Writers are always being asked about writer’s block and how to get rid of it. There are a couple of things I’d like to say about this.
The second point is particularly important because it helps with the first. Clearing your head and doing something, anything, other than writing is the best way I know to re-boot your mind when it’s stuck.
Take photography for example, a hobby which I got into a couple of years ago. When I’m out and about and looking for photo opportunities my mind is completely focused on what I am looking for in the world around me. Nothing beats getting outside and photographing birds, wildlife and nature – no matter where I go I am never disappointed by what I see. I have learned to look beyond the obvious and see things which I would never have noticed before I had a camera in my hand. In short, I’ve learned to pay attention.
And it’s not just spotting the photo opportunities which holds my attention, it’s the process of taking the photograph and capturing the moment. I need to concentrate on the set-up; where I want my equipment, what height I want the tripod, what angle to shoot from and so on. I need to think about the light I’ve got available and what that means for my shutter speeds, my aperture settings and my iso – the ‘exposure triangle’ which I’ve yet to master but which I always need to be thinking about because I’m shooting manual in RAW. Then I take as many shots as I can hoping I’ll get one perfect photograph (1 in 20 is a really good day for me) That perfect shot is all I think about in the moment.
One of the greatest joys of photography is that it takes me to places where I am surrounded by beauty and the natural world – it can fast become the focus of every day out and holiday. I’m able to see the seasons more vividly and witness the entire lifecycle of birds and wildlife from one year to the next. Without realising it, photography has become a form of mindfulness for me. Everything slows down as I become completely absorbed watching adult birds feed their young by the river or bees search for nectar in my garden. It’s the best relaxation I know.
Then when I come home there’s the excitement of loading up the photographs and the thrill of finding the one you hoped would turn out; the cormorant drying it’s wings in the sun, the owl tilting it’s head just so, the swan in flight…. moments which give me the best kind of diary I could ever hope for. Images trigger memories for me better than anything else and when I look at a picture of a robin in the snow that I took last year I suddenly remember where I was when I took it, what I was wearing, who I was with, what I was feeling and so on. That’s how ‘in the moment’ I am when I’m out with my camera. I think of nothing else but what I’m doing right there, right then.
And thinking of nothing else but the moment I’m in is the only way I have learned to get myself beyond a mental block of any kind, including the writing kind. Call it distraction, mindfulness, meditation or whatever you will – it works for me. Then, when I least expect it, the answers I’ve been looking for pop into my head out of the blue, usually when I’m in the shower, driving to work or on the brink of sleep. My mind needs space to work, and that’s why I have to clear it out every once in a while. That’s why I need a hobby like photography in my life.
I’d love to hear about your hobbies in the replies section below and it would be great to see any wildlife photographs you’ve taken if photography happens to be your hobby too. In the meantime, here’s a small collage of some of my favourite photography moments.