I’m part of this wonderful little group of photographers who I travel with each year. We met in France, went to Iceland, and most recently met up in the U.S. The group proposed that we do a December self-portrait challenge – a self-portrait every day for the month of December. I enthusiastically said yes, and then when December first came I forgot all about it until there was almost no light left! I realized it was going to be much harder than I anticipated unless I really got my head in the game.
I took the challenge more seriously than most, as I do most things, wanting to create something unique, special and actually good every day. My favorite images that the group posted, though, were regular “selfies” just showing daily life. It was so nice to get a glimpse.
In my earnestness and complete dedication I have learned several things about myself during this challenge.
- Forcing creativity gets you to think a lot more.
I spent time every single day, either before I finished work or in the mornings, just sitting and staring at my blank wall. I did more research on my inspirations, I spent more time in my own head, and I really ruminated there. It felt amazing to carve time out to just think – dedicated time – and with intent. How often do you actually stop and think for an extended amount of time? How often do you force yourself to create? I was never a big fan of it until this challenge, and while I wouldn’t keep it up full time, it is nice to have an end date in sight and really commit. By spending that time thinking more deeply, I was able to remind myself day after day of how I create, why I create, what my inspirations are, and why those things are important. I was instantly happier, more connected to myself, and had more energy. I’m not just saying those things, either. I had spent all of October and November in a funk for personal reasons, and this challenge picked me up and gave me purpose again.
- Accomplishment feels better after commitment. There was one day when I was road tripping out to California. I had stopped along the way to take some shots even though it was in direct sunlight in the desert – not my thing. When I got back in the car the images wouldn’t load in my computer, and I had to redo the shoot. I didn’t get that chance until about 8pm that night, and I had to scramble to figure out what to do. The more nervous I got the less inspired I got and time kept ticking on. My friends kept telling me to just let it go and skip a day, but I couldn’t. I’m not the type of person that can give up on a commitment. I ended up finishing my image that day at 11pm, and while it is definitely one of the worst in the bunch, I am so proud that I did it. Commitment should mean something, and too often it doesn’t. In fact, I don’t know many people who honestly and fully keep their commitments. I’m certainly no saint, but this project taught me a lot about the importance of keeping them not only for those you promised, but for yourself as well.
- Ideas really do come out of thin air…well, sort of. As I was continuing on in the project (which is so much less than a 365 or something like that, but that’s another story), people kept asking me how I come up with a new idea every day. The fact is, that while each idea was conceived of within 24 hours of the image, they weren’t magical. They weren’t totally out of thin air. I am extremely in touch with my inspirations. I know what excites me. I know why I create, how I like to create, and what it means to me. I know myself and my creativity really, really well. And that has taken years of practice. I have studied myself like a scholar would study a book, so I understand each chapter and what it means. From that place, I can more easily pull ideas. I can look into the themes that I love, the symbolism that I connect with, and the more obvious things like the locations/wardrobe/props that I like, and put image ideas together from there. So while some days I stared at a blank wall until something came to me, it is only because a lot of work had been done up until that point that I was able to access it.
I still have another 4 days left in the challenge, but I wanted to share now in anticipation of an end-of-the-year post. I’ve got a major workload these next few days, but every day I am carving out time to be creative and have fun which makes life so worthwhile. Maybe one day I’ll start one of these publicly so that we can do it together. Until then, my loves.
If you want to follow along for the final days I’m posting all of the images on Instagram – the good, bad and ugly – along with Instagram stories about creating each day!