Invasion of the Shoulds

The “shoulds” have invaded.

You should photograph more – the weather is no excuse for staying indoors. You should do another 365 project. You should take self-portraits. You should explore still-lifes. You should set up a home studio and study lighting. You should always carry your camera. You should broaden your subject matter. And on and on and on…    

I understand where the “should” voice is coming from – after all, I went on fewer photo-walks in January than any month since I began this photographic journey. I strongly believe in the benefits of a daily photography practice. That commitment in previous years resulted in significant creative growth.

And then there is the fear that if I put the camera down for too long, I will never pick it up again.

But…for me, right now, I don’t want to listen to my “should” voice. I don’t want to do anymore than what I am doing – so I am trying to be okay with these infrequent bursts of photographic inspiration.

Take this image, for example. When I posted it to Flickr, my friend Suzette commented that it reminded her of a roller coaster – those moments of anticipation as you slowly climb the first hill, waiting for that downward rush of exhilaration and joyful terror.

So perhaps this quiet time is simply preparation for something yet to come – a chance to discover that this practice can be whatever it will be – daily or not; the same subjects or not. That the ups and downs – it’s all part of the ride.

Linking with the January edition of the Photo-Heart Connection, hosted by Kat Sloma


Posted on February 4, 2014, in Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. It does look like a ride or a slide. The ‘shoulds’ have been visiting here too. At times they can be motivational but right now I find them down right debilitating and depressing.

  2. Oh no, not the shoulds! Time to get quiet and listen to that other voice. It’s a lot quieter. 🙂

  3. Wonderful lines and colours and the lighting creating yet more geometric shapes. I love it!
    I’ve got very good at ignoring my ‘shoulds’… they hardly get a look in these days, but I have to be vigilant, they’re always loitering where they ‘shouldn’t’!

  4. Tracks in the shadows… lovely shot!

  5. This photo is BRILLIANT! I say that like it’s an unusual thing; it’s not. You’re photos so often amaze me. I don’t see like you do. That said, I’m fine with that-I see the way I do.
    I too have that fear that if I set the camera down it would drift farther and farther away, like my golf clubs, dog agility equipment, drum, piano, etc. Perhaps we are meant to drift when we drift. Who knows?
    I hope you will be kind to yourself regarding less photowalking. Maybe it’s a way of hearing that you need a little break. Your mind and creative soul may be telling you that. I go to the gym almost every day. I mentioned to a trainer that I felt like I was burning out. She said “you need to take a week off”-I have that same fear that I won’t be able to motivate to return. But my body needed the break and it seemed to help the mental fatigue. Just a thought.
    I can totally see the roller coaster here. What a great pictoral metaphor for where you’re at. Just keep keeping on my friend, in whatever form that may be. That’s what you SHOULD do.

  6. What I love about this image is the way those regimented, right-angled windows create that beautiful curving path of angled light leading upward and out – like a launching ramp for an Olympic ski jumper, perhaps.

    Something I read once that has stuck with me and sometimes been helpful was this: try turning “should” into “could.” That way, instead of beating myself up, I can consider the reasons I’m not doing certain things. I could walk more, but it’s dangerously cold out and doesn’t feel good. I could take more photographs, but I’m tired and want a break. I could try new subjects, but I still love this one and I’m not finished with it yet. Whatever. Sometimes it works the other way – I’m not really that tired, just sort of bored with the same old same old; maybe a new approach or a new subject would shake me out of my doldrums. In any case, it makes me aware that I’m making a choice.

    Listen to your heart. It hasn’t led you wrong yet.

  7. Sandra wrote what I would write, both about the photo and ignoring shoulds.
    This is another of your fantastic images, with lines, curves, colors, light, shadows combining into a pleasing whole. I don’t see like you do. I admire that you do. And, I love seeing your images.

  8. Oh, those nasty shoulds — I’ve been wrestling with them all my adult life. And, for me, that leads to guilt. 😦 I agree with the others who recommend taking a break from it all. Do something different, or nothing at all. We all need downtime to reboot. Your gorgeous image is full of beautiful light and happy color, and the lines lead us up — up to something new and exciting at the top.

  9. Love the lines, the tones and the light in this image. Wonderful! Came over here from Kat’s Photoheart connection linkup.

