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Spot on! I have an extremely powerful urge to go take pictures and assemble narrative around them, but I am extremely time constrained as I work full time and I'm the father of young kids. I kept trying to stifle the urge because I had no time for it, but it kept pushing through. I was frustrated and my only outlet was to obsessively browse anything about photography online (which is mostly about the gear).

Like a Tibetan monk I finally had to let it go with nonattachment. I purchased a very good family camera and I'm now focused on "artistic" family snapshots. It's Ok since I want to set the right priorities. But as the kids get older and time opens up a bit I see the urge pushing through again.

But I'm here to tell you, browsing online or futzing with PP apps is no replacement for taking pictures!!!

Jim Bullard

In answer to your first question, yes! As for what happens when the muse is elusive, I get bummed and that's when I ask myself your first question. As for the gear shopping, I find that my urge happens this time of year, not because I'm necessarily in a creative funk but because where I live I get out less in winter. I spend more time in front of the computer and I get a lot more emails, blogs, etc. telling me about the new and wonderful equipment just announced. Now if only some extra cash would come flowing at me at the same time. Alas 'tis the time of year for taxes, fuel oil and the assorted other expenses associated with modern living in a cold climate.

Markus Spring

Thanks, Brooks. I feel guilty as charged, but is consoling that I am not alone falling into this trap. Having grown older, also in photography, at least these urges to divert can be better balanced by a collection of images where I see the result of my own process, but when I was young, oh boy: That simple equation of better gear/another developer/different paper will result in SUCCESS was too alluring to resist. And unfortunately all photography magazines I knew back then did nothing but fuel it...
And while the internet may be a similar time killer as TV was or is, it helped me to open up my horizon and learn (about gear, too, but not exclusively) and get into an exchange of ideas and knowledge about creativity.


I'm of the idea that the people who feel no compulsion to create art, have compulsion for other things. Just as I have a need to fill my sixteen or so waking hours with productive artistic action, others will divert their actions to that which pleases (seduces) them.

I've asked myself many a time, why am I compelled to photograph? Primarily to study and understand humanity--also leave a legacy; occupy time (this is more important than than it seems); and earn from it when possible.

But, even a persistent level of concentration around an idea needs a break every now and then. How much push to give yourself to achieve your end result? If the end result takes time (hours? days? weeks?), are you giving yourself enough time to do it? Are you pushing yourself to do it faster? Lunch hour during your work day is mandatory for a reason. This diversion you speak of could be the "lunch break" you need.

The next question is how long of a "lunch break" do you take before resuming your artistic tasks?

Vibhakar Jariwala

You so eloquently put words to the thoughts that many of us have but cannot express. Looking in to void is very difficult and scary and there is no one assure you that you will get an answer. Reading your article now may be next time I have “urge” to buy a new how to book, I will instead grab the camera and jump into the void.
I wonder if the fear of facing the void is may be fear of failure. One wants to enjoy just the process of creativity but inevitably instead we correlate this joy to the final result.


Glenn Guy

Congratulations Books on a beautifully written piece. I hope to see this article again, perhaps in an iPad compatible book accompanied by one of your finest photographs.

Sean Blocklin

Brooks, great article. I am just getting over a bout of this avoiding the void and have been guilty of wrapping myself up in the minutiae. In my case this was film processing. I think what is so seductive about this antic is results. While not delving deep into the meaning of our photographs we can end up with something solid we understand. This works, this doesn't work. It feels like we're bettering ourselves and our work without much conflict. Failure can be easily remedied.

However, the success of an idea realized in a photograph is much more pleasing.

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