Giving Myself a Break

Letting Go


I have decided to give myself a break.

As was the case in the previous three years, I took on another Project 365 commitment in 2013. I have written often of the many benefits of this practice. Of how this daily communion with the camera was my form of meditation. Of how walking out the door, even when I didn’t feel like it, was important. Many times it seemed like nothing more than a worthless exercise –  and yet, those were often the days when I was most rewarded.

So I understand the importance of persistence and commitment and endurance. Of sticking to the plan. It’s how my mind and personality are geared and it has served me well.

But there is also a darker side to this project commitment. I have this irrational fear that if I let down my guard photography will desert me. That if I give up on my daily commitment, I will never pick up the camera again. That it is my insistence on the “daily-ness” of this practice that is its key component – the thing that insures its relevance in my life. And that if I drop the routine of daily photography, I will somehow forsake it completely.

But this past month has been a tough one. And so, more than has ever happened in the past, there have been multiple days of no new photography. Where the camera stayed in its bag. And I stayed inside, where it was warm, unable to face the cold and the wind and the gray. Even when I told myself that I “should”.

So that’s where “the break” comes in. I have decided to re-write my Project 365 rules – instead of a photo a day, it is now a commitment to being creative every day. Whether that is through creating new images or processing old images (like the one above) or tangling (my newest obsession being the fascinating art of Zentangle).

And I will trust that photography is so entwined in my heart and soul and life that it will withstand the missed days. Knowing that letting go of this internal obligation is the right thing to do; that it is my responsibility to define what works for me. That blind obedience, especially to my own internal taskmaster, is not healthy.

So here I am, letting go.


And speaking of “letting go”, what is your personal challenge? How can you push yourself to step outside your comfort zone? Join us for the March edition of the Third Thursday Challenge – the link is open through the end of the month.





Posted on March 28, 2013, in Photography and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. Brenda, we all need to let go from time to time, to give ourselves a much needed break. I used to put all this pressure on myself to blog every day and would get stressed out when I couldn’t. When I relaxed and loosely commited to three posts a week instead I found I was so much happier.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, we’ll all still be here. Sorry the past month has been a tough one but I love how you have rewritten the rules to make them work for you.

    • Kathryn – as an inveterate rule follower, it is really hard for me to recognize when to let go of my own rules. There has been a new sense of ease in my days since making this decision – so I think it has been a good one. Rather than forcing it, I have been going out when it feels right and I have been enjoying finding hidden gems in my archive to post to Flickr in place of “new” work. I sense that as the weather eases, I will be back out there on a regular basis.

  2. I’m sure it was a hard decision to make, to stop something you’ve made into a daily practice. You know, you’ll never loose your love for photography. In fact, without the pressure you’ll probably enjoy it more and I know you’ll enjoy spending time with older images. Zentangle fascinates me. I’ve done a couple of small squares, nothing elaborate, but I’ve seen some absolutely stunning drawings. I’d love to see some of your creations. This winter seems to have been a tough one on so many people. I haven’t taken very many nature photos the last couple of months. Maybe I just needed a break, too! Hope spring finds it’s way to you swiftly and brightens your days!

    • Cathy – everything you say is correct – it has been more of a pleasure when I do go out and I feel lighter all around.

      Ah, a fellow tangler! I have been teaching myself, using online resources and a Zentangle book from the local craft store. Next week I am taking a Zentangle 101 class from a certified instructor – I am really excited. Hopefully, I haven’t picked up too many bad habits that I will have to un-learn. On the official Zentangle website, they have a list of instructors – I simply emailed the three in my area, inquiring about classes – and found that they all teach locally on a regular basis. I’m not ready yet to share my work but I am loving the time that I spend with it each day. I still have to work on slowing down. I think there is a lot to learn from this hobby.

  3. This sounds like the right decision for you, Brenda. I can’t imagine you ever losing your enjoyment of photography.! There are so many ways to be creative, and I think it’s good to try new ones. I started doing zentangles about two years ago — it really is fun!

    You know, I started the 365 project this year. I was feeling so guilty when I missed a day or two, but then I reminded myself this project is for me and no one else. I can do it the way I want and need — feels so much better that way.

    I’m planning on posting my TTC this Friday. Your image today is so bright and lovely!

