On trusting our creative path

On trusting our creative path | SusannahConway.com
I started taking my photography seriously when I was 19 years old. I was at art college, deeply immersed in making what I considered to be art. I was unsure of myself and couldn’t always articulate what it was I was trying to say, but those three years of experimentation gave me the space to explore my creativity. I left college at 22 and back then (1995) the photography I wanted to do didn’t seem to have a place in the world yet. I didn’t want to be an editorial photographer, which is where most of my peers were headed, but I couldn’t see how I could make a living as a fine art photographer. I’d left college with dreams of solo exhibitions and a fine art book, only to find myself back in the real world. So after a couple of years working to pay the rent, I went back to university to study journalism; I put those original dreams on hold, indefinitely.

It’s now sixteen years later and today I’m preparing the online space for my photography class starting next Monday. My photography path unfolded in ways I hadn’t imagined and along the way I learned that you do not need to be published in books or magazines, or belong to a certain association, or even earn money from your images, to call yourself a photographer (or writer or artist or musician, or whatever your heart yearns to called). All you need do is hold a camera in your hands with the intention of creating. Recording beauty and decay. Capturing memories. Documenting a scene. Telling a story. Catching a likeness. Exploring your inner world in pixels and film.

What I’ve learned in my many years of being a photographer and not being a photographer is we have to trust that our creative path will unfold exactly as it wants to. 22-year-old me wanted to make books and be seen, to be recognised as having some talent, some purpose, something to say. Back then I craved validation — these days I see that being a photographer is not a badge I wear but simply the way I move through the world. I take photographs everyday — it’s like brushing my teeth.

I’ve been thinking about how the time in my life when I felt most at peace with who I am as a creative person was when the opportunity to pen two books came along. Last week I mentioned that the books were a childhood ambition realised. And they are — i’ve imagined seeing my name on a book ever since I could read. But what I’ve been feeling lately, aside from the vulnerability of sharing my thoughts and stories in such a public way, is a quiet sense of rightness. I don’t feel validated or seen or any of those things younger me craved because somehow this isn’t about me anymore. I’m making things for others that I hope will be useful, and I feel just like I do on Christmas eve when I’m busting to give my family their presents and see their faces when they open them. It’s about sharing and giving and delighting.

Posted on 24-10-2011
24 responses
  1. Rambling Heather

    This is so beautiful. I needed to come here today and read your words. I have struggled with the need to feel “validated.” I should simply live doing the things that I love and all will fall into place as you say. Thanks for this reminder!

  2. Aggie

    The thing about your blog is that your posts seemingly relate to my current state of mind – it’s actually quite eery how it seems like whenever I need something articulated; you’ve gone and written about it ‘for me’.
    While reading this, I’ve uttered “YES!” at least three times before I reached the end of the post.
    Thank you. Not only are you an unravelling guide, you are also a psychic and an empath! ;)

    This post is most encouraging and came to me at exactly the right moment. Took a longgg nap today to reenergize (boy I needed one badly) and finally feel that I don’t have to rush myself. Your post helps to reinforce this sense of natural rhytm that can’t be pushed but needs to unfold in whatever pace it does.

    Love,
    Emmy

  3. Steven Andrew

    I can definitely agree with this post. Starting out with photography, I wanted to feel validated and people shouldn’t feel that way. They’re creating something beautiful in their eyes and that’s all that matters. I’ve always wanted to write a book, too.. so happy you’re able to do all of the things you’ve dreamed of!

  4. Libby

    This is beautiful. I’ve been toying with some ideas that will help me ‘expand’ where I can create and share my ideas, but it is so important that it all boils down to creating for you. I loved this:
    ‘these days I see that being a photographer is not a badge I wear but simply the way I move through the world.’ It is exactly how I would explain why I take pictures.

  5. Jet Harrington

    It’s about sharing and giving and delighting.

    Yes, ma’am. I am so excited for Photo Meditations, my first course with you. Thank you for creating it.

  6. Nina

    Thank you, Susannah. I am a musician.

  7. Karin A

    I love how you can put words to what many of us (including me) feel. I try to do things my way, focus on what’s right for me, instead of searching for other peoples validation. If we do what we love and feel is sincere to us other people will see that too, I believe.

  8. EMC

    Oh, I’m hoping I can get to that stage. I’m still at the VALIDATE ME by publishing my work stage. :(

  9. An

    What a beautiful beautiful post! There’s so much in there that really resonates with me, I could quote the full post here :)

  10. Yeti

    As with the comments above, you put into words exactly what’s in my head, especially when you talk about validation! Thank you for being open and honest with us blogettes (not sure whatyou call a blog reader lol!). x

  11. Roxanne Galpin

    Lovely. Thanx for this.

  12. Meg Roper

    Thanks you Susannah for hitting the nail on the head, again.

    And funny how for so many of us the stars are aligning and that we are realising it is not about “delivered projects” but rather about living day in day out with our creativity.

    And it is really lovely how you articulate the sense of calm and excitement as you share your gift.

  13. Jess

    This line – “It’s about sharing and giving and delighting.” – really hit home. It’s so true, and what being creative is all about. I think that’s why so many of us have taken to the internet with a vengeance, it allows us to do all of these things!

  14. Melissa Jaine

    Beautiful Susannah. Perhaps it is something we learn as we grow older that it is in service to others when we ourselves receive the greatest rewards. All my life (or so it seems!) I’ve flitted with different mediums – drawing, photography etc – now I just think of myself as “creative”, and doing what I love to do. :)
    mj.
    x

  15. michelle gd

    there is so much in your post that resonates with me. yes, yes, and yes again. the younger me needing validation. the older me slowly moving away from that…embracing the idea that art and creativity are a way of life, a way of being (hence the ‘subtitle’ of my blog)…like brushing your teeth. the trick, for me, is to grant myself time in my day to allow that.
    your analogy to christmas eve was so playful and genuine. you are such a love.

  16. Rhianne

    beautiful. I can’t wait to get started with Photo Meditations now

  17. Joolz Benner

    :)

  18. Catherine Just

    beautiful Susannah. thank you.

  19. Marthe

    Trusting my creative path is one thing I’m struggling with at the moment. I know I’m meant to be a writer. But it feels so vulnerable, so naked and scary to call myself a writer. To put it out there. So, in the meantime, I’m pretending to be a law student…

    I know I have to break the new to the world and to myself some day. But in the meantime, I’ll just continue exploring. Writing. Who I am.

  20. amelia Critchlow

    I so agree and I so get this. Wishing for my creations (in art) to be seen etc and yet the most rewarding work is about being a resource for and encouraging others too, as I believe the world needs this right now: passion, creativity and values all married together. Well done on achieving your childhood ambitions, and thanks for sharing your journey :)

    Amelia.x

  21. sushi lover

    beautiful post.
    it’s also about confidence and there is some confidence that i belive comes with age and some attitude of “i don’t need to prove anything to anyone”.
    i really need to be confident that things will work out somehow, this moment i feel i’m shooting every direction.
    it’s been really nice been able to follow your accomplishments, you should really be proud. and thanks for sharing.

  22. holly

    WOW – as a 23 years year old, i can totally resonate with what you said – “i wanted to be recognized, have some purpose, something to say, to be validated”!! yes yes this is how i feel – x

  23. Megan

    You have no idea how much I needed this! I can’t wait to get started :)

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