Just back from a ten-day photography trip to Costa Rica, I was wondering, “what were you thinking,” as I tried to figure out a strategy to work through the 9,000 images I had taken. 😱 Digital photography allows us to take a massive number of photos, but they still have to be viewed, culled, and edited. That massive workload had me in a state of numb. I was in a creative slump.
How do you find inspiration when you are in a creative slump? Watch a lengthy YouTube interview with Will Ferrell. Why? More cowbell!
Seriously, I started by reading a blog about efficiency to get inspired by the task in front of me. The blog offered useful tips, but almost as a farce, the author suggested the diversion of a Will Ferrell interview. I’m not sure it ended up with any particular efficiency for me. But it did get my creative energy all stirred up.
Will Ferrell was in the throws of fielding many interesting questions from his new movie, “Downhill”. Then the interviewer had even more questions for Ferrell about baseball. All of these discussions were interspersed with progressively hotter chicken wings until the Scoville level finally made Ferrell walk off the set. The way he kept calm and collected through the escalating torture was impressive. Thank God they had milk for him to sip in between wing sauces. Towards the end of the conversation, the interview transitioned to Harry Carey, a famed broadcaster of the Chicago Cubs. then the creative ideas started to flow like hot lava in Hawaii.
Creativity isn’t a straight arrow. Once I finished watching the YouTube, my mind squirreled onto another topic, spring training, which was in full swing. Uh, did I just do that? Then my brain swung to Saturday Night Live. Hey, my head was fresh with Will Ferrell’s humor, so you can’t fault me there. Then I refocused my thoughts back to this photo that I took of one of the toucans in the Costa Rican rainforest.
This toucan is the Collared Aracari, pronounced “air” – “ah” – “carry.” When you go to an ecolodge in Costa Rica, most of the lodges create perches so you can see the colorful birds reasonably close. You don’t even have to pay a lot of attention to view this bird. He makes a distinctively loud call when arriving at the perch, like that obnoxious character in the family whose voice instantly puts you on edge. The distinctive feathering, colors, and patterns remind me of someone wearing an old sweater vest paired with the ugliest sports jacket that really should have visited a dry cleaner at some point in the last decade.
Random thoughts, right? But you’re this far, so let’s keep the journey moving. I felt a bit of inspiration peeking out of the corners. I would try to tie all of these mental ramblings together. If this bird were not Harry Caray, but rather, Hairy Aracari and could announce to the birders at the ecolodge, here would be his spiel:
Hairy Aracari at the Ecolodge:
(as announcer, first inning or rather, the first light of day):
“Hello again, everybody. It’s a bee-you-tiful day for bird watching. Or bee watching, if you’re into that sort of thing.”
(second inning, the second round of birds arriving at the Ecolodge perch):
“Here’s the pitch. Aw, how could the keel-billed toucan lose the banana in the sun? Guess he’s from the rainforest.”
(somewhere around the 5th inning and the game is a bit slow, the home team is behind — wait, we are birding — the perch has fewer visitors, and the brown-faced parrots keep hogging the stage):
“Now you tell me, if I have a day off during the season, where do you think I’ll spend it? At the Ecolodge! I still love it. Always have, always will. Plus they keep putting bananas out. I’d eat the moon if it were made of bananas.”
(after the 7th inning stretch when he has sung his heart out because the gigantic great curassow finally jumped away from the perch):
“I look at birding as a game. It’s something where people can go out, enjoy, and have fun. Nothing more.”
(bottom of the 9th, sun has set, light is dwindling):
“I’ve always said that if you don’t have fun while you’re here, then it’s your fault. You only get to do this once. Live it up; the meter is running.”
Will Ferrell, baseball, and a bird do have something in common. You have to find a pattern. Look for meaning. By the time we become adults, we discount our thoughts of randomness. Like having short legs and sitting on a swing when we were little, we need a little push.
Don’t buy into the negative self-talk that you just aren’t a creative person. Be curious. Everyone can make something new and valuable. We need to. Sharing ourselves provides a much-needed connection to others. I may not have the answer to why we exist, but I guess that it is to experience. And you experience by being, being your unique you. You may not be processing photos out the wazoo like I’m doing, but you bring something into existence every day.
Maybe for you, it is a spreadsheet that gives an executive an ah-ha moment about a product’s direction or code that makes my phone work. If you are that person, we need to talk; I have a lot of inspiration for you. 😜 Or perhaps you work in retail, and instead of grumbling about organizing merchandise, you focus on the display of items, so shoppers find things with ease. You can feel the flow in any number of endeavors. You have the power.
I felt the flow. I went from a blah state of mind and want just to go binge-watch something on television to feeling fully alive. Getting into a flow state required both an artistic and analytical focus. That can’t be all bad. I reinforced my writing skills. I finally wanted to develop that aracari photo. The side benefit is that creativity helps reduce stress. The creative process enables you to decompress. Creativity also encourages open-mindedness and patience. We need way more of that in this world.
Now it’s your turn. Listen to music, make music, make a recipe, knit something, plant a garden, create that spreadsheet, develop jokes. It doesn’t matter what it is. Remember, your brain is a tad bigger than the birds. But be careful, don’t tell them. Perhaps you feel like you need to eat some chicken wings at this point, which can be quite a challenge as well. And inspiration to find what will cool off your burning tastebuds. Good luck! But always remember, the meter is running! Have fun.
Ann Newman is an emerging photographer and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona, who sees the beauty in what might typically go unnoticed. Her images are close-up and semi-abstract to outright abstract, revealing intimacy and detail. Discovering the symbolism within the picture, she encourages others to be aware and appreciative of all the pure beauty around them.