    • Gina – looking forward to your TTC submission! And yes, I think this is the best decision for me, right now at this time. Even though I always took your approach to my past 365 Projects – not being dismayed when I skipped a day or two – this has been something else that I needed to recognize and address. And I am feeling better about it already. I still plan to post daily to Flickr – but it will be a mix of old and new images. I so appreciate the support. And I love that you do Zentangles too!

  4. Well done for recognising what you need and cutting yourself some slack. As the others have said, I don’t ever imagine you losing your enjoyment of photography and I think sometimes losing the pressure of ‘should’ can be very freeing. My 365 this year is numbered rather than dated and I have certainly missed a fair few days – more likely to be 2 year 365 the rate I’m going!
    Zentangles sound fascinating – I’ve seen some beautiful ones though I haven’t tried them myself.

    • Becs – the decision sort of made itself, as I found myself home, day after day – and I finally acknowledged what my heart had been whispering to me – take a break. It certainly wasn’t easy – admitting what my internal rule-follower could only define as “defeat”. But then I realized that it was only “defeat” if I chose to define it as such so I am now choosing to see it as a victory for letting go. And I admire your “2 year” 365 project – why not? After all, it’s YOUR project – to define and create as you see fit. (And I guarantee that you will fall in love with Zentangle if you give it a whirl 🙂

  5. I had the same fear that I would not pick up a camera again after stopping my 365 project. I thought I might not blog again too if I didn’t do it every day. Neither of those things have happened – nor are they likely to in the near future. I love the idea of a 365 creative project.

    Years ago, a wise old man, used to ask me “What have you done for fun today?” It was during a dark period of struggles in my life and I often didn’t have an answer. Some times I would even try to avoid him though that wasn’t easy in the circumstances where our paths crossed. Still, he asked It wasn’t until years later that I realized the benefit of that question. Eventually I got it that I needed to make room in my life for those things that brought me joy. Call it fun, call it creativity, call it whatever you want but if it is where you find joy and passion, you will seek it out. If you wander away from the practice, you will soon suffer from its absence. The trick is to be kind to yourself and not make the practice the thing but the joy.

    • Anne – I love this story and the idea of making time for fun everyday – it whatever way each of us defines “fun”. And what wisdom in this: “be kind to yourself and not make the practice the thing but the joy.” I think you have captured in one phrase what I was feeling and experiencing lately – the daily-ness had somehow become more important than the photography itself. I so appreciate your insight – thank you for sharing your perspective.

  6. And I’m applauding and celebrating your choosing to ‘let go’. For some (me included) that ‘letting go’ of a promise to myself is as much of a challenge as continuing on…even when we can’t.

    • Marcie – you are my hero of the commitment to a daily practice – I learn so much from your example. In the first blush of this decision, it felt like defeat – an abandonment of my ideals, of giving up on what I know is good about doing this daily. But then I realized that I wasn’t giving up on the daily practice – just rewriting the terms. And since the contract I made was with myself, it was in my power to do so. And not only was it in my power, but it was required that I do so if I wanted this commitment to have real meaning in my life.

  7. That’s interesting, Brenda. I was just thinking yesterday that my photography was feeling a little uninspired and I noticed that I didn’t photograph anything yesterday. I am not doing a 365 day project this year, so I just let it go and thought I must be preparing for something new. We all need to take a break sometimes and let new ideas germinate.

    I no longer worry that I will lose my love for photography.

    I like your shift in perspective from a daily image to daily creativity.

    • Kim – I have had those days – when I realized at the end of the day that I didn’t think about photography at all. And it was always a little disconcerting. But I like your idea that this fallow time is an opportunity to let creative ideas germinate; a preparation for something new. That makes me excited – to see what is coming next.

  8. Congratulations. I’m glad you’re giving yourself a break. It’s OK. Really it is. I did a 365, then took a year off and am now in my next one, day 211 (not that I’m counting or anything). The other day I was driving around so angry because I didn’t want to shoot a photo and I was just looking for something, anything so I could get it done. Guess what the quality of that image was like? Blahhhhhh.
    You are doing such exciting things with your processing that I don’t see this change as anything but awesome and freeing. Can’t wait to see all that you come up with. NO beating yourself up.

    • Susan – you are right. There is that element of “just-take-the-damn-shot” – simply to fulfill the daily commitment – that is part and parcel of the 365 project process. I have had plenty of those kind of days – and plenty of those kind of mediocre shots as a result. But on the other hand, there have been plenty of days when I was amazingly rewarded for going out when I really, really didn’t want to. So it was a difficult decision – to give up on that possibility of what might have been, each time I make the choice NOT to go out. But I am breathing easier and enjoying playing inside in my Photoshop sandbox. And still going out whenever the sun shines.

