Getting paid is awesome. I enjoy it. I enjoy the work that I do and delivering a quality product consistently to clients. But there are times when I need to create something that is just for me. Not for money. But for the sole purpose of feeding my soul.
Todd Henry talks about this in his book The Accidental Creative. He calls it “Unnecessary Creating.” The act of creating something unnecessarily, not for money, is something that must be worked into our creative practices in order to maintain a healthy working level. It allows you to take risks, to innovate, to explore, to find wilderness. We have to make stuff to make a living, but we have to make stuff for ourselves to remember why we do what what we do. Why make something that won’t make you money? To remember the why. So we don’t “lose the love for the process” as Todd Henry says. Because when you lose the love for the process, you burnout.
For photographers, especially in our busiest seasons, we are tempted to lock the camera up in the closet and not get it out until we have to. But it is in these seasons when we need to be cultivating our creativity the most. That’s why Jen and I started a personal project a few years ago where we photographed artists in their daily lives. Telling the story that an artist is always creating:
Now we are focusing on landscapes and documenting our travels as our main source of personal work:
Whatever you do, just make it matter. Make it mean something to you because it’s for you and only you. Your personal work is going to feed your paid work. This is one of the many ways long-term creative entrepreneurs cultivate resilience. They are intentional with what they get paid to do, but even more so with what they don’t. The Resilient Creative keeps the love for their craft close. They make stuff they don’t get paid for, so they can keep getting paid to make stuff. It’s the messed up, backwards, truth of being a creative entrepreneur. Don’t lose the love for the process, folks! It’s what keeps us going.
Make something for yourself today. It doesn’t have to be the best think you’ve ever made. But take a risk.