Earlier in the year, I finished reading what very well may be among my favorite literary pieces and just to let you know, a general point of reference as to how I’ve come to establish such a benchmark towards a book is realizing the infinite amount of quotable passages I’ve highlighted from start to finish. The book is called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m sure you’re familiar with Elizabeth from her Eat, Pray, Love success. If I were coerced to summarize what the book is about, I would say it’s by and large one big pep-talk about how to get sh*t done.
This book is for you if creatively you’ve felt stuck in a rut, if you’ve been afraid of failure in your work, if you’ve had difficult creating and putting your work out there and overall if you’re downright having difficulty getting inspired to do the work you can’t imagine not doing. It’s that good! Instead of trying to convince you if it’s greatness or to further attempt to summarize the book, instead I wanted to bring your attention to a passage, a state of mind, a reactionary choice to life which Elizabeth wrote so candidly about. It relates to the portion of a creative life not many people talk about and one which most us make a concerted effort to hide: frustation.
"If you want to be an artist of any sort, it seemed to me, then handling your frustration is a fundamental aspect of the work—perhaps the single most fundamental aspect of the work. Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process. The fun part (the part where it doesn’t feel like work at all) is when you’re actually creating something wonderful, and everything’s going great, and everyone loves it, and you’re flying high. But such instants are rare. You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living. Holding yourself together through all the phases of creation is where the real work lies.”
Sounds pretty straightforward. If you don't attempt to wrap your head around the fact that this inescapable feeling of frustration will in time loom over you then it’s likely your creative journey and mine will only be overfilled with anger and annoyance the whole ride down. As a creative, by default we’re all prone to expecting perfectionism 24/7. Very often the people we actively look up to, we assume they’re on their game 100% of the time, that they’re above ever having to go through frustration anymore and that self-doubt is a thing of the past. The only reason it may seem that way is because we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that saying you’re dealing with sh*t is something that should always be kept classified.
While some of this is true, I firmly believe there’s huge value is being transparent about your plight. You may not become aware of it right away but I can assure you that admitting you don’t have everything figured out and that you equally go through phases where you completely despise everything you’ve created is something people would appreciate tremendously because in their eyes, your work and the way you carry yourself comes across as if you never miss a beat.
I’ve personally have been feeling very dispirited with a lot of what I’ve been photographing lately but luckily I was able to identify why. It’s the story of a place or person that's always led my camera and I to places but lately I feel as though I haven’t hustled enough to find those people and in return it's led me to become frustrated with my work.
As a quick sidenote yet still very related, Nick Onken is a commercial and lifestyle photographer based in New York and who’s work and social media movement I’ve always admired. He recently celebrated his 100th podcast episode and in it, the script was flipped on him because he girlfriend Stacey London interviewed him which served as a way for him to openly reflect and disclose all these little experiences and components in his life which served as a catalyst to where he is now. I’ve listened to him being interviewed in the past but this one was for sure the most transparent I’ve ever heard him be and I encourage you to listen to it as well.
Bottom line: We all deal with frustration and much like Elizabeth’s amazing book Big Magic states, it’s how you’re going to deal with it that’s going to determine whether you’re cut out to do what you so eager say you’re passionate about. Experimentation is a huge part of everything we create and unfortunately some things we always pan out as we envisioned them in our head but it’s up to use to not get too emotionally attached to that idea or else we’ll never get to that space where we’re constantly in that high creating sh*t we’re so proud to share with everyone.
Get the book!