Monday, 21 March 2011
motivation, satisfaction, expectation and success
Four separate words, all linked, but somehow all jostling for position in a hierarchy hidden in the depths of my psyche. Time to have a small peek I think.
I have had this post sat here in draft for several months, more as an unanswered train of thought than any informative nuggets I can share with you. But still I think it is worthy of raising, as the thoughts surrounding these words engulf me frequently and affect my attitude towards my own photography work.
Money isn't a motivator for me. Whilst it is a necessity, as an end in itself it seems a hollow ambition and in this line of work would be pretty hopeless. It isn't the degree either, although it does provide a direction of travel. And I don't necessarily want to be a commercial photographer. Dipping my toe in on a number of occasions hasn't whet my appetite. So why the hell am I investing so much of my energy in to photography? And it does concern me that I may look back and think 'why did I spend so much time on all that'. Most things in life are done for a purpose. Your education, your career, your financial stability, family and lots of other things too. This isn't.
I do it because I like creating and I study because I want to create more interesting, developed ideas. When I am creating, I am absorbed in the moment. It provides my escapism, therapy even - a selfish indulgence. I do it, because I love doing it, period.
But, there is something else. I don't know how this will sound and don't want to come across conceited. I do not have an over-inflated view of my own work, but there is an irritating desire or niggle I can't dispel. I don't want to leave this life without having left some sort of creative legacy or achievement. As I haven't quantified 'success', 'achievement' or 'legacy' it is a fairly woolly notion. Why I feel the need to do this perplexes me. My parents were not pushy, no one has ever put any pressure on me...it all comes from me...and creates a significant disquiet in me. This definitely is a big motivator that drives me on...possibly too much, I need to let the wu wei take hold and believe...this all sounds very waffly and I don't quite know where I'm going with it...but sometimes by proclaiming your thoughts, they start to make more sense. So this is the internal 'driver', I haven't articulated what this means in terms of an external output.
Strangely, the process of creating the imagery is where I gain most satisfaction. Viewing my finished work I derive frustratingly limited pleasure. This is tied in with expectations which I'll come on to next.
This is, in my life in general, where I am my own worst enemy. I have always set myself ridiculously high standards. I indirectly set myself up to fail, as no matter what I achieve I cannot 'please me'. Boy, can you imagine being married to me!!! I don't plague others with these targets I must add. I am an optimist, but I neglect my progress and focus on how far I haven't reached. I compare myself to the greats and fall short. In other words, my expectations exceed both my confidence and level of skill. This is a problem as I am disappointed more often than not. I do need to learn to set myself realistic expectations so that I have a chance of reaching them.
Setting parameters for success is in my mind really important and its absence a cause of internal turmoil. I haven't, and I think this is the root of some of my own anxiety. It is time I clarified to myself what I would consider 'a success'. At what point could I look at my work and say 'yes, I'm pleased, this has been a success'. What are the boxes I need to tick, for me to consider my work 'a success'. Otherwise I could continue endlessly without acknowledging any milestones or achievements.
I don't know if I'm alone in this and feel slightly exposed. But again, this process to me has always been about honesty with myself and therefore anyone who cares to read. I haven't thought any of this through fully, but think it is time...
There are various articles I have read on this subject, largely related to street photography. See below:
http://lapuravidagallery.com/blog/2010/04/oped-how-do-define-success/ and here