why I am looking up to you.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 1:57 pm

    Katherine A Gaffney - Oh, Brooke, everything you write is so relatable and seems to always find me at the perfect time.
    I struggle with wasted time and imposter syndrome on the regular. For the last couple months, I have been “working” on my website, and every time I sit down to design it, I am paralyzed by the decision of whether or not I should market myself as a Portrait Photographer or a Fine Art/Conceptual Photographer. While I realize that doing portraiture and creating images for other people is probably the easiest way for me to support myself financially, I cringe every time I think about trying to sell myself as a Senior Portrait or Engagement Photographer. It just doesn’t feel natural. Honestly, it feels gross.
    Fine Art, on the other hand, that is my jam. I don’t know the first thing about how to get into galleries, sell prints, or if my work is even good enough to sell, but creating this type of art is what sets my soul on fire. I am at a point in my life where I can throw myself fully into trying to become a Fine Art Photog, but I am so afraid of failing and wasting precious time that I am ironically and paradoxically frozen in this weird sort of purgatory where I find myself unable to make art and time just keeps on slipping by.
    All of the above is why I really am hoping and wishing that I can make it to the Promoting Passion Convention this year. I think that being around other likeminded peeps and meeting you might just be the kick in the pants I need to make the big leap. Crossing my fingers that I’ll be there in October!
    Thanks for continuing to inspire! <3 <3ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 1:57 pm

    Thomas Miles - Hi Brooke! I love this topic: I had a full time job in retail, which I wanted to go into to earn money and be able to live. At the time I thought this was enough because my photography was more of a hobby, I began to realise that my photography was more of a passion; with the ability to connect with many people that I may never even meet. I have now halved my hours at my regular job and am now pursuing my love for photography as a business, taking on more commissions and jobs, relating to what I love with amazing people. I felt guilty for wanting to pursue this because I thought it was just a silly hobby, but now I’ve come to realise that sharing my story and my life in the photographic form can connect with so many people, and can become a great business!ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 2:28 pm

    Gallagher Green - Golly bob howdy, that’s a lot of comments! I will start by saying you can exclude me from your drawing, I don’t really have a port to review. So it is better if it goes to someone that could use it. 🙂
    I have had a problem with “Waisting time” syndrome since I was about 18, but over the past year or two, I have gotten much better. (So it only took me 10+ years to get it sorted! LOL)
    Writing for me also feels better than even photography, when writing I don’t feel like I am “waisting” time. I wrote a children’s book 3 nights ago, now I just need to learn how to draw so I can illustrate it. LOL
    My novel comes along slower, I know what you mean by research. I spent over 2 hours looking up what you have to go through when you need to ID the dead body of a family member. (It’s not as bad as you would think)
    I like your ideal writing scene. I normally write late at night, sitting in the dark in a worn out recliner that has a broken footrest. With “A Fine Frenzy” blaring on my headphones, typing on my laptop. I am sure it is quite the scene if you saw it from the outside! LOL
    (Now back to the point) I Still feel like I am wasting time when I am working on my wildlife and landscape photography, I don’t know why though. I really love doing it, but I think it is because it doesn’t feel like a money maker.

    Wonderful post, Thank you! <3ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 2:31 pm

    Terry - Anxiety? Every creative project is, by definition (to me at least) something I haven’t tried before with all the attendant what, when, how questions — especially how.
    What would I prefer doing? Sitting still and watching things move around me for awhile. Observing brings ideas.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 3:07 pm

    Anna - I am a designer, and I never really knew too much about fine art photography until I saw your work. I have fallen in love with the endless amount of creativity that can be portrayed in your style, and because of that, photography has now become a very passionate hobby of mine.
    This photo in particular really opens up my eyes to how everyone finds meaning in it, but in their own way. This piece is beautiful. Thank you so much for all you do!ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 3:10 pm

    Jonathan Chapé - I absolutely relate to that feeling of having my mind tell me that I’m being just a tad ridiculous. I want to start off by saying that photography has been my mental and creative edcspe for a few years now. It’s what I gravitate towards when I don’t feel like I can use my words to evoke what I’m feeling. Now, I haven’t yet attempted to make any sort of income through this medium. Why? Perhaps I just don’t think it’s possible for me. I have a voice that tells me that ‘no one really cares what you out out’ Now maybe that’s true, but a part of be says one person, maybe hundreds of miles away, looks at my work and feels somewhat less alone. I know that sounds silly saying it out loud. I’ve also been working in a job that doesn’t satisfy my creative mind, yet it pays the bills I need it to. I think I’m being selfish to want more than what I already have. I think most days about leaving my banking job to pursue my true passion, but my mind tells me that I will fail drastically. So I don’t know what to do at this point. Should I be grateful that I have a job and focus on growing up to be like the rest of society? It’s safe, and white frankly, safe doesn’t sound too bad right about now.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 3:42 pm

    Suellen Cook - wasting time seems to be a bit of a concept that other people judge you to be doing and so we take it on ourselves…but if we are truthful we are absolutely passionate about what we are doing (if we weren’t we wouldn’t be “wasting time” on it) so when I feel guilty about maybe this passion is wasting time I try to remember that is a judgement I’ve taken from others. If I am loving what I am doing, it’s NOT a waste of time. How can being happy, content, creative ever be a true waste of time…but I still suffer too, I’m human and live in a human world 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 3:45 pm

