What have you created today?

What have you created today?

I ask myself this question everyday. It might seem like an easy question to answer, but somedays its hard to answer positively. Like you, I have the usual litany of personal responsibilities that accompanying the act of #adulting. I won’t bore you with the details because I’m sure you have a similar list. Yet, with all these responsibilities its important to be able to answer: “Yes, I created something today!”

You and I are similar…we love photography and creativity. I know this because you’re reading this blog. We all have our different reasons for using toys as our subject, but at the core, we’re all creatives. (If you’re not familiar with the many reasons toy photographers use toys, you should check out our “Why?” series!) As a creative, I bet you want to understand and improve your photography.

I know I am.

The Daily Mantra

But how do you keep improving as a photographer in a busy life? By taking the phrase ‘What have you created today?’ and turning it into a daily mantra. By taking this simple step you can keep your photography skills moving forward without committing to a huge project. I’m well aware of the amazing results that can come from committing to a daily photo project. But I know I don’t have that kind of stamina! So I’ve settled on something a little more doable; my daily mantra that helps me stay focused in small, incremental ways.

I don’t want to give up on my dreams of creating a small book of images, a book of post cards or miss an important deadline next month (I’m having a small cafe show!). But I’m realistic about how much creativity I can squeeze out of life already stressed with a major home repair and a business that’s expanding. I’ve tried to scale down my creative goals to fit them into my busy schedule. Even with my small goals I want to keep growing as an artist. Part of that process is asking myself ‘What have I created today?’ This question helps me to keep my creative goals a priority.

The Solution

There are many small tasks I can do that help me to think creatively. Here’s a partial list of some of my favorite activities :

  • Listen to a photography themed podcast like B & H Photo or Lenswork
  • Read or listen to a photography related book
  • Re-edit existing photos
  • Print an image
  • Skip the big camera and take a photo with my phone
  • Think about writing a blog post
  • Take part in a photo challenge
  • Keep a list of ideas and sketches for future toy photographs
  • Go to a gallery or museum and look at art
  • Look over older images and see what connections I can make
  • Call my local friends and arrange a meet-up

I have found that by keeping the idea of creativity as a part of my daily life, its easier for me to pick up my camera and find creative success when I have time. I love the process of photography, but I don’t always have the time to practice. By focusing on little steps, I’ve found I can nurture my creativity while waiting for a free afternoon.

The Benefits

By taking a break from the fast pace of photographing and posting daily to social platforms, I can see where I am. I was amazed when I recently looked back through my images and wasn’t able to put together a decent set of six water images. Now I know where to focus my energy. I’ve also been pouring over older images looking for strong female centered images. I didn’t find many so now I have another avenue of exploration. It was fun to see Brett’s reaction when he did a similar activity looking for a series of images for our latest theme: The Six Image Narrative.

While its important to take a few minutes every day to be creative (art feeds the soul!), it doesn’t have to be a huge commitment. Sometimes being creative is simply understanding a new art concept, writing down an idea for future exploration or making a connection about you’re existing work. It can also include visiting a local arts fair or museum, thinking about art or reading a book about photography.

If you use What have you created today? as your daily mantra, you will feed your creative spirit. By keeping your art a priority in your life you will continue to grow as a photographer and as a creative.

~ Shelly

What have you created today? 

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  1. Wonderful post Shelly. The timing of this post is perfect for me because I’ve been struggling with finding time for photography and social media in the last 2 weeks (work deadline). I like the idea of having small creative tasks to do on busy days because it’s less daunting than getting out all the camera gear, building a scene and trying to take the “perfect” photo. From now on, I’ll make sure to spend at least a couple of minutes thinking about photos instead of waiting until I have lots of time (which rarely seems to happen).

    I had a very short break on Wednesday and I was able to take a photo of Wonder Woman by keeping my background much simpler than usual (I used crumpled aluminum foil). Not having to build a complicated background made the process of taking photos much simpler although the post processing still took quite a bit of time (dust removal!).

    Hang in there Shelly! Good luck with the upcoming cafe show!


