Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Retirement Enigma

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These days, I'm mostly retired from professional photography. I say "mostly retired" because I still work occasionally, but I do so way less than I did just a year or two ago. Way. Less.To paraphrase The Princess Bride's Miracle Max-- There's a big difference between mostly retired and all retired. Mostly retired is slightly still not retired. With all retired, well, with all retired there's usually only one thing you can do.

Apparently, that one thing isn't happening for me. Leastwise, not the way I thought it would happen.  What is that one thing I'm talking about that I thought would happen once I was mostly retired?  I thought I'd be a much more productive hobby shooter.

When I was still working regularly as a shooter-for-hire, my photography life was 80% or 90% shooting for pay and 10% to 20% shooting for fun.  Let's call it 80/20 shooting-for-pay versus shooting-for-fun. You know, for the sake of simplicity.

Once I became mostly retired, I figured those numbers would flip the other way around, i.e., they'd become 80% shooting-for-fun and 20% shooting-for-pay and they'd do so all on their own, nearly automatically and just like magic!  I mean, I have plenty of time on my hands. Plenty! So, time isn't a factor. I also have all the gear I need and more. Plus, I have enough money to live on because A) I paid plenty into Social Security for a big chunk of my life and B) I have a private pension annuity from those 15 years I spent as a spoke on a corporate wheel. (Well, not a full spoke but a partial corporate spoke nonetheless.)

Sounds like everything should have fallen into place, right?


It hasn't worked out that way.

The 20% part where I earn some extra dough from shooting is fairly accurate but the 80% part? The 80% that has me shooting-for-fun or for artistic reward? That part? The dedicated hobby photographer part? Hasn't. Fucking. Happened.

My hopeful transition from shooting chicks wearing few if any clothes to more lofty and artistic -- at least in my mind -- photo pursuits remains mostly in my head. It seems to exist only in the fantasy realms of my mind and not in actual reality. Why? So far, I haven't a clue. (Well, I've had clues but none of them panned out into something more than a clue... they've been false or partial clues at best.)

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It's not that I can't think of anything to shoot. I have tons of ideas for stuff I want to shoot. And most of them don't require a model so I can't blame this personal enigma on not having a physical muse or two. My ideas, for the most part, only require me and my camera (and a few specific props for some of it) heading out to some places where the right backdrops and environments for the stuff I want to shoot exists. And many of those places are fairly short drives from where I reside in Southern California.

Lately, I've been reading different books in hopes of discovering WTF is wrong with me. These books target the creative process, not the retirement process. I don't need any help learning how to be retired, semi-retired or otherwise. That part is a no brainer. As I mentioned, I have enough money to live coming in. The annuity arrives on the 1rst of each month and Social Security on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. And they both do so like clockwork. It's certainly not beaucoup  money but it's more than enough for me to live on without having to eat dog food or mooch off my family while still having some leftover for doing fun stuff... which I rarely do but that's \another story. (One that's probably related to my lack of hobby shooting but I'm not going to worry about that aspect of this personal quandary right now.)  Nope.  Money, or lack of it, is not my problem. Neither is time or ideas. Instead, my problem is being photographically active in my semi-retirement, that is, why I'm not being so.

The current book I'm reading is by well-known American dancer, choreographer, and author, Twyla Tharp. It's called, "The Creative Habit." It was recommended by a friend and it has a title that instantly interested me. "The Creative Habit." Yep. That's what I need to do, I need to get into a creative habit. That same sort of creative habit that was easy to have when people were paying me to  be creative with a camera. (Not that my creativity was their #1 reason for hiring me, but that's another subject. One I believe I've covered before on this blog. Probably more than once.)

Anyway, I'm only three or four chapters into Ms. Tharp's book. In fact, I was just reading more of it today while eating sushi for lunch. Tuesdays, you see, are Sushi-for-lunch days for me. It's become a habit for me to eat sushi on Tuesdays.  I'm not sure how I got into that habit other than I love sushi. But habitually eating it for lunch on Tuesdays? Which I've been doing for a while now?  Go figure. It just happened.