    Jens Paul Schommer - I’ve definitely had these thoughts. For me I think its a mixture of anxiety and wanting to be responsible. I love doing photography and I think I’d really like to have it as part of a full time job. I try to study/practise so I can get there. I do feel a bit guilty when i’m just watching videos on the internet and I know I could be being productive instead. However I think as long as thats not all you’re doing you’re fine. Finding and keeping a balance is important. I don’t think i’ve ever heard someone say they were happy about burning out on their passion.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 4:08 pm

    julie powell - I often feel a fraud and that I am wasting my time. Even though I have sold a piece, but one piece cannot sustain you for a whole year. I work so hard on what I have built up and what I have achieved, but still that little voice in my head keeps telling me I am fraud and to stop wasting my time, energy on money in something that will go no where. But while I am creating I feel alive and full of life and passion and freedom. I still look at pieces I have created and say wow! I did THAT. I have won awards and prizes and had gallery exhibits (which as you know cost money) but have still only sold a few pieces. I feel I have come such a long way since the folio review you did about 18 months ago…I would truly love to hear your thoughts on my digital artistry now. XoReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 5:42 pm

    Nicole Keintz - Hello Dearest Brooke!
    I can totally relate to all of this, but here’s what I’m working on: Staying Present, in this moment. Because ultimately, that’s all that matters. If my two brain surgeries taught me anything it’s that we are not in control – not even a little bit. 😉 We can plan and worry and speculate and hope and drive ourselves crazy with all the “what if’s” but none of us know what is going to happen a few years from now, or in a few days or even in the next five minutes. Of course the fears and anxieties creep in, but I try to remind myself to stay present, work with a joyful and grateful heart, let the rest go – and send my efforts out there with no expectations and no attachment to the outcome.
    I’m so excited to tell you that my exhibition has come together and it will open in November! I’ll email you with more information soon. 🙂 This project is so dear to my heart and I have already dedicated countless hours and I’ll be investing a lot of money and it’s so hard not to hope that it will be a huge success! It’s also hard not to be afraid that it will be a colossal waste of time and energy. There are no guarantees. But I know with my whole heart that this is what I’m meant to do, and I have to keep following that gentle, radiant guidance, no matter what. And very simply, this is the conclusion I’ve come to: MY WORK AND MY SHOW ARE GOING TO TAKE ME EXACTLY WHERE I NEED TO BE. Whatever that might turn out to be. Success or Failure, who knows? It doesn’t matter because it’s never that black and white. Positive or Negative. Good or Bad. A gigantic failure might be exactly what I need to learn and propel me on to the next big step in my journey. Releasing everything and TRUSTING is so liberating. It lifts a giant burden and I feel free to just enjoy the process. 🙂
    Thank you so much for sharing your story and your light…and encouraging others to share as well.
    With gratitude, blessings and LOVE,

  • April 2, 2018 - 6:20 pm

    Kim Forman - Oh, do I ever understand that feeling! As a multipotentialite/scanner/renaissance person, it’s been with me for most of my life. It’s only been in the last few years that I managed to let go of it and just do what makes me happy.

    Thank you for sharing your vulnerability around this. <3

    I can’t wait to read your book! (Whatever your surroundings and attire while writing!)ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 6:55 pm

    Jon Miller - Oh man Brooke, did you ever hit the nail on the head with this one. My ex (for reasons to this article) felt I wasn’t going in the direction she felt so I had to end that. Anyway, is it really wasting time or planning too much. I sit for days thinking of concepts, working out the logistics, costs, etc who (model wise) will I chose and so forth and this takes time. Then the shoot is done and I start the process over again, if it was wasted time there would be no end results. The question you have to ask yourself is what makes you happy the most writing or your photography? Then look at how much time do you spend on each. Which gives you the most satisfaction and return on investment. Obvious writing isn’t at this moment, however keep this in mind neither did photography when you first started. You had to nurture the ideas, plan them over see that everything was working and double check your vision to reality. Then you executed the shoot then you did this over and over until you got it right and folks began to notice. Like all things creative it takes a lot of time to bring these projects to life. So take your time on your writing until its ready for the public. We and you know you can write, your images tell the stories. I wouldn’t stress too much about. If someone gets in your way do what I do either tell them to get on board or get off the ride.
    I’m in the same boat with my photography, love it big time, just need to get it out there and that is where my road blocks come into play. I just have to work through it.ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 7:22 pm

    Tori Cawley - Dear Brooke,
    My brother bought me your creative live class for Christmas as he saw my zeal for photography and needing some extra help to make my dreams a reality. I have just finished it! You taught me so much!

    I think this topic is what held me back the most. My ego would always tell me art is nothing you could make a life out of but my heart knew differently. I asked myself why does this thing I love so much have remain a secret passion….? I wanted it to be how I spent all my time everyday! It took a lot of work telling my brain it was wrong and my heart was right, but with the help of your class, I am working on my passion everyday- and it is still hard work but I am truely happy! I see now that doing the things we love should never be categorized as a “waste of time” in our minds, but clues to our true path in life!!

    Thank you so much for your help & inspiraion!
    Much love!! – toriReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 7:39 pm

    Kristey Fritz-Martin - Wow!!! Reading this nearly brought me to tears because it hit so close to home (other than the making money part because I have not found much success in that department) but the guilt and struggle with passionate time management is something that really gets me and to know that someone as incredibly amazing as yourself feels this same way is such a refreshing twist! When one of your idols feels the same torn feeling that your struggle with it kinda maybe means that your struggle (mine anyways) might be valid if even in the smallest way!! I have always been a creative person and I bounce around a lot between how exactly I “need” to express my creative feelings and emotions and feel like I am in a constant struggle with the “whys”. Why do I feel so unsettled? Why does it never feel like it is enough? Why am I waiting my time at something that is not bringing me financial security? Is this creativity actually making me happy or crazy?!? Lol. Th struggle is real. I decided this year to start a self portrait project entitled “I was there Too” after I lost someone I loved dearly in 2017. There are just never enough memories in this world and I wanted to leave a legacy and journal not only for my family but for myself and it has been so thereputic. I have been creating from my heart and turning my thoughts and feelings into expressive self portraits and the creative freedom and growth has been beyond therapeutic BUT than the whys attack. Why. . . Why I am waisting so much time on myself? Why devote so much into something when tangibly I am not getting anything in return? Why don’t I fit in?!? Do I really want to fit in?!? (I know the answer to that last one is no but every once in a while it might be nice to actually have people “get it” lol) I should be taking more pictures of my kids and telling people to say cheese right?!? Because that helps pay the bills but at the same time drains every ounce of creative “want to” out of me. . . Maybe I should find a different passion?!? Maybe I should try harder?!? Lol. . . Maybe I should stop rambling and actually get something accomplished?!? Teehee. Either way, thank you so very much for being you!! You are such an incredible shining light in this industry!! I adore your new piece and I for one will be waiting in line to purchase your novel!ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 8:18 pm

