Dealing with the Voices


We all hear it!  That voice inside that we argue with.  That relentless, nagging, pain in the a** that is always playing the devil’s advocate.  We listen to it constantly.  It’s the classic angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. 


Devil: That picture is horrible

Angel: No, it’s not, it’s the best you’ve done to date

Devil: So, what’s that say about your past work

Lewis: You’re right I suck


Throughout my life, I have been more and less successful at quieting that voice.  I’ve found that when that voice is still I can focus, learn, enter that state of flow.  Where time seems to fly by and the productivity and retention is high.  But if I’m engaging that voice, I am sluggish, distracted, and misled.  That’s not to say that it’s all negative.  More on that later. 


There are any number of ways to silence that arguing chatterbox in your mind.  It’s mostly just a matter of slowing down and being mindful.  Bringing our attention to what it is that we are trying to do.  To focus on the work, extending our effort to a single point.  We live in such a fast-paced world that this can be difficult at times. 


The classic meditation techniques help here.  I’m not going to go to deep into this point.  As it’s something that I’ve practiced on and off my entire life, in one way or another.  But I think it’s worth noting that if you are struggling with those voices, it’s worth taking a minute to stop, empty your mind.  And don’t allow yourself to think of anything, anything at all.  Find a point on the wall and focus on that for 5 minutes.  Or concentrate on your breathing, in, and out. 


You’ve chosen this medium of photography and made a decision to pursue it.  So, don’t quit.  Don’t allow your mind, the antagonist inside to divert your efforts.  So many people just give up when things get tough.  It’s so much easier to sit in front of the TV or surf the internet, or Facebook.  But that’s passive, we need to train our mind to be active, engaged, occupied, and involved.  It’s a matter of showing up and doing.  It’s that easy. 


Quitting can come in two ways.  I’m a crappy photographer, so I’m selling my equipment and never doing this again.  The broader disillusion of the entire practice.  Then there is the narrower more subtle view.  I can’t ever get that nice bokeh in my portraits.  I’m just going to focus on landscapes.  This is where the critique and mentoring, and creative community comes in.  The superhero swoops in and saves the day.


Once we understand that, we just need to keep working, making art, pictures.  Lots and lots of pictures.  It’s never been easier than it is right now.  We can try something and check it right there on the spot.  Accelerating the learning curve to be as fast as we want it to be.  Google your favorite classic artist, you’ll find that there was study upon study, sketch after sketch, effort after effort.  Writers, write and rewrite, draft after draft.  It’s in the doing that we grow.


Now back to that voice.  Once it’s calmed down and acting civil, engage it.  You have a valid point of view.  No one knows what you are trying to create better than you.  When you are in that state of flow, that voice will be a productive, helpful guide.  That voice can be as gentle and directive as anyone else offering critique.  It’s a matter of training it to be so.  To make it your friend.  Take the time, teach it, restrain it and let it guide you into your creative visions.

Part 4

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