Of all the processes I was dubious about, when it came to applying the principles of Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative to my writing, the idea of Unnecessary Creating was the top of the list. The idea behind it seemed so inherently counter-intuitive – when you look at your work week and plot out the things that need to be done, spend an hour every week working on an Unnecessary Creating project that has no deadline and no paid component.
Basically, even if your job is getting paid for your art or creation, do a little extra that is just for you. Something that puts you in touch with the passions that fuel your work, and disconnects you from your creative edge. A place where you can try new things, develop new skills, explore fringe ideas, and take as long as you need to get it right.
Logically, I can see the appeal, and perhaps the necessity. But I can also tell you my first thought, upon reading that part of the process: oh, shit, another project. When the fuck am I going to find time for that?
So I didn’t do it, just as I avoided doing large chunks of the Accidental Creative when I first read through it. Also, the second and third and forth times. Probably not even the fifth time.
I couldn’t tell you what made things stick on my most recent re-read, during my last trip to Melbourne, but it was about the point it occurred to me that my life is actually full of Unnecessary Creating projects: my weekly Superhero RPG session; this blog; my adventures in vegetarian cookery over the last six months. There were many things in my life that I did for the pleasure of it, without giving it much thought or going at it with intent.
So I started being a little more mindful about what I was doing there and factoring it into my weeks – if they’re important enough, and enjoyable enough, they deserve some attention when I put together my weekly plan.
But they’re all – or, almost all – projects that are writing adjacent. That makes it a very hard place to disconnect them from the hunger and twitchy anxiety that lingers behind every writing project..
So, of late, I’ve been turning to the camera in my phone. My ongoing unnecessary creating project is focusing on taking one photograph a day that isn’t a photograph of my writing notebook, even if it’s just a shot of the ground around me as I walk.
And, despite my doubts about the process, it has delivered the boost that Henry is talking about in his book. There is something inherently pleasurable about to fumble my way through matters of shot composition and subject matter and tooling around in Photoshop or Instagram. Something useful in observing the world around me in a slightly different way, because I’m looking for something I’d be interesting to photograph.
Some of the images have been finding their way here, over the last few weeks. Many more find their way to my Instagram feed. Some – usually the ones where I’ve tried something and failed miserable – have found their way to the archives on my computer and will never get released into the world.
Which is fine, because the images themselves are secondary to the process and the engagement with the world around me, the slow discovery of themes that tell me what it is that I’m really interested in as a subject of photography (at this stage, lots of urban landscape; lots of surface and texture images), and the chance to learn how to do new things in photoshop. It’s about checking out photography blogs and things like Every Frame a Painting and trying to distil what they’re talking about it when it has nothing to do with narrative.
Low pressure creativity. It’s a surprisingly useful thing.
I may be away from email and bloggery during the upcoming trip, but odds are the nine days I spend on the road will see my instagram feed flourishing.