This quote by Julia Cameron, author of The Artists Way was the theme for my course on day seventeen. The course, Sebastian Michael’s 21 Days to Creative Abundance, is just as it sounds – living a creatively abundant life in twenty-one days. Sebastian says the only difference he notices between an amateur photo artist and a professional photo artist is only the existance of certain habits. In fact, he believes talent and creativity is only one part of the equation, while these habits are another important part of the mixture for success. And so his task, is to help you become abundantly creative by changing certain habits over the twenty-one days.

Cattle at the Zoo
A composite photo edited and completed in fifteen minutes as an exercise in creativity.

So, I had started this with the idea that I would become more creative. That I would learn some habits, adapt them and become an artist. But instead, on day 20, right at the end, he unleashed the real secret “If you change yourself, your life will change”. What I actually learned along the way, was far from habits. I learned that I had limiting beliefs, things that got in the way of me leading a creatively abundant life. The first was ‘my story.’ The beliefs and values that I held about my life and circumstances. I did not believe I was creative or an artist. First problem. It’s kind of like the person seeking spirituality who believes material comforts are the opposite of spirituality. While they acquire homes, cars and such, they will never feel spiritual. And right there bam! was a truth – I don’t believe in my own creativity or art.

So, time to change my story. Time to own, really own my identity as photo artist. I carried around my camera bag with me everywhere. This is not really different for me, except it is much heavier now with a newly purchased lens ( a Nikon 24-70mm and thanks for asking,) and a bigger bag for my gear. But the point for me was that I was trying to own that identity. So, while at church one morning, a peep came up to me, spying my monopod hanging off the pack, and said “Are you a photographer? You must be.”  It was hard not to qualify it, but instead, I just responded “Yes,” as I explained further how I also create photo art. I eyed the full frame Nikon in her hands throughout the conversation and I resisted the urge to become one of the event photographers with her for the church. But, I must admitt, things started to slip a little when she asked “Where can I see your portfolio?”

Another limiting belief I found out I held was that I needed a ‘block’ of time, like a chunk of four hours in order to create. In the course, Sebastian has you commit to fifteen minutes, each day, a minimum for creating. Just take a photo into Photoshop, duplicate it, change the blend mode, add a Gaussian blur then drag in a texture and voila! There you have a creation, a one-of-a-kind piece of art. Like the one for this blog that was created in one of those fifteen minute time blocks. But what I also learned was that you can’t wait to be ‘inspired’ or else you might end up waiting a long time. Instead, he urges us to show up, create the atmosphere and wait for the muse to arrive, but just get started in the meantime. This actually made sense to me. I remember the first time I quite smoking, It was easy. I had wanted it so bad and at the time I was just so inspired to quit. But I also remember the times, many times afterward, when I was hoping and waiting for ‘that day’ when I would just wake up like the last time and know I am done with cigarettes. I waited nine years. I gave up waiting. I quit smoking and nearly killed everyone around me in my discomfort. I understood when he said you can’t wait for inspiration.

But the absolute hardest thing, the biggest limiter I was to find out, was my ‘why.’ My ‘why’ was just not strong enough. He suggested we get close and own the reasons we want to make these changes in our lives. The ‘why’ we are doing this for, that identity, that way of life, that result and outcome, that success. The stronger our reason why, the more likely we were to be successful when times get rough. When I quit drinking and went to Alcoholics Anonymous, the why was so very strong. I did not for anything in the world, ever, want to go back to that way of life when I drank. It got me sober and that ‘why’ today keeps me sober (and a lot of other things too!) But it is so strongly entrenched with me, that it is really not that hard to maintain. Another time I had a strong ‘why’ was when I began running. You see, I had studied the autobiographies and biographies of many successful people and I had come to a conclusion about successful people. The first was that they all got up at some ridiculously early morning time and did quiet personal reflection, either through yoga, meditation or reading (called the hour of power) and secondly, that they all exercised. Many ran, and so I had the belief that all winners ran. And so I wanted to be a winner and successful and so I decided to take up running. And although I suffered injuries, mishaps, misfortune and sometimes humiliation, I stuck through it, during the worst of rain storms, the most frigid of temperatures and the deepest of snow. It was easy because my ‘why’ was firmly entrenched. However, this wasn’t so regarding me wanting to live a creatively abundant life. I didn’t have time for it damn it! My ‘why’ just wasn’t and isn’t strong enough.

And so, I hang onto the concept of fifteen minutes. I don’t need these huge chunks of time to create, just fifteen minutes. In that time I can edit a photo, or take a still on my iPhone and add a filter and post it on instagram. I carry my camera bag, changing my story and owning this identity. But most of all, every night, I reflect upon my day and I ask myself one important question about my artistic life “Did you create art today? Yes? Then you are an artist.”

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