Seven inspiring ideas for your creativity (or the destructive habit of habit)

Death Valley, California

People often say to me about my dawn escapades – Oh I could never do that. I’m too much of a night owl! Or I really really need my sleep. I could never get up before dawn!

What I know about myself is that I am both of these things – a night owl who intensely dislikes going to bed. And a cat-like person who relishes sleep like, well, a cat.

But what I also know is that all of this, and most of what I am, is habit. And habit can be broken if you want something enough.

“As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge” Henry van Dyke

Did you know that something like 70-80% of the thoughts you will have today you also had yesterday? How crazy is that? And that 95% of who you are – your habits, beliefs, personality etc. is set by the age of 35 (unless you make an effort to change). That’s even crazier than crazy. That’s plain scary.


moonrise_deathvalley 1
Death Valley, California

And this is a big but. Science has discovered recently that actually your mind has the ability to totally reinvent itself – if you so desire.

And the reason I LOVE this idea is that we find out how it can affect us creatively. So I thought it would be cool to tell you some of the ideas that have totally blown my mind and inspired me (and none of them are about photography directly. Remember what Ernst Haas said? Answers on a postcard please…)

Remember – we don’t have to buy into our ideas about ourselves which limit our creativity.

So here are some ideas that are all about unleashing the creativity that’s deep inside us:

1. Life is long (if you know how to use it):

I love a bit of history and Seneca’s essay ‘On the Shortness of Life: Life is Long if You Know How to Use it” is both inspiring in its content, and the fact it’s ancient and yet still relevant today.

Great quote from it: “The part of life we really live is small. For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.”

The concept is in the title, but you can also read the text which offers up more wisdom. Tim Ferriss has the full text on his website, and very helpfully he has also bolded out certain bits of the text if you only have a few minutes and want a quick read.

snowmojave2Snow in Mojave Desert, California

2. Curate your own life:

There is nothing like one of Jason’s Silva’s shot in the arm two-minute videos to electrify you with inspiration. This talk I particularly love because he talks about things like creativity but also how technology fuels the exchange of ideas, finding beauty everywhere you go and how you don’t have to let life happen to you – you can instead curate your own life exactly how you want it to be. He’s a super cool guy and he stuffs a lot into two minutes.

3. We are all creative geniuses:

For a long time most cultures (and some still do believe this) believed that creativity and genius came not from you but some other source (god, your subconscious, your higher self, the universe etc.) I like this theory because it takes the pressure off, doesn’t it? So the theory works like this – all you need to do is get out of the way and allow this force that’s within you to do the creating. Awesome huh? Elizabeth Gilbert did a cool Ted talk on this.

scotland1Highlands, near Campbeltown, Scotland

4. Start from where you are:

A little while ago we received a comment on our site which to me was very touching:

“I had put away my camera 2 years ago because of my own pressure to achieve great pictures. With all the technology that’s to hand now I often feel over saturated with images, and don’t think that my photos are any good.”

And it made me realise that so many people get stuck because we get overwhelmed and our expectations of ourselves are not high enough to overcome them (or we get stuck in perfectionism, which if it has you in its embrace is a crushing vice to creativity).

To counter this, as well as to help you jet-fuel your search for your own passion, I fully advocate the ideas of Sir Ken Robinson, who is a very funny, brilliant guy and his talks about education are awe-inspiring (and changed the trajectory of my family’s life). He has a brilliant talk about passion aimed at all ages.

“Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.” – Jack Gilbert quoted in Big Magic a great book about ‘creative living beyond fear’.

cyanstar3000Scipio, Utah

5. What fear does to your life when you avoid doing what you want.

Ok, I am slightly going to step into the morbid here, only to inspire you though, promise! This article about the book – The five top regrets of the dying – is incredibly moving. But it also clarifies how much we need to pay attention to the time we have on this earth – relishing, enjoying and experiencing as much as we can. Carpe Diem! When I’m getting weighed down with irritation about stupid, irrelevant stuff I read this.

On a lighter note, this article about John Gardner’s book ‘Self-Renewal’, on the chronically interesting site Brainpickings about What Children Can Teach Us About Risk, Failure, and Personal Growth – is super inspiring. We could all learn a lot from kids about being brave with our creativity (as I do daily with my kids).