    Sandy Taylor - Because of your dedication and self reflection, I have no doubt you will succeed with your book! Working full time and have a family (as well as being an artist) I often struggle on where to spend my time. It often comes down to prioritizing what’s important to me and I find it’s easier to let the lesser things go by the wayside unforgotten. Free time is often don’t challenging myself as an artist. I love that some of my artistic goals are harder, I have to dig deep and find the time to do it right.. Not for anyone but myself. We only have this one life and I plan to continue to make the most of it! Thank you for being an inspiration Brooke! ReplyCancel

  • April 2, 2018 - 10:48 pm

    Rareș - I feel so close to this topic! Lately I have been struggling with it! I am a bachelor student in translating and interpreting and I have started to really love photography a year and some months ago and now university seems like a loss of time. It feels like I’m taking time away from my creativity. Don’t get me wrong, I will still finish this degree, but I cannot get rid of this feeling that I could be doing something else, I could be more productive. Plus, uni has become more like a survival game than something that I am really enjoying, something that I really want to do. So thanks for sharing Brooke and all the others who commented. Knowing that I’m not alone makes it feel just tiny little better.ReplyCancel

  • April 3, 2018 - 2:43 am

    suzanne martin - I just love your work and you inspire me so much. I teach dance and my passion is strong for that as is my new found love for photography. I am 57 and need to learn quickly and spend as much time as I can practising photography. I enjoy it all but need to start making some money to fund this passion . I feel I should be spending time housekeeping etc. but the contentment I get from the photography and its creativity helps me through other family issues but thats another subject
    But I don’t feel so much like its a waste of time but rather a “revitaliser”. When I feel happy I can cope with everything else so the main issue becomes financial . I guess you could call the photographic competitions that I have just started entering are creative projects but I love doing them .. I think too at my age I feel a little bit of entitlement to spend time being creative. I hope that doesn’t sound selfish .. Thanks for your blog

  • April 3, 2018 - 3:17 am

    Debbie - Gasp – Brooke, once again your topic and perspective has uncannily matched an issue I’ve been grappling with. My alter ego, I’ve recently realised, carries such a strong story about needing to do ‘proper work’ and this has frequently led to this insane, binary idea of my chosen activities either being purposeful/ appropriate, or a waste (which of course leads to unnecessary and unhelpful feelings of guilt). I’m working on debunking the delusional ‘value’ system and am finding that focusing on ‘do I love this?’ or at least ‘does this align with what I value?’ are much more helpful ways of evaluating what I do than focusing on the outcome. Thanks for your wisdom. XxxReplyCancel

    • April 5, 2018 - 10:14 am

      brookeshaden - Hi Debbie!

      Thank you so much for your response – I love that you brought up the value system. That is actually a very clear way for me to think of this in the future. And, you are my random giveaway winner for a free portfolio review! I’ll email you now 🙂 XOXO! BrookeReplyCancel

  • April 3, 2018 - 3:50 am

    Mumbi Muturi-Muli - There are days like today when I wonder why I thought that I had enough, creativity, time and effort to make a go of this photography thing. My fear is that I have made a terrible mistake but I have no other choice but to keep going because doing anything else feels like a form of death. So I know that I am on the right path, I just need to be kinder to myself and more patient, it has taken me years to find my passion, it feels like it will slip away in an instant. The loneliness of these feelings is what sinks deepest into my core, I wish I had someone close to tell me to keep going.ReplyCancel

  • April 3, 2018 - 6:58 am

    Rafael Rincon - Hi Broke,

    I always feel refreshed and anchored to earth when I finish reading/watching your posts, tweets and videos. Is amazing how we all have the same demons when pursuing a creative endeavor and having totally different lives.

    In my case sitting down and editing images just for practice calls for that inner voice telling me “You should be producing money” and is louder because I am the only breadwinner.

    Just thinking and planing to produce and new image or project, give me a lot of anxiety. It is going to came good? I am going to produce an image that people would like. Is this project going to give me the momentum or advertisement I need to increase my income?

    I always hope to have enough income to focus my time on creating more and refine my style. Find that balance between creation and income is my goal for 2018.

    Again brooke, thanks for sharing.


    PD. I hope I don’t have too many gramatical errors.