  10. Sometimes I wonder if there has been a universal down time in January, because so many blogging friends have mentioned the same things. Wanting to take photos, not wanting to, being inside a lot, trying other things or not… and the list goes on.

    I think you are correct – it’s all part of the ride. Life is filled with highs and lows. Yet we live in a culture that promotes the highs, be entertained every day, be happy every day, be beautiful all the time. Reality is what January was. Both good and not as good days.

    The snow melts so that more snow can fall. (ha!)

    Amazing image…love the cool tones.

  11. I’m so glad you aren’t listening to the “shoulds,” Brenda, but following your heart. It’s hard, believe me, I know. I think sometimes we need to hibernate, take some time off, and let new things have a chance to grow. Down time is ok. Remember the mantra – No rules, just joy! The arrival of the “shoulds” means some internal rules are rearing their internal heads. Great job in letting them go. Wonderful and heart-felt Photo-Heart Connection this month.

  12. I love the colour in this one too..
    Enjoy the photography rollercoaster that you are on!

  13. You are right, it is a beautiful turquoise roller coaster. I always enjoy reading what others write to you…always thoughtful comments, more so than many other blogs. This is a tribute to the care you take with what you choose to share and the words you decorate around it. I like the premise of should/could. It seems to me that if you put your camera down for a bit of a rest now and then, by force of the habit you have formed, it will be picked up again….and it might follow you on a different path. One never ever knows what is around the corner. I often feel neglectful that I am irregular in posting and what I post. I let it drive me nuts for a long time, then I had a talk with myself: you only have 24 hours and lots of priorities. Choose best what you should do each day. And often the camera and the paintbrush are left sitting on the counter. But I have no regrets.

    What you wrote hit a sensitive nerve with most of us….sometimes it is nice to have company.
    I never fear you will do what you know you want to do. Your beautiful work has graced our lives. smiles: sharon

  14. Fabulous image. And yes, I feel the same way. Lots of should and a distinct lack of motivation. For me, I know that sometimes I need a break to come back refreshed. But it’s frustrating. And it usually hits about this time of year.
    Creativity is such a rollercoaster. The highs are awesomely amazing but wow, those lows are hard. But you’re right, they are all part of the ride. Love what Kat wrote – no rules, just joy. Yes please to that! 🙂

  15. I could have written the first part of this post, I´ve been suffering the invasion of the shoulds too regarding my photography practice. But I am learning to go with my process and after weeks being less active new things are starting to emerge and they are not coming to me like a duty, but like a possibility…
    Wonderful photo and great photo-heart connection

  16. What a surprise…thank you for quoting me. It’s an honor.

    For whatever reason, my list of should/could things drives me crazy and makes me feel inadequate. Hence, I am creatively blocked a lot of the time. I read Sharon Furner’s comment and I love what she said, especially that she has “no regrets” as she decides what’s most important to conquer each day and let’s the other things go. I also like her idea that if we put something down for a while and pick it up again, we might find our way along a new path. I believe if we would eliminate our “should lists” we would live without guilt and feel more freedom in our everyday lives. This will be my goal as I move forward this year…to live a more authentic life.

    Thank you so much for your inspiring words…well written as always.

    And the image…you know how I feel about that! Fabulous!

  17. I feel like I’m in an echo chamber. So many of the previous comments are exactly what I would have written were I more prompt, wise, or profound (etc., etc.).

    Whatever…the fact that you have a backlog of images to draw on during an occasional break from your regular practice is, by itself, very impressive. I am confident that your muse–the combination of light, subject matter, challenge and your own unique perspective–is on the horizon. I’m looking forward to many more spectacular images and accompanying essays from you.

  18. What beautiful lines and color! This is a wonderful post…so much to think about!

  19. Another of your amazing images! I understand the “shoulds” and I understand how they can work against our creativity! I feel the same way in the summer months…I don’t do summer!! Just take a rest, stay warm, and enjoy your “infrequent bursts of photographic inspiration.”

  20. Yes, no shoulds. The world has so much to indulge in, we might as well fill it with that which inspires as we explore. Yep, even a roller coaster is an invitation to explore.

I greatly appreciate your comments!

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