My Greatest [Creative] Weakness

Allen Mowery
July 28, 2010

Whether or not you like to admit it, each of us have weaknesses of some variety and intensity. We don’t like people to see our imperfections and often go to great lengths to camouflage our shortcomings. Dating relationships are a perfect example of this, but as anyone who’s married will concur, sooner or later your flaws will be discovered.

My Greatest Weakness?

From an artistic perspective, my greatest weakness is a lack of creativity, brought on and exacerbated by photographer/designer’s “tunnel vision.” And while I must daily adorn corrective eye-wear, I am not referring to an actual physical or neurological problem but rather a mental one. Simply put, I’m not as creative as I need to be/wish I could be, largely in part to the fact that once I get a preconceived idea in my head I become blind to everything else around me. How is that possible for someone with self-diagnosed ADD? Not really sure, but I’m open to suggestions…

Case in point: This past Saturday I took part in Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk and had a great time of it. But there were numerous shots and opportunities I missed because I was too focused on some pre-conceived notion of what I wanted to capture. For instance, a local establishment had a public notice of application to serve alcoholic beverages posted in their window. I walked past it; I turned around; I read it…but did I photograph it? No. Why? I didn’t feel it “fit” what I was looking for in a photograph. Another example is a number of the buildings I photographed. I shot them from across the street, maybe from the opposite corner, but because I was so locked into a pre-conceived idea of what I wanted the image to look like I didn’t even think to walk across and photograph it up close or from some dynamic, more interesting angles. And then I mentally kick myself for it later. And Saturday’s photowalk is only one example…I do it all the time, or so it seems. After almost every photo shoot or photography outing I think of a thousand things I could have done differently to capture a more creative moment or introduce a dynamic dimension into some of the photos.

NOTE: I face this same problem in design and marketing as well — I get an idea of what I want to portray or how it should look, and I home in on that like a laser-guided missile.

Ways to Combat Loss of Creativity or Tunnel Vision

  • First of all, I utilize the resources around me. My wife has acted as a faithful sounding board over the years, and she’s not afraid in the least to tell me when something sucks. Fortunately, she’s become a little more tactful in her approach, but she is my number one go-to person when I need some perspective.
  • I also bounce things around with other creative professionals, get their take on my approach or what I could have done differently, and then file that information away for the future.
  • I have become a faithful student of Google, plain and simple.
  • For photography, Flickr has become an invaluable resource from which to glean ideas and perspective. If I was, let’s say, going to do a photo shoot of an underwater comic book convention in Alaska, I would hit up Flickr for some ideas of what other photographers have done for similar shoots.
  • And, as happens with most of life, probably the best method of learning is my past mistakes. Things didn’t turn out like they could have? What should I have done differently? What approach do I need to take next time? And taking notes as I go along helps greatly as well.

What about you?

How many other creative professionals deal with “tunnel vision” or problems with creativity in general as a result of various factors? Do you? Feel free to comment, I would love to hear your thoughts!

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