Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Creating habits

I'm doing a photo-a-day thing over on Instagram. I love Instagram, and I'm having a lot of fun playing around with different photography apps and filters, and making my photos look interesting (at least to me). The person running the project picks four photos each day, and I don't know whether to say they're the "best," or her favorites, or what the criteria is. She says that's difficult, and I'm sure it is. I've looked at a few of the ones that were picked, and so many of them look like professional photos, with lightboxes and staged object and posed subjects. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I couldn't be less interested.

I love the little moments, the everyday things. I love seeing a blurry photo of someone's scruffy dog, or the flowers that they got for their anniversary, or their kids' Halloween costumes. My own photos tend to be what I see out the window at work, or Dinah lying in her chair, or one of the dogs at work acting goofy, or a fortune cookie fortune that tickled me. I try to make a nice composition, at least sometimes, but I usually don't give it a lot of thought. For me, the point is recoding something from my day, and making the commitment to look for something beautiful, or at least interesting, in that day. And to take the photo of that everyday object and play around with it and make it more interesting, or more beautiful.

Rachel Herron writes:

That part, the cataloguing, feels important to me. We’re so good at posting the pretty and the perfect. We like Pinterest for a reason. Pretty is attractive. We like the well lit, the well composed, the perfect. It’s good to open that up and post the real things, the attempts that don’t work as well as the ones that do.

She's talking about a sketch-a-day project that she's doing, but the sentiment is the same.

This month the project is alphabetical, i.e., the first day of the month was A, the second day B, and so on. I couldn't think of anything for yesterday (N) until I went to the cabinet for a snack and saw the container of mixed nuts. Aha! The picture isn't very well composed, or particularly interesting, but it's a slice of my life, and when I see it I will remember the process of creating it.

The benefits are two-fold. One, it's a commitment to do something every day, whether inspiration strikes or not. Because you can't wait for inspiration to strike, you have to forge ahead and keep your eyes open, and make it happen. Make it happen every day, make it into a habit, and it will be so much fun to look back on. I'm also doing two other "every day" projects right now. One is affirmations that I write every morning, and the other is a gratitude journal that I write every night. I put them in my iPhone reminders, and it is always a temptation to say, "oh well, it doesn't matter if I skip a day," but it does matter.

Two, it's creative. It may be a tiny bit of creativity, but it's creativity, and every little bit helps push me to the next level. It's like Anne Lamotte's concept of "shitty first drafts," or Barbara Bretton's "butt to chair." You just put it out there, and keep putting it out there, and even if the first iteration is terrible (and it almost always will be), it will just keep getting better as time goes on. You just have to keep doing it.

So, I just keep doing it. Today's letter is O . . . .

(I designed Barbara Bretton's website, and I'm pretty proud of it. I'm not even going to put any caveats or false modesty in there, because I know it's good. Once in awhile you just get it right.)

(Oh, and I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year, and it's not like I have nothing else to do. But the busier I am, the more plates in the air, the better.)