Staying Inspired with Lori Nordstrom
As business owners who are also creative artists, we are easily burned out. The mundane tasks of running a business seem to suck the creativity right out of us. Yes, we get to do what we love. But we also have to run a business. So how do we stay inspired?
Looking outside our photography can give us the creative energy to go back to the camera with new passion and insight. Portrait artist Kevin Jordan (www.jordanportraitdesign.com) puts it this way: “Inspiration is not as much of a quest as it is an awareness. If we opened our minds to the infinite beauty that surrounds us, we would be inspired by our ability to ingest it all.”
Inspiration and creativity can fill every single day if you plan for and allow it. When we stay inspired, we are excited and motivated in our business, and it affects our personal lives as well. I encourage you to think about some of these ways to stay encouraged and inspired each day.
Revisit Your “Why”
We all start our businesses with a purpose in mind. Somewhere along the way, whether it’s the bills or client issues or the endless hours behind our computers, we forget about our “why.” Why did you start your photography business? Define and write out your why so that you always have that to go back to. Revisit your why when you need that extra boost to continue on your journey.
Don’t Spend Time on the Past
The only thing you can control is right now. Dwelling on the past will suck the creativity and momentum right out of you. Learn from mistakes and leave them there. Make a conscious choice to live in the moment, and be purposeful in your actions and reactions.
Spend Time Alone
The photography business can be a lonely one, especially for those who work from home or work solo. Unless you’re actually photographing a session, you are alone working. Getting away from the business and taking some down time by yourself, without pressure from anything or anyone, gives you the freedom to go back renewed. Schedule time to relax, whatever that looks like for you. Something as simple as a walk without any other distractions gives you new ideas and insights. “Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption,” writes Susan Cain in her Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
Years ago I read the book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, by Ann Voskamp. The main message of this book is to be grateful in all things—not just the things that automatically make us happy. We should look for gratefulness even in the tough moments in our lives. This book changed my perspective. You can’t be grateful and negative at the same time. Start each morning, before your feet hit the floor, with a grateful heart. Think of at least one thing you are grateful for in that moment, and start your day saying thank you. Look for moments of gratefulness throughout your day and write them down. Gratefulness keeps us happy and positive.
Just coming up with random acts of kindness can inspire your creativity. Your act of kindness could be as simple as a text or phone call to encourage someone. It could be an anonymous little gift, or you could start a “pay it forward” campaign. Whatever you choose, you will be blessed by being the blessing. We all know people who could use a pick-me-up. Be the person who puts a smile on their face today, and see what it does for your own heart.
Giving back gives you a sense of purpose and meaning. Photographer Nichol Krupp (www.nicholkruppphotography.com) says, “Giving back inspires me and keeps my own blessed life in perspective. For me, giving back includes many different things, from photographing cancer warriors, survivors and their families to keeping my eyes open for ways to give back both in my own community as well as working in other countries.”
Working with orphans in Ecuador, I personally have been blessed by teaching these children that there is always someone less fortunate than they are. There is always someone they can serve. Seeing the way these kids respond to giving has opened my eyes to new ways to serve and give.
Giving to others of your time, talent or money can fill your heart with joy. It also motivates me in my business because I know that to give a lot, I need to make a lot.
Keep a Journal
I’m a little addicted to journals. Whether it’s jotting down an idea I want to revisit later, making a to-do list or just scribbling my thoughts, putting pen to paper can be very therapeutic. I’ve found that writing also helps me brainstorm new ideas as I doodle and mind-map my thoughts.
In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron encourages readers to start a practice of what she calls “morning pages.” Each morning you mind-dump, writing anything that comes to mind, emptying any doubt, fear, negativity or questions you have onto paper. Cameron calls this practice the secret to a productive day. By getting rid of the clutter in your mind, you’ll clear your thoughts and have a fresh start on the day.
Try Something New
Many photographers get stuck in a rut of photography being their only muse. When asked what their hobbies are, most photographers get stumped. “Um…photography?” is a common answer. Trying a new art medium, drawing, painting, journaling, potting or knitting can be freeing and rewarding. Even if we feel we aren’t the best at this new medium, it opens up new areas of creativity and can be a lot of fun.
Read a Good Book
Reading inspires us and increases our knowledge. Whether you enjoy fiction or you’re a nerd like me who loves diving into business, marketing and motivational books, taking time out for reading opens your mind to new ideas. Senior portrait photographer Teri Fode (TeriFode.com) says, “I am always reading a good business book but also love the oldies but goodies by Earl Nightingale and Dale Carnegie. Their books are always a good refresher on positive attitude in business.” Fode also spends time listening to books, podcasts and Periscopes, listening to successful business owners outside of our industry. “Entrepreneurs who are killing it in marketing and business concepts keep me inspired and constantly innovating new ideas,” she says.
Exercise is not only a great stress reliever, it can keep you motivated to continue healthy habits throughout the day. Exercise releases endorphins, which keep us positive and energetic. Even if you can’t make it to the gym, you can take mini breaks for a walk, bike ride or pushups, sit-ups, planks and squats. Taking moments to exercise and move your body boosts self-esteem and strengthens your body. If the thought of exercise makes you squirm, take some time to turn up the music and dance.
Use the 50/10 Rule
The 50/10 rule says that 10 minutes of every hour should be spent recharging. Work for 50 minutes, and rest or do something that you don’t have to think about for 10. When we take just 10 minutes to get up and take a break, or, as some studies suggest, lie down, we come back to our work more focused and fresh.
Schedule a Play Date
With social media, we are more connected than ever, but there is also a disconnect in the way we interact with people. Business coach Casey Graham (https://caseygraham.com/7figurepodcast) says that relationships and his curiosity about what makes people tick are the fuel for his staying inspired and creative in his business endeavors.
Schedule a time to meet with an old friend, or begin a relationship with a new one. Take time to ask questions and really listen. Graham says that by asking questions, he never gets bored.
Surround Yourself With Like-Minded People
Sometimes it takes setting aside time to network with a group of people that you connect with. Throwing out new ideas to chew on, holding each other accountable and challenging each other to move to the next level can make a big difference.
Photographer Kevin Jordan (www.jordanportraitdesign.com) says, “I find inspiration in collaborating with a core group of like-minded artists and business owners. We challenge one another with creative projects, work with clients together at one another’s location, evaluate one another’s businesses and have adapted to a new mobile work method we call ‘laptop living.’ Being a business owner can be a lonely pursuit, but teaming up with others has been the most inspirational thing I have done yet!”
I am a big believer in setting goals. Each morning, I set goals and a plan for my day. In years past, though, I also loved setting long-term goals. I would be disappointed when a year into my three-year goal I was no longer motivated to reach that goal. Creatives change their minds, and they do it often. That’s okay. Setting micro-goals that I can check off of my list keeps me more motivated and focused.
It’s okay to set long-term goals, but be willing to revisit and modify those goals to suit your new dreams and expectations.
Continue to Grow and Educate Yourself
The best of the best continue to get training and coaching. Even Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps continue training with coaches. The same is true for business owners and entrepreneurs who are at the top of their game. There is always room for growth and improvement. Hire a business coach. Find a photography mentor. Attend conventions like the upcoming ShutterFest in St. Louis (ShutterFest.com). At conventions and workshops, we are surrounded by others on the same path we are on. Collaborating on ideas and holding each other accountable can take your business to new heights.
I hope you’ll incorporate some of the things I’ve shared with you into your daily habits and practices. Define the things that inspire you and which of these things might help you stay in the zone.