  • April 3, 2018 - 7:39 am

    Louise - I do feel anxiety over not having enough time to accomplish all that I want to experience and learn in life. I’m 62 years old and have less time now than I did when I had young children at home. I’ve done a lot in my life but as I grow older I see less time to do all that I want to do before I die. I wish I could make time stand still and have it wait for me to catch up. Currently my hard drive failed in my computer so I’ve been without my photoshop which is driving me nuts.ReplyCancel

  • April 3, 2018 - 7:46 am

    Joan McEwan - Yes. Always. My husband has always teased me that I cannot focus! I drew for years, but because I couldn’t see how to make any money, i moved on to photography and began to learn ….. Loved it but soon began to want to paint and draw again, and now I blend the three in many ways but still feel like I may be wasting time as I am not much of a business person or marketer and feel like unless I ma making some money selling my art, what am I doing it for? Of course, I know it makes me feel awesome to create and also keeps me sane ( I have a special needs son, and it allows me much needed time to be me) but also I can’t shake the feeling that if only I would focus on one thing, I could do it that much better, and then be more successful…. its a dance, and I don’t imagine it will change much.. I’ve been doing it my whole life, lol!ReplyCancel

  • April 3, 2018 - 8:49 am

    AmberErica - I feel as though I’ve been in this inner-voice-rut for years. It’s soul crushing and so hard to overcome! I feel as though so many years of my life have been sweeping past me because I am giving in to having “more important things to do”. Lately, I have been feeling this incredible pull inside me to get back to my creative roots. Realizing it’s worth being REALIZED. I grew up with outside voices saying that being an artist, in any sense, was only a hobby and not for a career – trying to make it in the field would only eat you up, because the competition is too great and the goal impossible. Now I have come to know that the only thing that eats you up, as a creative person, is not being creative. Not having that outlet. Not letting yourself explore every bit that calls out to you. Successes of the material world should never be the end goal. That’s not what should drive you. Your soul is what should drive you. That feeling of honouring yourself and all that you contain, that’s what truly matters. In a world that’s full of voices that are shutting you down, look for the ones that are there to lift you up and let your voice be one of those. There will always be people who want to see what you see and hear what you say. I’m so glad to see that you are rising above, Brooke. You have so much to offer the world with your voice and your vision. <3ReplyCancel

  • April 3, 2018 - 9:26 am

    Sandra Lowe - I wish I could get my creativity/inspiration back! I feel it setting somewhere out on the edge of my awareness. I thought it was completely gone but I can feel it again little by little. It’s blog like this and work like yours that inspire me to look for my passion and creativity. I can’t enter the portfolio critique because I don’t have one yet. Maybe I’ll work on one. I love photography and your so talented it over whelming. Write your book.ReplyCancel

  • April 3, 2018 - 6:25 pm

    robin spalding - 1. YES! i have these grand ideas and i carry them wiwth me forever. but when i think how can i go about doing it everything grinds to a halt and its not yet not yet i need this or when this happens or next year and i keep pushing it off because the anxiety i get about thinking i wont be good enough or ready to do it now. which is really just a way of thinking i will fail. like failing is the be all end all even thru if i did i could just try again but instead i worry im not good enoigh to do it yet and push it off and push it off and im afraid these ideas and creative concepts i have will die with me forever just a dream.
    2. i wish i spent more time pursuing the fine art photography. ive done it but things happened and i have been putting it on the back burner and the loger it gets im afraid i wont be able to pick it back up. but it was so exciting and left me feeling so amazing and right that i dont want to give it up.ReplyCancel

  • April 3, 2018 - 8:20 pm

    Vali - i sat in a chair facing the ocean today.
    i looked at my dog and the sea and the looming clouds.
    i turned on TV and scrolled facebook.
    i wasted hours, felt guilt, felt failure, and googled “wasted time.”
    i found your site.
    i saw your art.
    i smiled at how much i’ve already done and it’s never enough.
    2 hours lost in a sea of clouds and dog and guilt
    In a lifetime of do more, do more, do more…from no education and poverty, to 2 masters and a Phd…survival has never been “take a break you deserve it.”
    and today a break makes me think it will all slide back to zero
    but it won’t.
    I”m between ideas like someone who waits tables between acting gigs my mind immediately thinks i’m “through”…until the next idea pushes me…but the anguish in between…constructed of fear and losses…is not the house I need to live in today. And your site, the opportunity to write words, opened the shutters on my creative windows and I saw the crater Diamond Head and the ocean and the dog and the TV and my chair and it was all there…just waiting for me to draw with words. thank you.ReplyCancel

  • April 3, 2018 - 10:03 pm

    David Thomas - Wasting time ??? I’m never wasting time when I am creating. Rather, I’m inspired, excited, motivated, energized, and oblivious to most everything else. I’M ALIVE ….so it doesn’t matter what I am doing as long as my head is creating

    I’m retired. I had two careers one in non-profit management and the other in computer systems management. I burned the candle at both ends working 50-60 hours a week. Now I get to think about photography, fantasize about photography and do photography. I feel liberated.

    However, When I watch TV or surf the web I feel terribly guilty about “wasting so much time”. I usually do this when I am procrastinating on making decisions about what to do next creatively. Either I’ve reached an impasse and don’t know how to go forward ….or more important..I afraid to go forward because I’m afraid of failing.

    Of course, there is only one answer for this….just do it…my reward will be whatever comes next.ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2018 - 12:40 am

    Mari - Dear Brooke, thanks a lot for you writing this. To be honest, I always wait for your Monday letters. There are my Tuesday letters here, since I am far away from the USA.

    I constantly feel that kind of guild, I have to say. I worked for a terrible company for about 4,5. The salary was very poor, the job didn’t bring me satisfaction and plus the high management of the company treated people like a garbage. I don’t know why I have been there for such a long period of time. But I live in Russia in a small town. And here one is supposed to have ‘a normal job’. By that they mean the one from 9 to 6. Being an artist is not a job – a lot of people said to me so. I really like taking pictures, creating concepts and writing essays, but I always had a little time for that, because I needed to combined it with that job plus I took the second job (just to have money for living). But now everything has changed. I am a freelancer for 5 months now and my life has never felt better. I still work on my schedule, trying to find the balance between work and leisure.

    By the way, I would love to read your novel. And I guess a lot of people from this community as well. You already have your readers We are patient and we do not want to disturb you while brainstorming.ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2018 - 7:40 am

    Cindee - 1) Do creative projects ever give you anxiety?
    2) What do you wish you spent more time pursuing?

