Getting away from the familiar routine of every day life is a great way to gain some perspective, to reassess, regroup and move on with what matters most.
For me, my most recent break has led me to questioning what I seek most, and how to find it.
The short answer to this is, and has been for as long as I can remember, freedom.
Maybe this is what we all want?
And yet, freedom to me is likely to be something very different to your understanding and pursuit of the same concept.
What does freedom mean to you? Is it something you consciously seek? Is it something you already have but don’t realise?
Freedom to me means being able to do what I want, when I want.
To be able to do the things I love, when I want to do them, and equally to be able to not do the things I love – indeed to not do anything at all but sit and breathe and listen – without any accompanying guilt or should-laden thinking.
Sometimes, for me, freedom is getting away from everything and everyone. Even those most dear to me.
Sometimes it’s standing on top of a mountain with arms aloft embracing the sky.
Sometimes it’s curled up in front of a fire embracing the most important person in the world.
So freedom – if we’re going to try to define it – needs some flexibility.
Then there is freedom as an artist. What does that mean? How does that fit in?
In my eyes, it means being able to pursue the ideas that allure me most, without distraction, without interruption.
Here, as indeed with many other areas of our increasingly widely encompassing term of freedom, the only limitations really come from within us, from within me.
Why didn’t I photograph that decaying bird’s entrails in the woods in all its glorious gory detail and post it immediately to my Flickr?
Why didn’t I lay in the road and take those close ups of the pile of fragmented windscreen glass glistening in the hot afternoon sun?
Why don’t I write those intensely graphic haiku that pass provocatively through my head like scenes to movies not yet made?
The answer is the same for all of these and more – Because I’m afraid of what other people might think.
Why is this guy photographing such disgusting close ups when he used to take such pretty pictures of leaves and flowers?
Who is this madman laying in the road in the middle of the day when there’s traffic all around?
What kind of sick and obsessive mind do these haiku come from?
For many of us, the issue of (artistic) freedom in our minds starts and ends with money.
We play the tapes and read the scripts that tell us that if only we had more money we would be able to do so much more, to be so much more creative.
But how much does it cost to be creative, really? Yep, nothing.
Yes, there are material costs, which vary depending on the media you choose to create in.
But ultimately, to actually do the work costs nothing in financial terms. We just need to show up, be bold and brave and lay that beauty down. Time and time and time again.
The freedom is there for the taking. Whether we choose to take it or not is up to each of us.
There’s an even wider question at stake here too.
Do you even want freedom? Will ultimate, unbridled freedom actually be the best thing for you, as an artist, and as a person?
If you woke up each day with a blank slate, with all the materials and tools and equipment in the world, and the option to do absolutely anything, would you actually end up doing nothing?
Is it not the very edges that we enfold around us that allow us to live and create in the way we do?
I could spend a year researching and saving for an incredible camera with a thousand features I’ll likely never use. Or instead, I could invest in something that’s of very good quality and capability right now, and get out there capturing the beauty waiting to be found.
I chose the latter option about six months ago and I’m already over 5000 pictures a better photographer for it.
And what about the freedom you and I have, by being able to even communicate at all via this channel of publishing and reading online?
How many don’t have this access, this privilege?
Freedom is a vast topic, and something I’ve only just begun to touch on in a few different ways here.
This, inevitably, is one of those posts that will give you more questions to ponder and explore than convenient, neatly packaged answers.
But that’s kind of my job.
To try to keep asking the right questions, and to help you (and myself) find the right answers (and the freedom) that’s waiting within us.
What does freedom mean to you? Do you need it? Do you want it? Do you already have it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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