Inspired By_Challenged By: The Creative Gap

I recently received the email below:

“Your pictures are stunning. Mine are not. Not trying to oversimplify this, but how on earth do you do what you do with a camera? I desperately want to move my creativity forward, but it won’t seem to budge.”

OK, first thing’s first: Over time I’ve challenged myself, struggled, and worked hard and failed, and sucked a-plenty. You already know this. As artists, we all do. Sometimes the inspiration or the execution is lacking, or worse, sometimes both are completely void. On the other hand, we all also make really great stuff sometimes. That’s the crack. The buzz. It’s what keeps us getting out of bed in the morning.

Second thing: The answer to the question above lies in what I call ‘the creative gap.’ A description of the creative gap, how to deal with it, and a video after the jump–click the ‘continue reading’ link below…

The term ‘creative gap’ is a way of describing the difference between what we as artists can visualize ourselves creating and what we actually create. Sometimes we nail it and the gap is nil. Other times, as you might imagine, there’s a huge disparity and the gap is wide. Whether we lack vision, skills, timing, whatever – it can get frustrating to set out to create a masterpiece, and settling for a different kind of piece, if you know what I mean. You envision it like an Edward Weston, but what you get is more like an Edward Scissorhands.

But there is a clear answer to closing this gap and it’s a simple one: Do MORE Work.

I discovered this in the early beginnings of my career, and I still remind myself of it to this day. Mastery is rarely innate. It requires a repetition of the fundamentals – creatively, technically, etc – you name it. It’s through exploring that creative process over and over that we get stronger and better.

On the surface it might seem to some like we’d be pandering to luck, as in “take enough pictures and you’re bound to get one good one”, but that’s crap. It really goes way beyond that. Get out there and make more pictures, and get your hands dirty, again and again, and you will close that gap over time. Interstingly, I find that it’s also a way to discover your own style. You take enough pictures and you’ll start to see a similarity in your vision. This understanding continues to help me tremendously as an artist.

Want to leave you with this little tidbit from Ira Glass. I’m not a big This American Life fan, but I recently stumbled across this video (via Todd’s great blog over at where Ira describes precisely what I mean. It’s through repetition and pushing on that almost all artists succeed.

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