    Brooke, you are wise beyond your years!

    1)YES!!!!!!!!!!! Everyone of the photography projects do. I’m a sewer and when I am creating in the sewing room I am at peace, the world outside no longer exists. I want that feeling in my photography, but right now it feels like a struggle. Those around me poopoo my endeavors to become a professional photographer as if I’m not making any money at it so it is just a hobby.

    2) I wish I had more time to sit and work on my photoshop skills. If I didn’t have to work so hard at it I might find more peace putting whats in my mind to paper.ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2018 - 11:05 am

    Zoe - Yes, yes and yes. I have spent the majority of my life doing stuff to pay the bills and not pursuing creative endeavours as much as I would like because I suffered from ‘wasted time’ syndrome. It’s not easy to spend time doing something creative when you know that there may not be a reward at the end of it, especially when you have real responsibilities. And especially when you flit from creative project to creative project. I don’t have an answer, only that, keep at it. Keep writing. It took me an age to be able to call myself a writer but I’ve got my first book out at the end of the month and it feels magnificent. Much love and I’m so pleased to have found your insta account and this blog. xReplyCancel

  • April 6, 2018 - 4:30 pm

    Andrea - This resonates with me on so many levels. When I first started photography I did it for pure joy. Somewhere along the way I felt I had to start justifying why I was creating. It doesn’t always have to be money – the last real body of work I produced was over a year ago when I was studying photography – because I was a “photography student” I could justify spending time creating, because it had a “legitimate” purpose. I had to postpone my course to return to work because I felt the stable income was a greater need. Now I feel like if I’m going to spend time on photography I have to make it something commercially viable with the aim of building a career out of it – my brain tells me the only way it would now fit into my life would be if I were able to leave my job to pursue it. This has lead to me second guessing everything I create based on it’s “marketability” and “saleability”. I have produced images that people like and that may be technically good but to me they lack soul and so they don’t fill the void that creating used to fill. Only in the last month has my frustration and sadness about this situation come to a point where a concept for a new body of work has started to emerge – darker and deeper but honest. Each time I start to plan, to dedicate time and space to creating it I fight the battle of “wasting time”, of lack of self cofidence, of inadequacy. This morning I asked my husband for his help with a shoot and was able to do so without giving any justification other than “I have an image in my head that needs to come out”. Reading this post has helped me feel that spending time on something that does nothing other than calm my mind and feed my soul is worth the time and energy it takes. Thank you Brooke.ReplyCancel

  • April 7, 2018 - 8:12 am

    Angie Lambert - You speak to me immediately, with the title. Are You Wasting Time?
    Yes, I am wasting time.
    I flag the email, not reading it entirely.
    Days pass.
    I come back.
    Your raw question is rubbing like salt a painful wound. Where do we begin to transition from an artful hobby into a guiltless career? I gave up the stressful, unfulfilling job of 20 plus years. I was in it for the wrong reasons. I am a creative spirit, often socially awkward but loving human with a soulful, hopeful heart. Wishful that this unquenchable want to create photographs that touch emotions of others could leave me feeling less guilty. The quilt. You say it correctly, Brooke. To charge for services is a challenge, at best. Is the work good enough? Am I good enough? Perhaps it is indeed a self-value issue.
    It’s a puzzle of sorts. Now, I am laughing. I escape one career which is emotional unfulfilling but financially generous. Attempt to begin an artful photography career to find emotional fulfillment only to see this guilt you are describing is a real thing through which to navigate. In reality, the photography needs to make money. There I said it. It is a need. We need to be financially responsible for ourselves, producing an income for ourselves, allowing extra to share with others.
    I am at the point of opening a little studio at home. I have the space ready. We live in the woods. There are generous organic options for creative photo shoots, having weekend workshops, and offering innovative escapes to others of our tribe. I love having a homeful of like-minded humans. That inspires me. Sharing fulfills me. Helping others feel safe and see their beauty completes me. It sounds like I am unrealistic, I know. But this is candid. This is real. This is the human that I am.
    Today, this morning. This human needs direction, advice, and comfort. A life plan. A confirmation that living a creative life in this organic environment is not just a pipedream but a successful employment opportunity, as well.

  • April 13, 2018 - 11:01 am

    Ruth Butler - Thank you Brooke for pulling me out of my funk. My goal is to pay it forward with great art and inspiration.ReplyCancel

  • April 13, 2018 - 11:21 am

    Ruth Butler - I am also looking to share postive feedback (and struggles– but an emphasis on moving forward) with another(s) in our journey.
    if it’s ok to post this is my email ruth 7 0 2 @ a o l dot com without the spaces of course.
    please get in touch.ReplyCancel

  • April 20, 2018 - 11:41 am

    Ann Vargas - Hi Brooke, can I relate? I can relate with what you write a thousandfold! I have too many passions too, and struggle with which ones to persue. I have an essay that I’m working on about the cause and nature of evil. And I’m working on a little book about the psychological/spiritual seasons we go through in life. I have a greeting card line that needs developing and expanding. And a blog that has been sorely neglected….I’m overwhelmed to the point that nothing gets done at all and I go shopping instead. Thanks, Brooke, for your constant words of encouragement and inspiration.ReplyCancel

I suddenly went from almost never reading to reading 45 books in a year. This blog post is about how to achieve that kind of result…I think.

I went from doing a job that I hated to a job that I loved.
I went from letting emails pile for months to answering on a 24 hour cycle.
I went from never keeping receipts to doing taxes monthly.
I went from being judgmental and difficult to easy going.

A week ago my husband said something to me that surprised me. He told me that one of the things he loves most about me is my willingness to change. I had never seen myself that way before, but since he saw it, I thought it was time to try. I asked for examples, and what I listed above is some of what he said.

