The last year has been a real struggle: Do I pull the plug on this blog or do I keep going? Alan’s post (about quitting toy photography) had me leaning toward calling it quits. I even went so far as to reach out to Alan and Matt and ask them what they thought of my idea. I see so many people in my life struggling with the pain and pressures of life. By closing the blog, I figured I’d release at least a few people from one more pressure. But I’ve come to my senses, and I want to let you know why. Because I think my decision might help others make their own choice.
First, I need to tell you I believe in synchronicity. I truly believe the universe is sending us the help we need if we will only pay attention. (At this point, if your mind isn’t open, feel free to move on.) This week, I had another clear example of these unseen forces working on my behalf.
As part of one of the workshops I’m currently running, I write three pages of free verse in a journal every morning. I write out all my pain, anger, hurt, dreams and joy. Once all the cruft is released, interesting ideas and connections emerge. It’s a great way to energize my morning, and this exercise gives my life focus. Part of the process is writing a personal mantra / affirmation that helps to defuse the inevitable negative self-talk. I was not a believer in affirmations until I started this process more than a year ago. Now I understand the power of words. By writing simple phrases that contradict my inner critic, I’ve been able to shift my inner narrative. It’s been a powerful experience. My current affirmation is: My creativity heals myself and others.
“I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your work. One gets to feel like a child again, playing with toys and making up stories while your writing brings a range of more adult emotions/stories from deep to playful”– dhjourneys (a comment on one of my recent posts)
“It’s this whole notion of performing in public for the scrutiny of other people, the pretending to be more important than you actually are, the false promise that a lot of these apps offer,” he said. “To be really successful, you have to be paying attention all the time, with people posting their lunches, baby pictures, what cute thing their dog just did. I find it incredibly superficial and tedious, so I pull back. I don’t want to participate.”-Greg Kucera, former gallery owner
The first quote once again reinforced that what I’m doing has real value even though it feels frivolous. The second quote is from a person I respect very much. And if someone who is a pillar of my local arts community thinks the current system is total BS, then my own feelings are validated (I’m not going to rehash our collective grievances, you know what they are). I also want to pull back and disengage. I often dream of picking up my toys and going into a corner and playing by myself. But that doesn’t feel right either. I choose to continue to play the game as best as I can and spread my own version of joy and healing. I’m sure there are more people like Mr. Holden (dhjourneys) out there.
A message to all the Alans in our community
Life is hard, but it will be a lot harder without your creativity. Humans have been creating since the dawn of time. We have left our markings on the sides of cave walls, on islands and in forests. Creating is what we do to connect with and express our joy at this thing called life. It’s no coincidence the items that bring me the most joy in life are made by other creatives: books, music and movies. Even a beautifully crafted, unique piece of clothing or jewelry, or a particularly beautifully prepared meal brings me joy! There is no greater calling in this world than creating something and sharing it with others.
Obviously, our current moment is particularly harsh on the creatives of the world. Platforms like Spotify and Instagram are built on the backs of creatives with very little of the profits trickling down. Capitalist societies value profit over human health and safety. Because I can’t change the system, I choose to take the long view. At some point, the companies who are the worst offenders will fall. They all do. Hubris is a powerful destroyer. And when they fall, we creatives will still be here.
I get it if toy photography isn’t your jam anymore. For many people, it’s a step on their creative journey. There are many ways to be creative. I’ve watched people move on to quilting, craft beer, wood carving, custom dioramas, custom toys, other photo projects and, of course, to raise their young children. Change and growth are a part of the human experience. Even if toy photography isn’t your jam anymore, I hope you will continue to make creativity a part of your life.
For me, creating is equivalent to joy. And therefore, I choose to keep going. I choose joy—the joy creating gives me and the joy I spread when I share my images on social media. Sure, my photos don’t resonate with everyone. But I bet yours will resonate with your own community of likeminded souls.
Life sucks. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do the soul-crushing work we’re asked to do. All I can do is encourage you to stay strong and not forget to feed your inner creative. Do your best to carve out a little white space around the edges to let the magic in. I understand this isn’t going to be easy. I struggle with that white space myself. It’s easier for me to rush from one obligation to the next. Family and work obligations combined with general busy work are handy because they also keep me from thinking
When I do slow down, the ideas bubble up. When I unplug from life, even a little bit, the energy returns. The real joy comes when I get out the toys and create images. This is my happy place. I live for these moments. And connecting with likeminded folks is the beautiful icing on this messy cake we call life.