During today's "The Creative Habit," sushi-accompanied, reading time, Ms. Tharp detailed a number of "fears" that artists and creatives seem to have. Fears that keep them from acting on their creative impulses. Fears that get in the way of creating. Well, none of the fears she listed were fears that I was hearing about for the first time. Worse, none of those fears seem to describe my personal problem in this matter, i.e.,  whatever it is that's getting in the way of me creatively producing. Not one. Not even close. Not even a little bit.

My sense of optimism -- I'm probably one-third an optimistic person, one-third pessimistic, and the final third a jaded and cynical person -- is telling me to keep reading. It's saying, "Dude! You're only three or four chapters in. Give it a chance!"  And I will. I'll definitely give it that chance. But I'm also becoming a bit concerned that, much like the other books I've recently read on this or very similar subjects, I'm going to finish reading the book and still come up empty. I'll still be wondering why  I can't seem to make this (seemingly easy) transition from pro shooting to hobby shooting.  And let me say this about hobby shooting: I'm way more excited, photographically speaking, regarding what I might produce as a hobby shooter than I ever was while producing photos as a full-time working shooter. And that excitement is mostly because I don't have someone with a checkbook telling what and what not to shoot or how to shoot it. Not technical "hows" but... you know what I mean.

Anyway, whatever the major malfunction to my creative wiring might be that's currently getting in my way still baffles and eludes me. It's not like I can take some pills for it. And that's a total fucking bummer!  I'd eat such pills in a heartbeat if "get creative" pills like that existed. Also, please don't anyone tell me to just "Do it!" or some other familiar and oft-said, home-spun, Mom or Dad-ism.  If it were that simple, this wouldn't be a problem.  Plus, I have said to myself "Just do it, Jimmy!" I've said it a bunch of times and guess what?  I still didn't.  I mean, WTF???

The gratuitous eye candy I've posted with this rather pathetic, woe-is-me/all-about-me update is Daisy. In the pic at the top, Daisy is non-verbally telling me something in response to what I just said to her, whatever that might have been. I often have that sort of effect on the models I shoot.



Aeneas said...

You're a person who needs deadlines ?
without them you start to procrastrinate as it doesn't matter if you do it tomorrow or next week ?
try to set your own deadlines to force yourself to get starting ?

jimmyd said...

@Aeneas: Maybe. I'll try that. I know it will work at least once. Whether it acts as a jump starter, I don't know. Thanks.

Michael said...

One suggestion to your problem - You haven't figured out what YOU want to "say". This could be anything from "this is interesting/beautiful" to an essay on the human condition. You have been using somebody else's voice.

Shoot some of the photo challenges that are online. This will give you the deadline mentioned above. Pick the vague sounding ones too. This should help go from "shoot this, like this, by 4pm" to "shoot this by next week" to shooting what you want.

I have the problem from the other end - I've lost my voice and don't know how to find it.

Thanks for the blog, enjoyed the writing for years. And the photos too, but mostly the writing.

jimmyd said...

Thanks, Michael. I'm really starting to think having deadlines is a big part of my problem, that is, a lack of deadlines. Example: My next ebook, Guerrilla Glamour 2, has been half-complete for over a year now. Somehow, I can't seem to get cracking on it and get it done. But, earlier this year, I was hired to (anonymously) write a bunch of training-related modules for a photography website. It was a fair amount of work, probably as much or more than I'd need to put into completing my next ebook, yet I completed it on time; you know, before the deadline I was given. I suppose that could be chalked up to money but my ebook will generate more money within a day of it's release and will keep generating sales for quite some time. As for my voice, I don't think that's much of an issue. I mean, it's always an issue for most photographers, myself included, but in terms of what I now want to shoot, I have a series already planned, a series that (I think) says something. I even have some storyboards for it that I made... yet the pics remain un-snapped.

jimmyd said...

P.S. Michael-- I did do some writing on my next book just a week or two ago. Wrote nearly a whole new chapter. The new chapter is titled, "Vox Humana." Latin for "human voice," as you're probably aware. As you might expect, it's about finding one's artistic voice (mostly in terms of style) when shooting glamour. Just thought I'd mention since you brought up voice.