Ways to revitalise – part 3

Young acolytes amble past herds to carry back bales of straw from ricefields.

Here are three more suggestions.

Two are perhaps not the types of suggestions that are usually made to help you become more creative, but the points they make are quite crucial.

If you’re feeling sleepy or drowsy or struggling to stay awake, it’s obvious it’ll be hard to create, or do anything. But dial that down a little. Have you found that it takes most of the morning after big gulps of coffee to feel awake? By that time, you may have navigated your way to work. And in that time, how many things did you miss? Did you see the beautiful morning light on the dewy grass? Do you spot the red umbrella amongst a sea of black suits and dresses?

It’s the same with your general health and well-being. It’s hard to create if you feel sick or feverish. Or if you’re hung-over. That much is obvious. But perhaps the symptoms are lighter: you don’t feel energetic, you feel you can be bothered to take your camera with you. You may find yourself saying ’Nah; that’s not going to work.’ So you don’t lift the camera because it’s not worth the effort. By the end of the day, you could have allowed a dozen good images to run away!

Sleep enough

No joke! In today’s hectic life, full of distractions it’s all too easy to delay getting to bed. How many times have you delayed shutting down because you’ve been checking your Facebook account, or watching the news or something on YouTube? Did you wait until the next track, then the next track of music is over? All these delays and minuscule struggles – so small you hardly notice there’s a struggle going on – are actually interfering with your ability to concentrate. They also interfere with winding down for a good night’s sleep.

Besides, it’s also known that trying to go straight to sleep from reading a monitor or TV screen leads to a lower quality sleep than if you read a book, before going to sleep.

Some suggestions for you:

• Give your eyes at least 15 minutes’ rest from the screen before you get to bed. Longer the better.
• Go to bed before you feel you really need to sleep, that is, head for bed when you feel sleepy, but before you’re tired. There’s a heap of research that shows that earlier bed-times lead to better sleep.
• Eat at least 3 hours before going to bed: the longer the interval, the better.
• Avoid drinking, especially alcohol, close to bedtime.

The key point is that when you have enjoyed a good night’s sleep, you’re in a good position to enjoy a good day’s creation: you feel alive, awake and raring to go. You need energy – the internal sort, in your soul and spirit – to observe, to see clearly and to create.

Actually, the whole business of getting to sleep, the quality of your sleep and all that’s associated with it is a big subject in itself.

Eat to nourish

There are other methods and training that strengthen you physically through working internally on your energies. But there’s one that’s within the reach of anyone who can afford to enjoy photography. Eat to nourish, avoid eating the things that a nice but naughty. They’re ‘naughty’ because they will slow you down, thicken your thinking and sap you of energy.

There’s a vast treasury of help in books and the Internet on this. What’s not usual is making an explicit link between creative energy and food. I don’t need to compete with the information that’s available to you, but I will share a few highlights that I’ve found helpful to me:

• Eat only enough to satisfy your hunger, and no more: eating more that you really need will — amongst other effects — slow down your thinking and impede higher faculties.
• Eat the last meal of the day as early as you can. We try to eat by 6 pm and nothing until bedtime which can be as late as 11 pm.
• Eat a bit of meat or fish if you’re comfortable with that, but avoid eating too much meat, particularly red meat.
• Consume a diet as rich in fresh, uncooked items as possible.
• Look after your biome i.e. the flora of bacteria in your gut: the more diverse it is, the healthier you’ll be. Look up ways to do that such as eating foods like live yoghurt and kefir that is rich in bacteria.
• Moderate or greatly reduce items made with lots of refined sugars, or refined flour, or that are highly processed.

No apologies for my talking about eating in the context of improving photography and creativity. If you’re not feeling well, how can you photograph well?

Quiet, unstressed, open focus helps refresh the mind

In our pressured world that’s always demanding results, and pretty damn quick, the stress (pun intended) on production inhibits the process. We take our cameras out hoping for a prize-winning shot. We frame up a scene hoping to win accolades or at least a few ‘likes’. We get cross if someone walks into the frame, or there are power lines ‘in the way’. This exercise helps you free yourself of the tyranny of demands.

Get one flower, preferably with quite complicated, intricate forms, such as rose, orchid, peony (buy, pick from the garden). Just one flower can be enough, more is OK. Place in good light, sit close so it takes up about the central third of your visual field and look at it.

• Look at its every detail, almost as if you’re trying to memorise it all. Like it’s the Last Flower on the planet and you want to remember its every detail.
• Follow the edge of each petal, see how it blends into the edge of the next petal, then follow that edge.
• Examine the fine textures: are there tiny ridges? If so, are they parallel or criss-cross? Are there tiny hairs, if so do they vary in size and shape?
• See how the different colours interact with each other: some will contrast, some blend. Are there little highlights or spots of colour? Are the petals the same colour on top as on the underside?
• Keep this up for five minutes or until your mind drifts off a long way. Don’t worry if you can do this for only a short time. Some time is better than none. If you find your thoughts wandering, let them go where they will.
• If you feel this is a boring and pointless exercise, you may be right. For you. But it may be worth a moment looking at why you think that. Is it because there’s no product at the end? Is it because you can’t see how it will help? Or is it because you can’t sit still for that long? Your answers are themselves an insight into the dynamics of your creativity.
• Repeat next day. See how the flower has changed.
• Think about what you’ve seen that you’ve never noticed before.
• If you can, follow the changes in the flower day by day.

If any thoughts that come to you as you do this, or after — and I bet there will be lots — just jot them down. I suggest you don’t censor or judge them: just write them down. Their significance will reveal itself in good time.

Enjoy, create and live!

Boys mess about for the camera, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

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