On trust, being Idle and the creative process.

Cape Cod_2013Nov05_0001V2

Fuji X-Pro1 18-55 lens f/8

I’ve been using social media much less. I still enjoy catching up with family and friends and find it to be a good “business” tool, however, the time I was investing was drawing me away from more important things.  I also noticed that I was starting to feel competitive with regard to my photography where there is no place for competition. I was seeing others tremendous work and feeling pressure to produce equal or better quality.  Feeling pressure to post yet another post showing I was still active, shooting, making worthwhile images.  Then in some quiet time, I realized this is not who I want to be.  Rather, I want to be able to trust. Trust in my ability to be a good photographer.  I don’t want to feel the need for others accolades or approval.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m human and kind words are alway welcome and feel good. I just don’t what to feel that I must receive them to validate what I’m doing. When I’m asked why I love photography, my answer is that it feeds my soul.  I love the process of making photographs. I love how I feel when I’m out making images whether I get a “keeper” or not. I am finding I shoot much less now. I don’t shoot as many frames.  I’m more in touch with what I’m being drawn to for subject matter. I’m more aware of the light.  I’m more selective about what I want to photograph. I don’t sell much of my work, I don’t try very hard to do so either.  Its just not that important to me.  What is important?  The experiences that I have been blessed with as a photographer. Photography has gifted me with many wonderful friends.  Photography has blessed me with the opportunity to travel to places I never imagined I would.  Photography has blessed me with being a teacher that I never knew I could be.  This has allowed me to share my passion with others, nudging them to soar on their own wings, trusting themselves, believing they can create images that make their hearts sing!  This gives me great joy and makes my heart sing.

As we approach the time of year when we are asked to make goals, might I suggest we forget about them?  Yup, forget about them, at least with your photography life.  Instead, I would encourage you to trust, to believe in yourself and in the creative process. Allow the creative process to happen on its own.  And, know that trusting includes being okay with being idle.  Nancy Rotenberg in her book, Photography and the Creative Life, has this to say about being idle. “Trusting the process also involves daring to be idle.  We live in a culture that views idleness as something slovenly, lazy and non-production.  It is only when you stop and reflect that you can be filled and recharged.  What you photograph today could be the result of yesterday’s “idling”.  The only way to know if awareness is entering your body is for you to slow down long enough to notice.  Awareness gives you mindfulness.  Mindfulness gives you insight.”  Rather than feeling pressure to be creative, be okay with being idle, recognizing this idle time is good. Its okay to have times when you are not producing.  I have written a number of songs.  Oft times months pass before a new song would appear and even then, I would rewrite and change things over and over. Yet, my favorite songs seemed to come from out of nowhere and took just minutes to write. I believe they came out of inspiration, out of being idle and listening. They were not forced. Photography is much the same or at least it should be.  This is really just an extension of what I’ve written about in previous posts with regard to chasing images.  Be open to the creative process rather than chasing it.  Trust your abilities and allow for creativity or images to present themselves. Don’t force it. For those who know me, being idle is not easy, however, as I try and practice it, I find I am more satisfied with the quality of my images. 

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This entry was posted in Cape Cod, Color, Inspiration, Nancy Rotenberg.


  1. Karl December 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    Thanks for opening up your soul. For me also, I enjoy just being out photographing and enjoying the surrounding environment, whether it be an iconic scene or just my back yard. As you always have said, “let the images come to you”. Be patient, be idle … creativity will then come. Thanks again for an insightful lesson.

    • john8276 December 3, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

      Thank you Karl. I have observed you and you do indeed allow this process to happen. WELL DONE!.

  2. al campoli December 3, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Your words were inspiring. We seem to get caught up in everyday “stuff” and lose sight of the creative process. Yes it is good to be idle and we should use that time to recharge our internal batteries. Here’s to a peaceful Holiday Season to all. Enjoy and relax!!

  3. Donald December 3, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    Well said John. I feel exactly the same way and have been practicing a similar approach for some time now and it has been freeing and at the same time I feel more creative because I don’t have all the other crap getting in my head and stealing my joy. As you said, we don’t need the validation from others to make our work worthwhile or worthy. As long as you love what you do and enjoy doing it, what else is there. Good for you for breaking the code and seeing the value in being mindful. Namaste

    • john8276 December 3, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      Thanks for your thoughts Donald.

  4. Chase Dallura December 3, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    Merry Christmas, John. I agree wholeheartedly with your message. Idleness “downtime” gives me the opportunity to “freewheel”, to let my mind do it’s own thing without demands from other sources. I never know where a picture will come from or what form it will take. I don’t have the knowledge yet to capture what I see in my head so lots of experimentation (lots of frames with setting changes) happens. Just taking a picture that I will always have is rewarding in itself and sharing on Flickr is fun. Interacting with you is so valuable and I am grateful that you put yourself “out there” in your blog. Thank you.