Sometimes we are stubborn, difficult animals. We cling to who we are because that’s all we know. We don’t want to be surprised by the one thing we can control: ourselves.

I’ve always had a misplaced and singular view that I am right. About what, you might ask? Anything? Everything?
Anyone else ever feel that way?

…I felt certain about how we should feel, how we should act, what kind of life is the best life, what kind of life is the worst.

I didn’t listen to opinions very easily. I was not going to let myself be molded by someone else.

At some point in the last half a decade, I became savvy to the idea that there is always more to learn. I became obsessed with curiosity. I wanted to be better than the person I was. And I realized something important: In order to be a better person, I had to see myself from another vantage point.

I started to look at my life from a bird’s perspective…and since I’m a visual person, I mean that very literally. I pretended I was looking down at my life from above and I noted what I saw. What did my routines look like? How was I treating the people around me? Where did I spend most of my time, and for how long? Did I look good or unhealthy? What areas of my life were causing stress, and alternately, joy?

I am a big fan of the idea that having fewer amazing parts of your life is better than having many mediocre ones. I don’t keep a lot of close friends, I don’t have a lot of hobbies. Simply put, I don’t make time for what doesn’t serve me.

How, then, do I know what serves me?

  1. Give yourself an honesty pep-talk. Being honest with yourself is extremely difficult. It means that you have to acknowledge years of expectations (your own and others) and be willing to throw them away. It means you have to be willing to take chances where before you would never. Honesty is a difficult thing. It is much easier to keep living a lie than to shift into a space of truth. The moment you admit the truth, it becomes real.
  2. Write a list of ONLY 3 priorities. Hint: It is okay for money to be one of them. How much money, however, is up for debate. Your lifestyle and what you’re used to may not factor in anymore. If you had to limit yourself to only 3 priorities in your life – the ones that give you the most joy – what are they? Mine are: Creativity, Conversation, Home.
  3. Imagine yourself on your deathbed. Really – imagine that you are an old man or woman and you’ve made it to the other side of this life, the finish line. You’re happy and relatively healthy and you’re looking back at what you’ve done. What does it look like? What did your life shape up to be? What events defined it? What choices moved it forward? When you examine your best life (note, not said in the offhanded way that I’ve been seeing a lot of) can you map out the decisions that need to take place to get you there?

Once you’ve figured out what serves you, it’s time to change. I mean really change.

I’m very fortunate because commitment has always been high on my short strengths list. When my husband and I decided at 16 that we wanted to get married, we were dead serious (we’ve been together 15 years this year). When I decided I wanted to quit my job and become a photographer, I did it fast and I did it wholeheartedly (that was 8 years ago). When I switched from an entirely meat-eating diet to vegan overnight, it was not so much a choice as a compulsion (that was 6 years ago). I can commit.

But when I break down why I’m able to commit, it has less to do with natural abilities and more to do with vision. I can commit to something because I can see the future.

Not like a psychic. More like an old soul.

It is very easy for me to see a choice and then see how the consequences of each choice will impact my life. If this doesn’t come easy for you, I recommend getting trained up in the ways of visionary know-how. This is not to say I always get it right (who does?) but that I work at it a lot.

How do we become more proficient in seeing our future?

We dream. We dream often, we dream big, we dream small, we manifest.

That might sound crazy but it is the truth. If we take time to think about the questions I asked above, about our priorities and our wishes and our lives, we start to understand exactly the type of life we want to live. That knowledge becomes available to us in ways that it wasn’t before. It becomes a part of who we are and will be. Dreaming shapes our future so that when we get there, we’re ready.

Here is something predictable about humans: the more we sit with something, the more comfortable we become. Unless it’s clowns.

If we let an idea settle in our minds, it becomes less and less intimidating to carry out. If we keep the same friends for a long time, we become comfortable. If we do the same job for years, we find ourselves in a routine.

The natural conclusion, then, is this: If you let yourself dream of your perfect life often enough, then taking the steps to actually achieve it are more likely to happen. It has already happened in your mind plenty of times like practice runs.

I set out about 1.5 hours ago to write a blog about how to read more books in a year. After I started digging to figure out how one does that, I realized that this isn’t a post about how to read more books in a year. That is a side effect, yes, but it is so much deeper. The person who can make a change like that, which indicates a true commitment and reversal of bad habits, is not JUST someone who begins reading a lot of books. It is someone who takes a huge tug on the reigns of their life.

How did I start reading 45 books a year?

I forced myself to look honestly at what I wanted in my life.
I wrote down my priorities.
I shaped my life.

All to make time for reading.

(The background of this is that I want to be a writer, and I believed I needed to be a reader to be a good writer, so I made a change that would lead to my successful future).

So you see, it was never about reading. It was about what I value in my life, where I want my life to go, and how I want to get there.


All three of those priorities point me in the direction I need to go. For every idea I have, I ask myself this simple question: Does this idea serve one or more of my three priorities? If yes, I move forward. If not, I let it go.

What serves you?
I’d really like to hear your feelings on this topic.

  • March 27, 2018 - 10:10 am

    Wendy Baker - Thank you for your insight and the offer to slow down to pay attention to what matters to me. Another great exercise.

    Mine are:

    In the coming days, weeks, years I will strive to bring the question to my choices– “Does this serve one or more of my chosen priorities?” Feels free and clear.ReplyCancel

  • March 27, 2018 - 11:17 am

    Sonia - What a great blog to start the day. Thank you for sharing!

    I try to self reflect often but I have pulled away lately. This was a great reminder to take a look at what is important in my life; where I am and where I want to go. I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I gave it up when I was a kid because I didn’t believe I could make any money doing it. Of course, I know better now. BUT I move forward cautiously and I think that is hindering me. 🙁

    As you suggested, I will carve out time during the week to dedicate to creating art.