  9. Brenda, you are so consistently and creatively creative that I’ve often wondered how you manage it all. I’m glad you gave yourself permission to take a break, to do things that aren’t as photo-centric as what you have been doing. I’m sure that you will find ways to merge lessons learned elsewhere into your photography practice and that you, and the rest of us, will be enriched as a result. Now I’m off to find out what Zentangle is!

    • Wanda – I hope your predictions are correct – and that this move (perhaps temporary) away from daily photography will prove to be creatively enriching in other ways. And I warn you now – Zentangle is highly addictive. I have been teaching myself, using online resources and a book from the local craft store – I am excited to be taking an in-person class next week.

  10. Changing one’s commitment to oneself can be frightening, as you so well express above. My experience is that it is important to listen to ourselves and our changing needs. Foregoing an approach that has worked and has been important to us is risky. There is no guarantee that the new approach will work. I find, however, that if I can view the change as an experiment, I feel less frightened. It means that if the new approach doesn’t work, I can go back to the prior approach, or try something else.

    • Anita – there is much wisdom in your comment and I appreciate your input. It is scary to abandon something that has worked so well in the past. But as you point out – I can always return to daily shooting at any point in the future for there is nothing about this creative journey that is set in stone – it can be changed at any time to what works best for me in that moment.

  11. Good for you, I think a 365 is a huge commitment, and surely rewarding, however it is important to feel free to make adjustments if that’s what you need. It sounds as if you’re still being creative though.

    • Leanne – I have missed days before in previous projects – and just moved on when that happened. But it felt different this time – I was really struggling with it. It feels good to be “released” from that commitment. Now when I do go out shooting I’m excited by the prospect.

  12. I LOVE your decision. Nothing silences an internal task master like not paying it any attention! Great decision, Brenda. You are creative in so many ways…the 365 project is a wonderful expression of your creativity – but it’s, by far, not the only one. By far! And, you are not only wonderfully creative, you are also a wonderful leader of creativity. I love that you’re listening to your internal wise counsellor, instead of the internal task master, and saying ‘enough’. Keep showing us the way, Brenda. PS. I LOVE the image. Spectacular. And, I have to check out Zen tangle! I think it’s something I’ve been doing for years, but I didn’t know it had a name..that it was a thing! Very excited to learn more! Hugs from Toronto!

    • Juli – thanks so much. I have a very strong internal taskmaster (and I love the way you have described this) who takes control in no uncertain terms. It is an excruciating process to “let down” this taskmaster – to not live up to her high standards. But I am feeling good about the decision – to letting my day unfold in the way it wants to and finding creativity in many forms. (And as I have mentioned to others, beware – Zentangle is extremely addictive!)

  13. All I can say is that you’re amazing. Zentangle? You are truly an artist! I create a ton of rules for myself…some are irrational…does it really matter where something sits on a shelf, but the rules I really need to follow about my getting things done, growing creatively, etc., I dismiss far more often than I should. Go figure! :o)

    Gorgeous image…I think it’s those blue tones you create that really get to me.

    • Suzette – rules, rules, rules! Oh, I can talk to you about rules 🙂 I am the queen of internal rules. Many of my rules are good for me – they keep me focused on and committed to what I want to accomplish. But then, if what I want or need to accomplish should change – oh, boy! – that’s when we have a “slight” issue. I do think that recognizing we have these rules is the first step – once we know they are there, we can then question their relevance to our life, right now, and get rid of the ones that don’t. And thanks again – I have really been playing around with my blues 🙂

  14. It’s like you have a little window into my mind. I do the same thing — believing that if I don’t write every day, the words will just evaporate and disappear. I love what you’ve written here: “That blind obedience, especially to my own internal taskmaster, is not healthy.” As always, you are an inspiration. xo lisa

    • Lisa – Ha! I wish I had a window into that fascinating mind of yours – full of characters, voices, words, plots, stories. Somehow I doubt that your words will ever evaporate – but I completely understand the feeling.

      For me, at this point in my creative journey, this was the right decision. I hadn’t realized how much stress I had unwittingly placed on my self trying to meet my daily photography goal. Now, I go out when the weather cooperates and I find joy again in being out there.

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