6. Your mind is made of playdoh (well, almost)

When I grew up, the prevailing scientific thought was that our brain was fixed at a certain age and brains couldn’t be repaired or changed. That theory has now been blown to pieces and the concept of neuroplasticity is now gaining widespread acceptance.

“New research shows many aspects of the brain remain changeable (or “plastic”) even into adulthood.” Wikipedia

(Have a look at this article, highly interesting stuff!: Neuroplasticity: You Can Teach An Old Brain New Tricks)

That is an amazing thought. So instead of being hardwired and unchangeable, our brains can still develop new neural pathways, we can still change how we think and what we believe, we can still learn new things – all the way into old age.

Lucky us right?

land_032Hampstead Heath, London

7. And I will leave you with something both funny and beautiful

This is not directly related to creativity, but it is a wonderful, funny and powerful short film. Anything that can spread joy and put you in a good mood is always good for your creative juices right!?

It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen all year. Please watch it, it’s only 7 minutes long: Merci.

So – the guy in the video is a bodhisatta and he uses the power that is within all of us to affect everyone around him. It wasn’t magic, he realised his innate power, a power that everyone has,  and brought joy to people’s lives.

I will leave you there. I hope those are some cool ideas for you. I would LOVE to know what you think – and if you have some mind-blowing inspiring ideas of your own. Please comment below.

And I’d love it if you shared this with anyone you know who loves photography.

I’ve got something else cool for you in store, so watch out…!

Anthony & Diana

PS: These photos I’ve featured of mine are 10+ years old at least. I think it’s so easy to get fixated on the future that we forget what we’ve already done. Although I don’t love going back over old photos, because I always feel my best is right now or still to come, when I’m being reasonable I realise I’ve taken some pretty nice photos 🙂 Why not look at your old photos this weekend and see what treasures you can find.


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5 Comments on "Seven inspiring ideas for your creativity (or the destructive habit of habit)"

  1. Dawn Penso says:

    Where are the links, especially for item 7?

  2. Anthony Epes says:

    Hi Dawn – thanks for your message. The links are where the writing is in bold. So for number seven it’s the film title ‘Merci’ that is bolded and linked to the film. I’m sorry it’s not very clear. The text options on our website are not good, I think the text is generally too small as well as it being hard to see the links. We are looking for ways to change it so that people can read it easier – especially as we always include so many links in our posts. But I hope you can find them now. Maybe I’ll look at making the linked copy another colour. Thanks for pointing it out, I’ll a find a solution.

  3. richard warren says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Anthony – when we all do this, it gives another generation of photographers a flying start & a chance to get stuck right into shooting good photos.

    I share your love of “light” and love the photos you post, showing what it means to you.

    I have a phobia about pastiche – pastiche is never “right”. A number of other photographers, when they try publishing their views, seem to want to corral people into blindly following their own personal mantra. To me, that is totally wrong.

    New photographers should be encouraged to develop their own style, while also given some helpful hints that will encourage them to do it and shove them off in the right direction to hit their target. You seem to have an instinctive understanding of this – an ability to open their eyes and their minds, without leaving them all to produce the same thing.

  4. Anthony Epes says:

    Being pastiche is something I’ve tried to I avoid all my working life. When I was working as a printer in Los Angeles everyday clients would come in everyday with “new work” that was just an emulation of what was currently trending – just so they could get published as that is what the un-creative minds at the agencies wanted to see.

    I made it my purpose as a creative to try and find an original look. Being a spawn of a technical school (Brooks Institute of Photography) I found an obscure film process called color acceleration that I used in a new creative way. Originally it was used to boost low ISO film speeds, but the drawback was a nasty color shift. I loved it and used in my landscape photography. I remember my Advanced Color professor, Mr Rand, telling me that was not what it was for (creating artsy images) but never the less the results were intriguing. I passed the class.

    If you are not finding your own path, but following someone elses then you are on the wrong path and will most likely never succeed in creating art that moves you and others.

    Thank you for your comment Richard 🙂

  5. Prairierose says:

    Well done!

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