    My priorities:
    – Money (financial freedom)
    – Creativity
    – Health (getting older and feeling it)

    Love your work and glad I signed up for your blog.ReplyCancel

  • March 27, 2018 - 12:24 pm

    Cindee - Self: I have spent the most of my life carry for others both emotionally and financially. It’s my turn! I am taking care of me now I’m nearly 56.

    Craft: I want to hone my craft, distill it down and be and artist.

    Money: I would like to make enough to cover my photography expenses at minimum, my retirement covers living costs and some fun too, so my photography should cover itself :}

    I am embarking on a life adventure, I have sold most of my worldly possessions and bought a big truck and fifth wheel trailer. My dog TJ and I will be setting off in May to become camp hosts, where I hope to find my happy. I will be making images and honing my craft along the way.ReplyCancel

  • March 27, 2018 - 12:25 pm

    Monica - I love this but, I really wanted to know in a practical way how you went feom 1 book to 45. Like, what is yor reading routine? Do you read in small chunks or big chunks? Etc.ReplyCancel

    • March 27, 2018 - 12:37 pm

      brookeshaden - Great question! I have a fair amount of flexibility because I work from home and I don’t have kids. That said, whenever I feel a lull in my work day, like I’m not paying the best attention or I could be more focused (I try to be very aware of this), I read. Usually that lasts for about 15 minute increments. I read while dinner is cooking, before bed, and often after my work day for about 30 minutes. All in all, I read for about an hour everyday. On Wednesdays, however, I dedicate a lot of the day to reading (an average of 5 hours), because that is my day “off” to find inspiration and study my craft. I hope that helps!ReplyCancel

    • March 27, 2018 - 12:39 pm

      brookeshaden - Oh and one more big thing! I used to spend those “lacking focus” moments during work on social media. Now I’ve put a limit on how long I can be on Instagram and Facebook from my computer (a total of 15 minutes a day) and instead I spend those times reading. It’s been awesome!ReplyCancel

  • March 27, 2018 - 1:11 pm

    Amy - This really helped me today! I have been thinking a lot about what will better serve my goals. I have kicked out several of my hobbies recently that I felt were distracting me from my most important goals (I’m one of those people with way too many interests) so that I could really focus on what brings me the most joy. My list is a little longer than 3, but they tie together nicely so I will categorize!

    Creativity- For me this is art photography, storytelling (through my images as well as writing poetry), and playing drums (I love music passionately, and this feels like something I couldn’t forgive myself for not pursuing) consistently for relaxation and just to feed my soul.

    Health – Eating well, being more active, nourishing my soul as well as my mind and body. Being a better person (kinder, more compassionate) is also something I am working for, and I love hearing how you changed in so many of these ways as well.

    Adventure – I get this through the process of creating, as my imagination is quite an adventure all by itself. I’m working on structuring a life that gives me more of that by creating my career to support my art and to be able to travel the world in the process. Reading more is one of my goals here as well.

    Thank you for your heartfelt words, you are always such an inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • March 27, 2018 - 1:28 pm

    Gallagher Green - Not to belittle all of your other incredible blog posts, but this may be the best post I have read yet. It is incredible, it really hits home for me. So inspiring and some of the best advice I have ever heard.
    I think my three things will have to be;
    Wealth (not just meaning money)
    Creativity (not trying to steal from your list)
    Nature (the complete and utter love of nature has been a constant through my whole life)

    I always envision and plan the future, and I see little manifestations moving me the direction of what I envision. I still go to French real estate websites and shop through the chateau listings, because I have no doubt that I will buy one.

    Your husband was right when he said to you “he loves most about me is my willingness to change.” that is most likely the best trait a person can have. Willingness to change is truly the mark of wisdom.

    I have had a Photo idea for a while now, but have been making excuses for why I haven’t done it. When I really just haven’t gotten up the nerve. But after reading this I am going to go start on it, because it serves me! Thanks!!!ReplyCancel

  • March 27, 2018 - 8:59 pm

    Anna - This resonates so deeply with me right now. I’m shaping my life too and for once commiting to what I want to do. I was never all I’m but this past year, something inside me changed (ironically after promoting passion). I’m all in with my art. I just resigned from my job to do the one thing Ive always wanted to be, a full-time artist. I used to read 0 books a year and have set a goal of 24 for this year. I’m 5 books in so far with two more that I’m reading right now. My three focuses are: creativity, home and freedom. However my “why” is to leave this world a better place than I found it by inspiring others to have the courage to follow their hearts. Thank you for being you. You’ve changed my life in more ways than you’ll ever know or that I’ll be able to thank you for.ReplyCancel

  • March 29, 2018 - 12:05 am

    Shruti - Your words gave me something important to think about. I love your thoughts and they always help me a lot. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2018 - 7:30 am

    Make Motivation Your Superpower » Promoting Passion - […] PRIORITIES. My decisive nature and enormous passion collide to make it easy for me to choose priorities and let them shine. Be honest with yourself about what you want, how you will get it, and then learn to follow through (yes, I realize that is the whole point of this post – FOLLOW THROUGH – so read on, comrades!). More on this topic in an earlier post. […]ReplyCancel

“Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.”
– Mary Shelly, Frankenstein

As I drink in Frankenstein, a true classic and purveyor of great human truths such as Mary Shelly reminds me that there are mysteries of our nature that even hundreds of years ago people were grappling with. What changes with us, at the most fundamental and basic level, is universal. Time passes and science moves forward, but what we feel, what makes our essence (which is to say, in part, the curiosities which give us momentum), is the same as it always was.

The quote above gave me pause and took up a great deal of time on my flight from New Jersey to Zurich. I found myself continually going back to reread it, and to wonder what my life would have been in the event that I had listened to that advice.

