Escaping a Rut

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Just the other day as I was cleaning up the photos on my iPhone, I noticed a disturbing trend. All my pictures looked like crap. I used to be such an avid “photographer.” I used to take decent pictures of interesting subjects. I used to have “an eye,” as people would tell me, yet recently, I seemed to have lost the gift of the photographer’s “natural viewfinder.” Of course, the first thing I did was blame my iPhone.

Aw, it’s not a real camera. It makes photographers lazy. Anyone can take pictures with a smart phone these days.

Then I started to blame my environment.

There’s nothing photogenic about where I live. This city is boring from an aesthetic point of view. There’s nothing here that makes an interesting picture. This town is a photographic cliche. 

And perhaps in a final act of denial, I blamed my lifestyle.

All I do is work, and it’s killed all creativity within me. I have no energy to be creative. I have no time.

Perhaps, in a sense, all of the above were true, but what it really took to get my creative juices flowing again was a trip out of town. Nothing opens one’s eyes as much as exposure to new places and scenes and this happened to be just what I needed.

So, starting mid-morning today a girlfriend picked me up in her little blue Mazda and drove us out to Manassas Battlefield Park in Virginia where we hiked and walked the various trails, cameras in hand, soaking in all the views around us—both man-made and God-made. And it was as if a switch then turned on inside of me. Suddenly, everywhere I looked I saw a potential postcard picture. It was as if by instinct that I knew what angle to take my pictures at and how to maximize the landscape before me. Whatever creativity I lacked when I woke up this morning at home suddenly came alive out there on the battlefield.

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It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, and once you’re in a rut, it can be hard to escape. Exhaustion, negativity, hopelessness—it can all weigh down on you and suddenly you can lose the ability to see the good and beauty in what’s around you. You seem to lose that self-confidence you once had. It’s suddenly harder to think outside the box, to find that spirit of creativity that is buried deep inside you.

They always say you should take a step back and examine your surroundings whenever encountering such roadblocks. I would take that a step further. For a more radical change, temporarily leave your familiar environment altogether and explore a new place. You’ll find it rekindles a sense of curiosity within you and once that happens, you’ll notice other positive changes; a renewed feeling of adventure, excitement and even joy as suddenly the little ordinary things such as a house, a tree or even the sky, take on a whole new appearance in your eyes.

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The trees may seem more interesting, the sky bigger, the air fresher, the landscape wider. Your entire perspective shifts. This is a good thing. And it’s important.

So the next time you feel stuck in life, get out of the house, get out of town, and go find yourself again in a new surrounding. I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you did.

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