Beyond the Frame: Play More to Work Better

Beyond the Frame: Play More to Work Better

By Sharon McKeeman

There were things that made your heart sing when you were young, things that you would do for hours without a care in the world. I read and drew, and wandered about in nature, noticing and imagining stories about what I saw around me—all day, every day. Children classify everything into either work or play, depending on how easy it comes to them and how much they naturally enjoy it—they shun work and pursue play with everything they have. Play energizes!

But as adults, even ones working in creative fields—we often lose the pursuit of play. 

The world expects us to work and we accept this in more ways than we even realize. Let’s think about it… Working as a self-employed creative, where are you allowed to play? Has play been restricted to your personal projects alone? Is play being stolen from you by grown-up life’s unspoken message to take things seriously, follow formulas for success, and never “waste” any time.

As creatives we have to reclaim play! We need to stake our flag smack dab in the middle of our lives, and our work, shouting at the top of our lungs - I’m going to do this my way and I’m going to enjoy it again!

Sharon McKeeman Photography

Sharon McKeeman Photography

But how do we do this?

  1. Take a minute to think through each of the activities involved in your business, and you may be surprised how many have come to feel like work. If you have been working really hard for a really long time, it may be hard to hear the voice of a playful child inside. If you are just starting out as a photographer after years in the corporate world or parenting, the thought of playing as you work may feel absurd.
  2. What were the activities that you lost yourself in play as a child? The way you played as a child is the easiest way I know to pinpoint who you are as an artist, and what you are supposed to be doing. You were never meant to stop playing! It takes bravery to keep playing. You must have a tremendous amount of courage to persist in play in every area of your life.  
  3. Take steps to do everything involved in your photography business in a way that lights your heart up, putting your voice into your work so that you wake up looking forward to each moment as an opportunity to create! Of course this doesn’t mean letting the inbox take care of itself, or letting clients wait forever for their images. This isn’t a call to not working, it’s a call to turning our work into play through whimsy and honesty.
  4. Take some time off—yes even if you are buried in work, even if it’s the busy season. It doesn’t have to be a week or even a day. Schedule time to rest and play even if it’s just a few hours at a time, and you will see your creativity and love for what you do come alive. To me play means, writing wild and free, making time for real relationships with other artists, and in my image making play means motion blur, unplanned moments, and experimenting with film, but play can be as simple as a cup of tea and a long walk.

Sharon McKeeman is an expert at helping photographers walk through the process of defining who they are as artists or getting back to their true artistic vision. Together they strip away any outdated or distracting branding, curate images to convey vision and share their artistic voice. Take a look at her online class Un-branding.

“Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” ― Albert Einstein




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