Switch Your Medium Now.
As a creative person and professional my recent struggles with PTSD and anxiety have left me feeling frustrated, stuck and pulled under. Like, Lightning Sand in the Fire Swamps kind of pulled under.
My writing became a painful, belaboured drip. I was struggling to find the words —I wanted to find them, I was looking for them, but when I seemed to land on ones that worked it was my voice I’d lose.
I tried to staunch the fear that threatened to take over. What if that was it? What if my time was up and my portfolio was as full as it would ever be? What if that was the last time I’d ever write, or design, or shoot footage? What if my creativity was gone for good? Many nights my anxiety would take on a melodramatic quality and I’d sob into my pillow, bereft. I felt so naked without my words, and so vulnerable without my output.
When my friend Melissa Gaston launched the first #YMCPhotoADay photo challenge I looked at the daily themes and felt overwhelmed and a little jealous for some reason. Why did it seem so easy for everyone else to write posts and take pictures and be out there? Where was my creative mojo? Why did I find it so intimidating and impossible to express myself?
I knew it was my anxiety issues and my battle with PTSD during pregnancy that was bringing this block to a head, but I also felt a need to push beyond that limitation with a challenge and just….create.
You just tried doing the #365FeministSelfie and I think you stopped less than 1 month in. You’re not going to be able to do it. My inner nag was really hitting them out of the park.
Yeah, so, what if I miss a day here or there? It might be fun. I can just try, right? It’s not going to hurt. It might actually help…
Later that day I ended up having a heart-to-heart with my favourite editor. “I’m not remotely pushing here, but do you think you’re going to come out of the pregnancy closet soon? I just can’t wait to read it because we’re all so happy for you…”
I really wanted to tell the world that I was pregnant, but even at 16 weeks it felt too soon to write anything after my history of first trimester loss. This baby made me want to jump for joy and yet… Wait. Jump. I remembered seeing the word on Melissa’s #YMCPhotoADay post for the April challenge. And all of a sudden it came to me.
I didn’t have to write about my pregnancy, I could just post a picture. I have no idea why this didn’t hit me before —I had been so focused on being successful in storytelling with one stream, I was neglecting everything else. So after days of self-flagellation over my dwindling posts, and panic that I would actually have a newborn by the time I found the strength to come out as pregnant, I jumped in with a simple snapshot and the help of Instagram.
That first step led me to many more – it’s now month 3 of the challenge, and I find that taking 5 minutes to flex my creative muscle every day has given me the endurance and the strength to use my words again.
I’m not taking masterpiece photos here —sometimes I just need to get it done. And yes, sometimes I miss a day here or there. But the next day I keep going.
The value here beyond participating and engaging in a community, is the conversations that I’ve had about the photos as well as that forced flurry of excitement in trying to ‘find the shot’. After the first week you have the foundation and the routine to start exploring things from a creative vantage point again regardless of what you achieve in the end. My block slowly became dislodged as my confidence grew. The more pictures I took, the more I planned…and the more I wrote. It took me 60 days to get back on track with my writing but last week I wrote 5 posts in one day. Good ones. And it’s been coming ever since.
This is the last month of #YMCPhotoADay for the summer, but you can jump on a July challenge over at Blissdom Canada and you have a chance at winning a free conference pass! Check out the details on Melissa’s YMC blog.
I may eventually consider doing my own B&H challenge soon too! Just to keep myself motivated.
Whatever hashtag you end up using isn’t important. Just jump on Instagram, take daily pictures, and have some fun. Who knows where it will take you?
A quick DIY daily photo challenge:
Every morning pick up a book. Open it randomly and smack your finger down at a word. That will be your theme for the day. You’re welcome.