What can I say? The Daily Photo Project suffered some setbacks over the summer. I’ve continued to take photos, but the numbers have plummeted. What happened? Why so few?
There are too many excuses to name. Relocation and laziness top most lists, but there’s one more subtle factor.
I lost my muse.
Now, this project was never entirely inspired by a person. The goals I set were goals I aspired to achieve. I wanted to learn my camera, and I have. I wanted to learn which lens to use in which situation, and I’ve definitely improved. I wanted to begin building a catalog of photography to use in any way I desired, and I am. In those respects, the project has been a success. But I also wanted to impress someone.
Isn’t that what a muse is? Inspiration, of course, but also an audience we hope to reach and to move. In any artistic endeavor, when we set out to impress or inspire or appear worthy in the eyes of another person, that person is our muse.
If we’re feeling particularly lazy, we imagine the disappointment on the muse’s face, and so we create. If we’re feeling too overwhelmed or busy to push ourselves, we still crave the muse’s approval, and so we work. We never want to disappoint. And we thrive on the most minuscule notice of our effort or the tiniest hint of a compliment.
Yes, I was taking photos every day to learn, but I was also taking them for a woman. She inspired me to achieve. She always has. She spoke of me and looked at me in a way that made me want nothing more than to be the person she claimed I was. She is more artistic than I am. She writes more clearly than I do. She thinks and feels more deeply than I manage. And yet she still found something special in me. It motivated me to work harder. To learn more. To create more. It motivated me to think more clearly and speak more boldly. These are all good things. These are all improvements I wanted to make myself, but somehow she helped make them possible. She became my audience. She became my muse.
Sadly, life has its wicked streak. Circumstances became obstacles. A dozen other things were said and a thousand other thoughts were thought, but late in the Spring our relationship changed. My muse was slipping away, and in her absence the Daily Photo Project died a slow death. When an act of creation is inspired and motivated by intimacy with another human being, the entire act becomes painful and unbearable when that intimacy is shattered. You’re no longer creating for an audience. Instead, you’re rehearsing backstage for a crowd of indifferent shadows. The audience has left the theater. The spotlights have all gone out. You’re alone, and the mere hint of artistry or creation is tainted by heartache.
Nevertheless, as I considered posting an update regarding this project, the act of writing it began to motivate me again. I realized the year still has two months remaining. I can add sixty more photos to the project’s total. I can’t hope to achieve the original goal of 366, but that’s no reason to stop.
When I look at the photos I’ve taken, I see stories. I see a year of hardships and sadness, but I also see love. I see color. I see winter and spring and summer and fall. Creativity is a cycle, just as much as the seasons. Spring begins with an idea, and Summer is a heated period of execution. Autumn is when we set our ideas free and try to let them go. And Winter is the bleakness between projects, when we question our ability to repeat the process. Eventually, hopefully, new ideas emerge, and springtime comes again.
Our muses inspire us with love and heartbreak. They motivate us to be stronger, to be more creative, and sometimes to hope. When they leave, what we lose cannot be replaced. The sadness inflicted by that loss cannot be ignored, but it can’t be allowed to destroy our ability to hope. Spring must always come again. Our drive to create is our own. We mustn’t lose it every time our audience abandons us. No matter how much we miss our muse or long for that shared intimacy, we cannot let that absence, that hurt, that heartbreaking emptiness, dictate our creative output, either positively or negatively.
We must push through the long Winters of our pain, when the mere act of thinking threatens to crush our souls. We must work to inspire ourselves. We must work to find a new audience. We must burst like lions into Springtime and rekindle our creativity.
It’s time to take some photos.