Dear Hope: I lost my mojo - where can I find it?

As a matter of fact, it's completely normal to feel like you're stagnating, so normal that certain professions actually have rather lengthy career breaks for refreshing, upgrading, and resetting built right in, amoung them chefs, designers, and professional educators.  And more and more people are creating sabbaticals for themselves -  Lifehackers even wrote a "how to" for people wanting to plan their own.  Unlike vacations, wherein you get to rest and relax, a sabbatical is intended to inject new life in your career by allowing you time and space to explore your career down avenues you might not be typically able to if you're tied up with ongoing projects or responsibilities.

I have loved this Ted Talk by designer Stefan Sagmeister on Sabbaticals for a very long time because it shows exactly how sabbaticals enrich people's lives.


As the Lifehacker article suggests, it *is* possible for many people to plan for a sabbatical if they are willing to make certain sacrifices and plan carefully, but when it's not an option for 3 or 5 or even another 10 years, how can you find your mojo again?  Well, I just happen to have some ideas to help you get un-stuck and re-motivated, but I warn you, there may be some growing pains.

1.) Take a mini sabbatical.  Sure, 6 months or a year would be ideal, but maybe all you can get is a month or even a week.  Make it happen.  A sabbatical doesn't mean you need to drop out of life completely, it just means that you take some time to look for ways to breathe new life into your work without having to "work" while doing so.  Lots of employers allow their employees to attend a short course, go to a guest lecture or speaker, or take a class during work hours, and if you're self-employed it's (actually) really easy asking the boss for a break.  So, even if you can't take a year, take a professional development break.

2.) Stop looking outward for inspiration. The best thing I ever did for my self-esteem was to stop cruising other photographers' websites.  Look inside yourself and remember what it was about shooting that drove you to pick up a camera even if no one ever paid you a penny.  Go back to when you didn't care what anyone thought and you shot simply because you loved it. That is the passion you need to rekindle.  Spend less time looking at other people's work and more time looking back through your own.  Close your eyes and remember that overwhelming urge to get out and shoot, shoot, shoot!  It's probably hiding there still, just below the surface.  Dig in and pull it out.

3) Mix it up.  One of the most inspiring things you can do for yourself is to go beyond your comfort zone.  Are you a strictly babies kind of person?  Go shoot fashion.  You only do families?  Try some boudoir.  Terrified of weddings?  Beg to second shoot one.  Never tried a commercial gig?  Find someone who wants product shots and volunteer your services.  And if you're one of those people who "specializes" in everything, I only say "jack of all trades, master of none" - your challenge is to design  a small narrow project (i.e.) photograph 100 fire hydrants) and complete it from start to finish before trying something new.

4) Take a Social Media Holiday.  Don't just log out or disable notifications, DELETE.  (I promise, everything is there when you get back.)  Give someone you trust temporary administrative control over your fan pages so they stay online, and tune out.  Here are some tips.  The first 2 days you will feel lost.  The next 5 will feel odd.  By week two you will only think of FB, Pinterest, Instagram fleetingly and if you make it all the way to four weeks you'll almost be sad to be going back online.  I promise you won't regret it.

5) Recalibrate your focus.  Sometimes we get so caught up in keeping abreast of hot trends and rocks stars in "the industry" that we forget to focus our attention where it needs to be: on our own business.  Have you been spending more time reading about marketing than doing marketing?  Are you spending more time watching CreativeLIVE than shooting?  Do you spend more time talking to other photographers than your own present and potential clients?  It's probably a safe bet that you will feel 100x more productive if you start being the person to watch instead of the person watching.

You don't have to be stuck forever.  Hopefully these tips will help get you started on the path to unearthing your mysteriously absentee mojo.  Good luck!!!



Unless otherwise noted, writing and watermarked images on this blog are copyrighted to Hope Walls.