It’s not uncommon in any field to find yourself in a creative rut at some point. In this 10-minute video, photographer Sean Tucker discusses how he overcomes his main sticking points, and keeps creating new work week-in and week-out.
Tucker faces three major “resistances” in his creative work: perfectionism, rationalization, and fear.
Perfectionism can be crippling; preventing you from creating anything unless you know it will be great and people will appreciate it. The way Tucker overcomes his perfectionism is by thinking about the long-term, instead of the short-term. Rather than thinking of any project as being a singular entity, he imagines it as a component of a longer journey of creativity that will span his lifetime. Each project is a learning experience, allowing him to create something better next time.
“Put things out that aren’t necessarily great,” he says. “Put things out that aren’t even necessarily finished, if it’s the best you can do for now.”
Rationalization can be similarly problematic, preventing you from getting started by causing you to overthink everything. The examples Tucker uses are not having the best gear, believing other photographers are better than you and so there’s no point in trying, and succumbing to the thought that you have to struggle harder than other photographers do.
Tucker says he sometimes catches himself critiquing the work of other photographers to bring them down to his level, so he doesn’t have to create anything himself.
To combat these thoughts, Tucker users mindfulness—identifying the problematic thought patterns and calling them out when they arise.
Not having the greatest gear can be seen as a creative challenge, and all photographers face the same struggles when it comes to finding their place in the industry. By combating self-destructive thoughts with truth, they can be neutralized.
Fear underlies all of these resistances. Fear of criticism, fear of failure, and even fear of success are common issues that can prevent a creative person from putting their work out in to the world. Tucker discusses the common fear of being found out as a fraud—for knowledge gaps to be exposed and ridiculed.
The truth is that we all have those gaps in our knowledge, and even those at the top of their game as continually trying to learn more. Fear can be a good thing—it can be an indicator that something is important to you, and that you should throw yourself in to it completely.
Tucker recommends reading Steven Pressfield’s book “The War of Art,” and listing out your own resistances so that you can see them coming and combat them effectively. And if you still don’t feel like creating? Get up and do it anyway.