Where Was I?

...nor breath, nor motion, as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean. (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, S.T Coleridge 1834 AND Iron Maiden 1984 :))

I didn’t play a good match this summer. To use a well-known football analogy, I had a great first half, but my game all but disappeared in the second half. Even though the game ended up as a draw and the overall result isn’t catastrophic, the team is disappointed and will have a more difficult job in the near future.

I started the summer by publishing the web page and setting up the blog. I continued with writing a few additional blog articles and creating the Instagram feed. In parallel, I cleaned up parts of my catalog and regularly photographs. I intended to continue building on that initial success during the whole summer, but it all slowly but surely stopped in the second half.

Since I started my own business, I have been spending summers with my family in a small village on the Croatian coast. It is an excellent opportunity for my daughter to experience a completely different environment than Brussels. In addition, I can enjoy being close to the sea and my roots and spend time with my parents, cousins, and childhood friends.

I kept working remotely during these summer months, as I cannot take two-month vacations yet. But regular work, mixed with the focus on broader family matters, in a Mediterranean environment where everything is open, and everyone is always welcome, left very little “quiet and alone” time. And I need these for any creative work.

For a while, I struggled to stick to my plan and made extra effort to find time for everything, but I gradually gave up. I realized I help no one if I nervously juggle ever-changing priorities and agendas.

Setbacks happen and are not necessarily caused by problems. Even good things like wanting to dedicate more time to your family can keep you away from your personal projects. In this case, I decided to be adaptable and not to spoil good times by being stressed about my initial plan not going as expected. After all, I wanted to make the photography project something I would enjoy for the whole creation process and not because I needed to deliver a project milestone by a particular date. So, I’ve put my photography project on standby and enjoyed the environment.

Of course, when you are passionate about something, like I am about photography, you don’t just push the standby button and forget about it. I often thought about photography and gathered ideas for my next steps. By the end of the summer, I was looking forward to returning to my Brussels base and my “business as usual,” as much as I love being in Croatia with family and friends.

So, I came back, and I immediately continued my photography project!?

Well… Not just yet.

My daughter started a new school year in a completely different school system. The previous one was a lovely, small, and straightforward local school. Now, she is in a large international school in a complex institution. We need to get used to an entirely new rhythm and are constantly bombarded with emails about things to do and prepare. All is going well, but it takes time and attention. In addition, months of absence introduce additional tasks that need immediate attention. So, getting into my usual rhythm proved more complex than I expected. 

But I must admit there is more to it than additional workload. Another internal problem also plays a big part.

I lost my momentum. I often feel like I’m starting from scratch again. My system of habits that worked so well is gone, and I have to establish it all over again. I am slow. Much slower than before the summer. And, with that, doubts and decreased confidence quickly crept in.

It’s such a difference from a few months ago. Sometimes, I even find my own old photos to be better than what I currently can make. Crazy, I know, but that’s what a lost momentum sometimes looks like. And it is especially tough in the early phases.

Here’s an analogy that illustrates this perfectly. When you sail in a light wind, you should be careful not to completely stop the boat. In regattas, a mistake like that is very costly, and all you can usually do is watch other ships pass slowly by. It takes a long time to build speed and keep moving even when you eventually catch some wind.

There is no such problem in a stronger wind. Then, you have considerable momentum, so unintended brakes in concentration or random wind changes won’t stop you or require much time to re-accelerate to full speed.

It is exactly like that when you are well-established in an activity. The momentum carries you, and the impact of a pause is negligible. In my professional work, with decades of training and experience, I can be productive on the first day after a vacation. But photography, especially the publishing part, is different. I’m still learning, and the wind in my sails is weak, so a stopped boat will require effort to move and keep going again.

So what to do in such a case?

I guess there are no magic or complex formulas. You just persevere and find a way to grind through the slow and difficult period. Luckily, even if it feels that you have forgotten everything, you really didn’t. It is just a familiar feeling that comes after a period of inactivity. All we can do is acknowledge that feeling and keep pushing anyway. 

This article is the proof that I’m doing just that. I am recapturing my wind, moving slowly ahead, and hoping to reach my usual speed soon. I have developed a system that worked well before the summer break. It will work equally well again.

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