Rough Waters

Rough Waters

“Rough Waters”, self-portrait taken in Brazil, April 2017, background from Iceland (2015).

I am so worried all the time that I will never again create something that is meaningful to me. I spend days thinking and thinking, hours staring at blank walls. My husband walks into my office as I’m sat in the middle of my floor, staring. He backs out slowly. There is nothing to say to me. I am within myself, brooding.

I travel through Brazil and teach workshops. At some points I feel like a fraud. I teach, but I feel stuck. The best I can do is be honest about that with the students. I tell them I know my process but that what I will do next is out of my reach.

I drive through Brazil to a remote location with my dad. I come up with a new novel idea that excites me so much I can hardly sleep. I excitedly chat to my husband about it and he adds even better details. I wake up wanting to write, but I look around at my surroundings and I feel guilty. I am looking out over a huge river, a myriad of birds and vegetation, and an old, crumbling house that I call home for a few days. Why don’t I take pictures?

As I watch the water I begin to see the metaphor emerging. There is a cure to the unknown in it. The key, I see so clearly, is not to hold on to inspiration tightly. It is to know when to let go.

As an artist, we should not seek to contain our inspiration. We should seek to know when we are riding a wave and when we are trying to catch one. Or, simply, when we are in calm waters awaiting a storm.

Right now I see my photography as a wave I am trying to catch. I paddle hard and fast but each time it comes I miss it. The wave isn’t right. That wave was meant for someone else. I sit and wait again, I try again, and still it is wrong. I feel like I’m not on water at all, but some dried up space that leaves me wedged between rocks. There is maturity in recognizing this process. There is peace in it. I find acceptance of the self in giving permission to wait for the right wave.

My change in mind is a beautiful thing. It means I have moved on to another level of creating. No longer am I satisfied with easy concepts and beautiful locations. I want something more than cheap clicks. I desire to be challenged.

I am sitting looking at the river. It is constantly changing. It is never the same river at any two moments. This is why I have always been connected to my name. I am constantly changing. I am chasing myself into new forms. I may not even be me, anymore.

Now I’m home, finishing these thoughts after having created. I did explore Brazil, and I did take pictures. I was inspired, all at once knowing that what I would create would not be my best. Sometimes we do not seek to create our best work, but to create at all. Sometimes creations are stepping stones to what we are meant to do, and they are no less special despite their lack of staying power. They are beautiful in their own way.

Where are you in your creation process?
Riding a wave or trying to catch one?


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18 thoughts on “Rough Waters

  1. I’ve recently discovered this blog and the promoting passion videos you’ve made and they’ve been an incredible help to me. I feel supported and comforted hearing your words and it’s helped me push my limits. I started a selfportrait project as a way of coping, kinda like therapy and now months in I want to do more, create things that are really meaningful to me and some days I feel like it’s all settling in the right place in my head, some days it’s like the wind knocks me off my feet and I need to take a step back. I have taken lots of pictures this past week, but something’s keeping me from editing. So I’m trying to let go and catching the wave as soon as it rushes past.

    Thank you so much for these words.


    1. Geetha, that means more to me than I could possibly say. Thank you for being here. I love that you are proactive in your approach to creativity and that you recognize this ebb and flow. I’m inspired by you today!

  2. I love this blog post Brooke! You just created an amazing series and poured so much of yourself into it. Maybe you now need to recharge. I can’t wait to see what you create in the future <3 .

    I've been writing down ideas all throught the dark winter and now that there's light again, I can start actually working on them. I love all these ideas I have and they feel so perfect in my imagination. I'm so scared that they won't turn out as good in reality. At the same time I can't wait to get started!

    Much love!

  3. Hi Brooke,
    I completely hear you on this…I think this is the great mystery of creating. We run, we chase, we pause and then we run again. And pause some more. It’s like trying to catch the tail of a dragon. A beautiful and mysterious dragon.

    Best to you,

  4. Rough waters indeed!:)

    Sometimes I’m impressed by your posts are so assertive about what I face right now!

    So, how’s your art? Someone asked me recently! I said I had only done 2 works this year! And I’m still with these two works yet! I have not done anything else until now! And that starts to worry me! As you know, I am always immersed in projects and soon another will come. This involved more focus on that projects than creating images. I have felt that I have evolved in my last images and I am afraid now that there may be a setback in this evolution. And I say this because I would like to create more this year and I have ideas for it! However, when I try to idealize this idea in an image, I cannot! I do not feel inspiration and the flame of creativity inside me! Am I losing my will? What is happening to not go ahead and create again? In recent weeks, I have gone several times to shoot, but nothing comes out right! Frustrating! Yesterday was one more of those days and I returned home with hope! Was it the right wave?! Have a nice week!

    Stay well!

  5. Thanks for sharing your vulnerabilities with us. I was just brooding about my insecurities and my lack then I read your blog post like a ray of light. I may not be at your level, but it helps me to know that you and everyone in the comments feels themselves in a low dark place. Whenever I see your posts, I know the act of picking up my camera will help me see the light (literally!).