    • Lynn,

      Im so glad you found this post helpful! I know I’m lucky to be self employed so its easier to find space to be creative. I cant even imagine the challenges you must face to be creative in the face of a demanding job. My only advice is to keep the goals small and trust that they will continue to build towards something amazing. Listening, reading and thinking about photography when you actually cant take a photo is a great way to stay focused on the larger goals.

      I loved your image of WW with the foil background. Maybe embracing the time limitation will help you to break new ground? Sometimes being limited sparks additional creativity?

      On a side note, what is up with all the dust and imperfections on Diana’s hair? I had the same problem on my WW photo!

      Thanks for your well wishes on the show and thanks so much of sharing your own experiences!


      • Hi Shelly,

        I don’t have a traditional 9-5 job either. My work is very cyclical. I get overwhelmed with data for a deadline on the 1st of every month, then I get a complete break in the middle of the month. The hard part is trying to keep thinking creatively when I’m overwhelmed because once I have my deadline done, I need to suddenly be creative again and take all my photos quickly before the cycle starts again 🙂

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who had trouble with the dust in Wonder Woman’s hair. Maybe it’s because the hair piece is long and wavy? And of course the dark color always makes the dust show more.

        Take care and keep us updated on your cafe show 🙂


  2. Fantastic post! I have the same problem: tight reality in which I try to elbow with my camera and ideas. It’s really hard to cut a piece of life just for myself, when I’m a partner and a parent. But I keep struggling and when I succeed and it ends with success it tastes twice.
    And today I refined my first idea for Six Images Narrative eventually and now I “just” have to take the photos 🙂
    And I wrote a post for the blog. I have to choose photos for it and make additional new photos to illustrate the contents.

    • Tomek, you outline the struggle of every creative! Family or personal time? It’s a tough balance. But you seem to be doing a great job. I look forward to seeing your proposal for a six image narrative as well as your blog post! S xo

  3. Great stuff Shelly. It’s brilliant to hear someone else does something like this. My personal version has been “have I done anything productive today” for the past few years now. I find it great for creative purposes and other #adulting pastimes, with a hope that it stops me from being too stagnant in life.

    Good luck getting ready for your show.

    • Yeah! Like you I’m glad Im not the only one. Sometimes I wonder about my own sanity! I also employee a to-do list specifically for the weekend, other wise its over before I know it with nothing done! Life is too short!

      Thanks for your well wishes on the show. 🙂

  4. Molly

    This is perfect timing for me. I find that if I can get into a habit, I’m much more successful (at whatever the task may be). With my summer relatively free now that students are out for the summer, I look forward to setting a schedule of some sort for myself. (I’m the type that totally needs this or I’ll get nothing done!) I really love the way you broke it down into smaller bits that can be done more easily on those busier days! Being able to say “yes, I created something today” will be a great reward.

  5. Molly Im so glad you found this post helpful. I envy you the luxury of a summer off from teaching I know that can be a double edged sword. At first it seems you have all the time in the world and before you know it, summers end is approaching and those projects still await your attention. Ive been there! I think with daily goals and simple to do lists are really helpful to keep moving forward creatively. Even small steps will amount to something eventually. I wish you an awesome summer of boundless creativity!

  6. Interesting post.
    I find myself in a similar situation: i need to feed my creativity.
    What i have found useful for me is scouting for new pictures from all around the web, and when i find something appealing (which is quite easy!) i try to imagine how the photographer took the photo and what kind of inspiration gives to me.
    My creativity is pleased, for now…

  7. Stefan K / fubiken

    At work I almost always have pen and paper ready to write down ideas on. Part of my job is packing boxes ( so boring ) so while I do that I listen to podcasts, at tje moment I listen to the No Sleep podcast. While l listens I get ideas and write them down. So yep, I can sometimes get creative at work 😉
    If I remember to bring the paper home? That is a different story 😂

  8. Stefan, Ha! I also have a very boring job (bookkeeping) so I also listen to podcasts! I’m always looking of new ones. Is this the No Sleep Startup Podcast? Or something different that is only available in Europe? I like to write my ideas down in Google Keep (a list app) and then I cant loose the post it notes. Thanks for sharing your own experience trying to keep the creativity flowing! 🙂

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