Distractions, Discontent, and Disruption
The three “D’s” of the new daily discomforts. Wait, is that a fourth?
We are constantly being distracted from our work, made to feel discontent at every turn and facing disruption in our business like never before.
Distraction comes from every side. From Facebook and email to the web and other forms of entertainment. It comes from politics and social events. It comes from the manufacturers of commercial culture who want us distracted and hooked on their latest gizmo/whachathingy.
And it is damned difficult to keep our heads down and do the work with all that clamoring for our attention. Go to this webinar and that web page – they have all the answers. Listen to this guru or that guru or some rockstar who has all the answers – they will help make it easier. All ya gotta do is pay attention.
We have learned that we ‘must’ spend hours a day on Facebook, ‘connecting’ with our fans and followers and possible clients. We have to ‘pin’ and blog and tweet and twerk.
OK, we don’t really have to twerk. Seriously.
But we can spend so much time on the other crap that nothing of real value gets done.
Camera companies compete for our attention by dribbling out shiny new cameras with cutting edge features that we of course MUST have now, because our competitors have it. And it is awesome – that guru guy said it was, and there is a webinar that shows how lame last months new camera is compared to yesterdays new camera.
And a big time internet photographer just “Pinned” it… so it must be awesome.
We become unhappy with what we have, and what we don’t have becomes even more of a sore spot. Even to an open wound.
“When I get the Nicanon Mark 9, DE7000 X, I will finally be able to create my vision.”
But that never happens because as soon as you get it, Sonlympus comes out with a “Nicanon Killer” and some “awesome” internet guru has just declared it the most awesomest camera since last March.
We can sink into the pits of despair, the fire swamps of sadness, and simply believe that without this new or shiny or awesome thingy, we simply cannot continue on.
The funk continues when we read about a new photographer making a lot of waves, and getting a ton of attention. “Brooklynneshannadale Smith, 13, is shooting the new Audi campaign for a gazillion dollars after taking the commercial photography world by storm when her captivating, slightly misogynistic iPhone images on Instagram caught the eye of Dorkus McStoopeed, a big time ad agency owner in Manhattan…” (We call that a PR stunt. Learn to see them for what they are.)
And we try to measure this new work to our own, and try to figure out what the commercial world is really wanting anyway? We start to complain about clients, and the industry, and the totally screwed way it is going and how it is ruining the business… yadda – yadda – yadda.
Too many begin living their creative lives between distraction and discontent. They post memes on Facebook about how no one wants to pay them for their work. They go on forums and discuss how stupid and screwed up clients are. They fall farther and farther away from the center of their own world.
And while they are focused on all this negative distraction and discontent, along comes good old “Disruption”. It is quiet and insidious and if we are not vigilant, it will catch us looking away and – bang – we are watching our business from the sidelines.
Things change. It all changes. Some changes took a long time to occur, like continental drift. Others took a small amount of time to change… like the time my Tower records went all CD over night on a weekend. No more vinyl – overnight.
Photography has seen plenty of disruption before. The invention of the Brownie camera that allowed anyone to make a photograph. The addition of meters in cameras, faster ISO films, auto-focus, and digital are the highlights.
Now we are seeing disruption in the publication industry that is affecting the commercial photography business as well. Things are changing. Print magazines are flooded with promotions from thousands of photographers. There is a glut of shooters it seems.
But there are also more ways to find work. From web sites to web magazines, Kindle books to iBooks to eBooks, there are more and more ways to create images for publication. Kickstarter projects, self assigned projects, galleries and print sales.
Disruption can be bad for some, but it always opens doors for others.
Seven years ago there was no such thing as an App Developer. Disruption changed that, and tens of thousands of new jobs opened up where none existed before.
Ten years ago a photographer who wanted to do their own high quality coffee table book had to first find a publisher, then negotiate and get a lawyer and lots of crappola to just get to the point of getting it to print.
Today, a photographer can produce their own coffee table book and offer it for sale on Amazon – reaching millions and millions of people worldwide.
“Local” may not mean what it meant 20 years ago.
- Maybe, but I am not going to offer you the tired old “get off Facebook” stuff you get everywhere, I will simply offer some ideas:
- Self Assignments: Personal work is the key to keeping creative and moving forward. If you do not have a personal project, start one as soon as possible.
- Create a schedule for your work. Follow that schedule. Call it your creativity plan or productivity mantra or whatever. Instead of being distracted by all the silliness all day, find a great time to go on, engage, have fun and then be done with it.
- Find a disruptive agent and make some effort to understand it, what it means for your work and how you can use it to advantage. Instagram is a disruptor… what can you do with it to help your work get known and seen? Or is it not worth the effort for you?
- Analyze the distractions you see around you. Are you sure the camera companies have your best interests at heart? Are you sure the gurus with millions of followers have your best interest at heart. (Some do, some don’t… look carefully and you can tell who does.)
- Stop comparing your work to others. Period. Follow YOUR vision, follow YOUR style, follow YOUR path to image creation.
- Become insulated against the distractions and discontent that is so pervasive on the internet and social media. Remember that most of those discontented, unhappy ‘photographers’ have not been in the trenches, they are simply spouting what they read other people say.
At the end of the day, you are your own advocate, your own critic, your own worst enemy.
And identifying the distractions, discontents, and disruptions around you is important for us all. Once identified, they are easier to leave behind, ignore or actively engage.