    I also want to admit to you my deepest fear is to do self portraits. I have been planning to do it as an ongoing project but have been putting it off for years. I have been waiting to lose weight, get prettier, and become younger. I know I am a talented retoucher and that I should share my magic with myself. I know that I am blocked by an enormous amount of fear. I am going to do it. Admitting it to you is my first step…

  6. I love your transparency! I have recently been feeling like I’m equally on both ends of this spectrum where I am riding a wave and trying to catch one all the same. I look back at my old work and it doesn’t feel satisfying enough anymore, yet, I still have a sense of pride about it. Growing pains are definitely a very real thing.

    Thank you, Brooke, for being all that you are. September cannot get here quick enough!


  7. You absolutely take my breath away! If I did a self-portrait right now, I think I would be standing very close to the edge of a high cliff with the ocean raging below. My gown swirls around me and one lone curl of ribbon ripples within my reach to keep me on land but I can’t seem to raise my hand to grab on to it!

    I love photography – it’s food for my soul as I see it is for you – – need to have my own business as I am being pulled in so many directions in my personal life that would help to have my own schedule – just feel paralyzed on how to go about it. I look to those like you for my inspiration! Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

  8. Hello Dear Brooke,
    Yes, your name certainly fits the flowing and adventurous nature of your spirit. Your shared ‘stream’-of-consciousness on your river trip gave me the vision of you enjoying these watery worlds that are guiding you around the next bend, although blind to what it may bring. It made me think I too should be content as Inspiration takes its own course and time. The imagery you inspired in me, was that of you floating in a river of watercolors. Your physical and creative travels were each adding a new pigment to your brush from the river’s source. Although you (I, we) may be wondering what new creation this brush will make, for now, just gathering the lucious hues – loading the colors onto the brush, is enough… is perfect, is necessary. I know you will find the right canvas for your ever flowing creativity. You are a Brooke of Inspiration, and as you gift it to us, it seems to be the type of current that flows back as well.

    Best Wishes Always,
    Denise Jensen

  9. I JUST read this post and feel it is meaningful to you where you are at in your journey. I call this “The Creative Storm” (so funny that you are here depicted in a boat without water) and it’s where my brain runs ramped full of ideas that don’t connect. Lately, I’ve discovered that the ideas just need to be attached to an emotion or a challenge I haven’t met with yet and that’s ok. They will be born when they are ready. The post I found said something to the extent that when nothing seems to go right it’s the negative energy around us as it leaves and will soon bring us clarity.

    As usual, I’m in owe of your work, your truth and your heart. ✨


  10. Dear Brooke, I have awoken this morning to an email regarding your new blog post and it feels like you have been reading my mind as I have been filled with such dissatifaction with my work of late, so envious of other’s successes yet so concious at the lack of mine and my inability to sell even one piece of my artwork. I sit and try to find inspiration yet fail to find it and I can’t decide whether I should be trying another style of art in an attempt to become satisfied again. Yet something holds me back, be it ability in technique, lacking the creative mind or am I just waiting for that wave on my own familiar sea. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with all of us. Your vunerability brings the mother out in me and I just want to hold you close and tell you how very special you are as you give so much of yourself in your art and to artists around the world. Thank you. Best wishes. Ann Wehner

  11. I appreciate your candor, transparency and honesty in the sharing of your journey as an artist. I would not even begin to put into words .in this season of my life, what I have been feeling or articulate it clearly. Reading this gave me a sense of relief, as I can identify with much of what you said.

  12. Such a wonderful blog post, Brooke. I wish every artist I admire was as honest and happy to share both their successes and their challenges as you are!
    The wave analogy really struck me – it’s definitely how I feel. Right now, I feel like I’m there, in the ocean, watching the waves go by one after the other. But, it’s that I don’t have the skills to catch that next wave, or I haven’t made enough time, or I’m just too scared that the ride won’t be as wonderful as I’ve conjured it in my head. I’m not too worried, though – the more I do this creative work, the more I recognise the ebb and flow. Thanks again for your beautiful words and images.

  13. Hi Brooke,
    Get topic Brooke. When we met in Melbourne at your retreat, I was so sure that I would follow your lead into conceptual fine art. I was so sure!! You inspired me, and began taking self portraits to put in myself into my art. But that one small thing changed everything. After spending a whole year studying portraiture so I could take decent shots of myself, I finally did. But as soon as I could make myself beautiful in portraits, I knew I wanted to do that for other women too. So now I am a portrait photographer. I use my digital editing skills in a different way, so make beautiful artistic portraits for people. Who knew 12 months ago that I would change directions this way. We just never know what is around the corner. Just keep walking forward and the path will be revealed to all of us. Love and Hugs Hazel.

  14. Dear Brooke, I am so happy that you share your thoughts and insecurities with others! Sometimes it’s so frustrating to see many others succeed where you (I) do not and that can make me feel insecure. You know, there has been a time I didn’t want to pick up my camera anymore and photography has always been in my blood! I have learned to let go of the NEED to create. If I push it, my inspiration is poor so if I don’t feel/see the ‘wave to ride on’ I go and do something else because I know it will return when my head is clearer.

  15. I can’t believe it took two days to find time to read this post! 🙁
    That exciting that you have an new idea for a novel, it is just wonderful when an idea just pops into your head like that, I love it when that happens.
    Right now I feel like I am waiting for the wave. I just haven’t been in a creative mood for some reason.

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