The Tools in Your Toolbox

primary colors

As developing creative artists, we often tend to compare our work to the work of other creatives and come up short. We photographers think, ‘I need to learn this new technique,’ ‘I don’t know enough about that software,’ ‘I need a better camera’; If only I had this, or knew that.

Regardless of our stage of development, there is always something lacking, and when we focus on that lack, it stops us in our tracks.

I wonder what would happen if we decided to see ourselves as ENOUGH at precisely the place we are at – with everything we know and don’t know. What if the camera (or artistic tool) you had was the only one in existence, and what if the knowledge you had at this moment were all you would ever know. What could you create with just that?

I bet it would be a lot because it doesn’t take much to produce great works of art. To put things into perspective:

  • In Western traditional music, there are only 7 notes. Just think of the amount of music through the ages, created with 7 notes as a base.
  • In the English alphabet, there are only 26 letters. Just think about the stories and knowledge imparted through the ages, with those 26 letters.
  • There are only 3 primary colors. Museums are filled with great works of art, created from the base of red, blue and yellow.
  • This one blows my mind – There are only 4 letters in the DNA alphabet! Wow!

In our lifetimes, we will probably never learn everything there is to know about the topic of our creativity. However, if we know something in our given field, we can decide to use whatever we have to create something. When we choose to work with what we have, a pathway for creativity opens.

A practice I use that forces me to be present is to take the wrong lens to an occasion intentionally. For example, I will take a macro lens on a landscape Photowalk or a wide-angle to a botanical garden. This limits my’ sight’ and forces me to be creative. I always end up with something out-of-the-box for me and satisfying.

The thing is, when we limit our focus to what we have on hand, we become creative with it. Don’t worry about what you don’t know; just use whatever you have right now and create. When you do that, while nourishing the creative flame, with new experiences and learning, it will grow and develop and give you more tools in your toolbox.

Here is an excellent quote from Timothy Gallwey, the creator of the ‘Inner Game’ methodology about accepting yourself for where you are in the moment:

“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.” We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.”

primary colors
Primary colors, red, blue and yellow.

About the image: 
‘Primary Feathers’ by Jamuna Burry

The feathers in the image are three colorful toucan feathers. Nature provides the best learning examples.