The long view
So yes, the blog is here for the long haul. Why? Because I want to document this wonderful and, for me, special community. With every person who joins the team for as long as it serves them, they leave a unique mark. With each post, with each feature, with each technique share, we are documenting who and what we are. We are toy photographers who love to tell our stories. And they are beautiful stories.
I encourage you to go make something. And while you’re moving through your day, pay attention. The universe is trying to help you; you only need to listen.
You got me with that one phrase, Choose Joy, Shelly. Lately it’s been harder to fin the time to play because of all sorts of things but then I take a walk or just sit down with my Lego or whatever and I can relax. Thanks for the post!
You’re welcome Mary! I cant tell you how much your comment resonates with ME! Hang int there and continue to choose joy my friend!
As a wise man once told me, life isn’t easy, yet it’s still what you make of it. Joy or anger, the two are often interconnected. Only you have the power to choose which is more important in your life. Me, I choose joy.
I believe we all struggle with what we are doing on this journey called life every now and again. It’s part of the human condition. As you know, I discovered toy photography because of you and Lensbaby and without you, I know not where my journey would have ended up. I am, however, extremely joyful that our paths intersected and I began on this road. Keep on doing what you do for you never know who you may help find their way to happiness.
Todd I too am happy our paths have crossed. I truly believe that things happen for a reason. People come into our lives and we learn from that experience. When the time comes, we part and continue on our way to other experiences. Until that happens, let’s have some fun!!
A wonderful sentiment from a lady who gives so much. Thank you for sharing these feelings Shelly.
You are a continued inspiration to me Tony! If only I knew 1/2 as much as you do about photography! <3
Since the beginning of my toy photography journey I was thinking few times about quitting. I admit, for last almost two years I was thinking more about leaving it all behind because of some reasons You know and reasons that are my own. But I I’ve been through this before. I was hosting my own programme in online radio. When the reality around became too dense to fit this hobby I was forced to quit. But I didn’t last long without any activity. Soon after toy photography came. And I know that if I quit now, something would fill this empty space and the pressure would be back. And as they say, better the devil we know, so I don’t quit 😉
Luckily there’s still lots of joy in my photography, and there are you – wonderful community.
So thank You for these words of wisdom. Now I’m all ears!
Sweet Im glad you’re listening! The universe is here to help you be the best person you can be. I hope that when the time comes you will be able to give yourself permission to move on. Maybe the devil you know is too comfortable? Its ok to grow and go. But until that happens….I will enjoy your company! <3
I hope this moment won’t come soon, because toy photography and being a part of this community is one of the most beautiful flowers in the garden of my life 🙂
This blog is a real source of joy & inspiration, and I can’t tell you how many Mondays it has brightened up when the email update lands in my inbox. I’m grateful for your work on here & so glad that you’ve chosen to continue.
Jason thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I will admit that sometimes it feels like we are taking into the void, yet we persist. I will tell you, lots of great articles are in the pipeline and some other fun projects in the works. So stay tuned!
Shelly, you are an inspiration to everyone who sees your photos all over the world. I am grateful to you for showing me that even at 48 it’s perfectly okay to play. Thank you.
Janee, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It really does help us / me to know someone is listening. And yes, it’s MORE thank ok to play with your toys at 48 or 57 or 65. Play well my friend!!
What a beautiful, connecting, and interesting post Shelly. I love what you shared and always love seeing your amazing toy pics, too. I like to think of you behind every scene you create, and what might be going on in your mind as well as in the art you create. I know for me that toy photography has been such a healing and meditative part of my life that I can’t imagine not doing it. (Tell that to my many moments of self-doubt and worse, please.) Thanks for the constant inspiration and support. Hope to see you somewhere soon. Much love and gratitude to you.
Wow! This has honestly made me feel like I should get back into toy photography. I have had a good few months off from the toy photography and honestly I have felt I am missing something. Sure I’ve created nice images doing portraits etc but it doesn’t fill me with the joy. I haven’t been on the blog for a while and when I was I was never a participate, I just sat in the background. The reason I gave up was because people around me ridiculed me because I still “play with toys”, sure tegy change their tune when you show people the images you create but it got tiring having to explain why I’m in a toy shop checking posability of figures.
I come to your blog because I miss it all greatly and then I found this posy, well all I can say is you have inspired me to gobdigginf for figures again and get the creative juices flowing because as a person I seem to be much happier when I am creating pieces of art. So thank you Shelly, you really have helped my decision…….sod the miserable grown-ups…..I’m nearly 40 and I enjoy toy photography!!!! Haha