Swallowing the Sun: For you the Creative Folk

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Here’s the thing, I love my job.

There are moments that it hits me, I’m a photographer, or to state it in journalist lingo-a photojournalist.

It is weird to call myself this. Its hard to roll this around my tongue and let it spew out into the world, as though uttering it will cause the world to stop spinning on an axis-because I haven’t accepted it myself.

A couple of weeks ago I was walking back toward my car after dropping off my pictures in the newsroom. I don’t know what it was about that day but something crept inside me and told me, “You aren’t good enough.” That’s all it took to unravel me, shake me, and strip me of what little confidence I held, as what do you call it?-oh yeah-as a photographer.

I was so rattled that when a homeless man stopped me I had to ask him to repeat his question.

“Excuse me, sorry what did you say?”

“I said are you like a photographer?”

I looked down at the Canon hanging around my neck, and stroked the lens, “Yeah I guess you can say that.”

We talked, it must have been like half an hour. Mostly, on his hardships and the sadness he felt and I felt it too. He had dropped out of law school, and he believed he wasn’t good enough to go back.

And that’s the crux of it isn’t it friends? We quit halfway through something because we don’t believe in our capacities, because we compare and believe the other guy is better than us.

When this homeless man stopped me and asked me if I was a photographer, I couldn’t even admit it myself. You see, we examine ourselves too closely. Living a creative life-or in other words to have a job that requires even the most remote of creativity fills us with paralyzing fear. Fear because there is no formula to creativity, art, photography, writing. All of these forms are so subjective- the beauty found in the eyes of each individual beholder.

What made Andy Warhol famous won’t make you or I famous, we are not Andy Warhol.

We push ourselves too hard, and give ourselves impossible standards, its like asking ourselves to swallow the sun. Impossible.

Or like Elizabeth Gilbert says:

So when I heard that story it started to shift a little bit the way that I worked too, and it already saved me once. This idea, it saved me when I was in the middle of writing “Eat, Pray, Love,” and I fell into one of those, sort of pits of despair that we all fall into when we’re working on something and it’s not coming and you start to think this is going to be a disaster, this is going to be the worst book ever written. Not just bad, but the worst book ever written. And I started to think I should just dump this project. But then I remembered Tom talking to the open air and I tried it. So I just lifted my face up from the manuscript and I directed my comments to an empty corner of the room. And I said aloud, “Listen you, thing, you and I both know that if this book isn’t brilliant that is not entirely my fault, right? Because you can see that I am putting everything I have into this, I don’t have any more than this. So if you want it to be better, then you’ve got to show up and do your part of the deal. O.K. But if you don’t do that, you know what, the hell with it. I’m going to keep writing anyway because that’s my job. And I would please like the record to reflect today that I showed up for my part of the job.”

It might seem strange to think of her yelling at an empty corner, but you know what friends she has a point. Let me explain:

You see, we have an amazing God who has placed these massive dreams and talents in our lives. Every creative individual has been in the shoes of, “this project/book/I/ are not good enough.” No one is immune. Yet, there are times we need to tell God,

“you can see that I am putting everything I have into this, I don’t have any more than this.”

There will be moments when you have no idea what the heck you are doing, just keep showing up.

Because showing up means you haven’t given up. Because showing up means that no matter what you are too passionate to quit. Because showing up is telling the enemy that you will not let him win. Because in showing up you put your hope in God, and ask him to breathe and work his mysterious ways on what you cannot.

Keep showing up. Keep doing what you love, because there is no one that can do what you can, and remember God is right there with you, no matter the outcome.

Art is beauty, art is yours… and like Charles Pierce says,

To lead a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.

And remember that its okay to push yourself, but by no means can you swallow the sun, and learn to be brave and call yourself what you truly are an artist,

photographer, writer, innovator. 

Best,

-Diana

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