    • john8276 December 3, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

      Merry Christmas to you too Chase! Glad the blog is of value to you.

  5. Bruce Sorrell December 3, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    Excellent essay, John ! And the image you paired with your writing is spot on. Title for that photo has to be “Idle.”


    • john8276 December 3, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

      Thanks Bruce. Indeed the image was on purpose.

  6. Karen Messick December 3, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Well said JB.

  7. Scott O December 3, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Very nice essay John. When I went to digital I continued to think like a film photographer. That is, someone who was going to pay to have each image processed. This has caused me to be more selective in what I shoot and has slowed the process down. I take fewer images but the overall quality is better.

  8. Steve Ellis December 3, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    Excellent piece, John, and right on target. And obviously from the heart, too. You should post it every six months or so, as a reminder for us all to keep things in perspective.

    • john8276 December 3, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

      Thanks Steve. Again, I post these things more for me! I need to hear it! 🙂

  9. Joan Herwig December 3, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    Thanks so much John for sharing these thoughts. This is exactly what I needed to hear. As I read your words they became like a healing balm to me.

  10. marty golin December 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    In what will be my shortest post of record… Hear. Hear.

  11. Frank Severa December 3, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    Thank you for these words. One can take this way beyond photography. Or as someone once said ” stop to smell the roses.”

    Thanks again

    • john8276 December 3, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

      Indeed Frank. Thanks for your comment.

  12. Bob Towery December 3, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    Some good points here. I’ll have to add them to my to-do list. Oh wait, did I miss something?
    Well, hopefully we are all evolving with our photography. I recall you mentioning when you first started, waterfalls were one of your favorite subjects. But after a while… “waterfall? Like, walk down there? Nawwwww.”
    I also agree that making friends in photography is one of the best aspects! Brother John!

  13. Mike Houge December 3, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

    Wow- John, you’ve really hit a nail on the head here. A friend and I were just visiting about this exact issue a while back. It’s so refreshing to have someone of your caliber share these thoughts. I think many of us feel this pressure to be always sharing and also feeling bad when we haven’t created a recent “master piece”. Thanks for sharing and have a great holiday season.

    • john8276 December 3, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

      You’re very kind Mike. Glad it resonated.

  14. robyn December 4, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    Magnificent post John and well needed! I too feel myself being sucked into the social media realm and comparing myself to others where there is no need. Your post was a great reminder to cherish my abilities, use them, and pursue my visions and dreams without letting the demands of social media and others diminish my creative processes. Your post is especially timely with the business of the holiday season upon us. Thanks so much and have a glorious day!

    The image is fabulous, by the way!

    • john8276 December 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

      Robyn, Glad this resonated. Thanks for taking time to comment. Happy Holidays.

  15. Stephan December 4, 2013 at 4:32 pm #


    • john8276 December 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

      Stephan,are you okay? 🙂 ONE WORD??? 🙂

  16. Carla December 5, 2013 at 12:56 am #

    Hi John, Thanks for sharing such a powerful message. I believe when we are too busy trying to get those perfect images, we may miss an experience because we are too busy looking through the view finder. It’s important to step back and take in what is around us – sights, smells, sounds, etc. We all have the ability to be creative in some manner and should allow ourselves to go with the moment. I noticed in competition there are popular tricks and subjects that I am not always interested in. I like to portray who I am through my images and not get caught up in what everyone else does. I recognize I have much more to learn and improve upon but that is the beauty of the art. Recognition is nice but I don’t pursue photography for that purpose. It is my opportunity to observe, create and find peace in my soul. By the way, you inspire many of us! Thanks for that!

    • john8276 December 5, 2013 at 12:59 am #

      Well put Carla. Clubs and competition are okay but I always caution that they can stifle creativity and or they can squash ones ability to present themselves as they are. Keep up the great work. As long as you stay true to you, you’ll be fine!

      • carla December 5, 2013 at 1:37 am #

        thanks for those words, John. IT is so true!!!

  17. betty December 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Somehow, with all that has been going on during this holiday season, I missed this wonderful post. I couldn’t agree more…social media has become much less important to me also…in fact, I rarely use it these days except to catch up on what others are doing. What I do enjoy, like you, is getting out with my camera and producing images that I’m happy with…photography is important to me, but it doesn’t define who I am as a woman, wife, mother or grandmother or friend.

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