I remember, growing up, that I was never a person who desired to leave her hometown. I never fancied myself a world traveler, never considered I would have a profession that dealt in intangibles and conceptual follies. I was always grounded, stable, safe. So, so safe.

My sister, ever the dreamer, couldn’t wait to get out of our town. But I wanted to stay. I didn’t want to upset my parents, didn’t want to venture into the unknown. I wanted a safe life.

What changed in me? What made me dream? What made me want more? And if I had listened to Victor Frankenstein, would I have stayed?

Once you discover that the place you’ve always known is not all there is, you cannot un-know that. It is a pervasive knowledge that seeps into your understanding of all things.

But this knowledge goes beyond place or thing. It is inside us.

I am not all that I can be. I can be more. I will be more.

That is the true knowledge that drives us forward to discovery.
Perpetual discovery is the forward motion of humanity.
Continued curiosity is the growth of an individual.

Now on the other side of the knowledge that there is always, always more out there, I wonder: How many people will never discover this? Like Victor says, are they happier?

I have witnessed the turmoil that some people experience at being awakened to the vastness of life. It is the weight that crushes us if our position does not match our desired rank. I have watched people cower in fear at the idea that they might have greatness in them. I have watched people deny their gifts in favor of avoiding disappointment. If you do not believe you are special, you do not have to live up to that standard.

I was sixteen when I was awakened to my potential, when I started to become aware that there was more in the world than what I knew or saw or felt.

Two things happened then.

One, I took a filmmaking class. I started to consider where films were made, the history of film, what my imagination might possess, and where that might take me. I made films about death, films that were unknowingly noir and filled with montages of darkness and turmoil. I unleashed an imagination that I was only peripherally familiar with, and I loved it. I loved my imagination like it was my greatest gift (and, I believe, it is).

Two, I met my husband. I don’t know if any one particular thing happened, if any singular event awoken me to the world, except this: I knew that I was beginning a love so great that it didn’t fit in between the cracks. It was explosive.

“…the history books forgot about us, and the bible didn’t mention us, not even once…”
– Samson by Regina Spektor

What awakens us might be something small and seemingly insignificant. We might not be remembered for what fuels us. But if you find a semblance of your place in the world, and if that place exceeds what you have been taught to live within, break free.

Break free.

Have you had a moment where you realized
you wanted to do or be something more?

What was that defining moment in your life?

  • March 9, 2018 - 5:30 pm

    Laila - The picture you started this blogpost with, just says is all… Climbing out of darkness, to discover the opportunities of the world, is the starting point of so many creative souls out there… and not just the starting point. I believe that we always come back to this view, this horizon. We discover our strengths and our desire to create, to do something extraordinary, to be something extraordinary, but then life catches up and keeps us busy with other things for a while. Luckily, we always come back to this origin point, knowing who we are, and why we are here. To think that we can always be more, is inspiring, scary or comforting, depending on where we are at this exact moment.
    Right now I am at the point of climbing out of darkness, trying to remember how to be the fearless version of myself who enjoyed skydiving from 15000 ft on the other side of the planet on the 9th of March many years ago….ReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2018 - 9:17 pm

    Gallagher Green - When I first listened to “Frankenstein” (audiobook) that exact quote really grasped me hard, it is really incredible! Thanks for reminding me of it. 🙂
    To things popped into my head when I read this post,
    #1 The song “I want to break free” by Queen.
    #2 Have you ever read “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin? If not, you should. It is one of my all-time favorites! And also a true classic.
    I don’t know if it was ever one or two things that changed me. I was just like you though, was perfectly happy with the idea of staying where I grow up in Kansas my whole life. But something inside of me gradually started waking up, I don’t know what it is, or even when it started. But now I am planning on settling in France now, I have never been there. But something just keeps telling me that’s where I belong, it’s just a gut feeling, but that enough.
    A big change was when I started to write, I sure didn’t like writing when I was school age. But I did a group story thing on a forum once to waste time in the winter, and I really liked it. Then it turned out that one of the people on the forum is a very successful writer, she said my wright had a lot of potentials. Now bigger story ideas got to writing and the little ones for photos. That was a big pivot for me.ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2018 - 1:35 pm

    Julie - Brooke, as always, I love reading your blog. You are always so inspiring on so many levels. While reading your blog, I’m thinking, “Oh, this person would benefit from this read, and this friend will totally be inspired, oh, and wait, this other friend, she will truly be uplifted.” So, I usually forward your email to friends, and yep, I’m always on target with those feelings. So, hmmm, I remember the first time I felt like there was something out there I was supposed to embrace. I wasn’t completely sure what that looked like, or even what words to use to describe that thing, that purpose, that me. I can confidently say that I’m still searching for what that looks like and how to embrace it. I know for sure that people will not write books about me, or get an affirmative answer when someone says, “Hey, do you know Julie ….” But, I do know that I need to create art, put a piece of my soul within the creative process, and move forward with love and passion. Well, there is loads for me to ponder on and how to propel myself forward. Blessings on your endeavors in Greece and Thailand; what a great adventure you must be having.ReplyCancel

  • April 5, 2018 - 10:06 am

    Themba - I qualified as a jewellery designer in 2014, but i always felt a hug gap within me. As a student i never understood why a piece of jewellery could only be jewellery. So from 2015 onward i started exploring in different materials, in different disciplines. I’m now striving to be “jack of all trades master of integration”. It’s very fulfilling to be able to express yourself through different mediums. I’m learning to use photography as a tool, fashion as a tool, writing as a tool, etc. I have learned from master nature. Nature is the greatest genius. she always finds ways to put things to use. when i make bag, leftover can be used for making jewelry or other items. I’m content.ReplyCancel