Thursday, April 5, 2012

Another day and things to smile about


Last week I went to a workshop hosted by 4 of my favorite photographers, the husband and wife team of Angie & Matt Sloan (or Mangie, if you enjoy celebrity couple style naming), aka Sloan Photographers; and Amelia Lyon and her husband Justin. If you follow any major wedding blogs you've undoubtedly seen their work, both teams are amazingly talented. I saw their post about the workshop on twitter and suffered major internal conflict on whether to go.
Last year was HARD. I had gone from 8 weddings in 2010 to 27(ish?) in 2011 without any major workflow or life overhauls and I felt so overwhelmed. I was so happy to have gained success but I felt like a failure for being unable to handle it, I felt like everyone else was conquering the world on their own and I needed serious help that I couldn't afford. I was still helping another photographer (who I love dearly!) edit and work on album design and the like for the first few months of the year, but I was unable to do it all and I ended up not giving 100% to anything. I felt terrible. I was so stressed out and I knew that I had taken it all upon myself. I would have laughed at the idea of exercise, I gave up on reading blogs, I never went out with friends (you can ask the friends that are still left, I always declined going out and Saturdays weren't even a question). I didn't spend much time with my husband because I was so busy working and never catching up and I thought that was more important, I'd have time in the magical future when I had figured out a better workflow or something.




The main reason I went to the Go Outside workshop was because after 27 weddings in a year I felt like I was just going through the motions. Yes, I am a master of the schedule, but I rarely had time on a wedding day to add in the creative stuff that I wanted to be shooting. That was one of the things I most admired about one of the first photographers I assisted; she always opted for really epic creative portraiture, and that's what those clients wanted. I had met Angie and Matt a few years ago by luck and Amelia and Justin at WPPI, and I was struck by both the shots they get and their warmth. Angie and Matt are always so genuinely excited to see me, and I feel like a nobody compared to them! I'm a Chatty Cathy with pale skin and they are Southern California rockstars. I knew that their clients had to leave the wedding feeling like they had made new friends and I wanted some of that to rub off on me.


I still can't believe the workshop happened, especially given the fact I got my dates mixed up and ended up realizing at 10pm on Tuesday that my flight was the next morning, driving 2.5 hours to the Atlanta airport at 1:30 am to make it in time for my 7am flight out; and the fact the workshop took place at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. I plan on posting all about it on my photo blog, so I'll come back here and link it later! This year has been all about getting pumped, and I felt so inspired watching the Sloans and Lyons shoot, figuring out what methods might work for me and having an even better idea of taking control in harsh lighting conditions, making clients comfortable, and getting a variety of shots out of the same venue. All of the attendees were awesome as well, and I'm excited to keep up with them all!




And now, for my progress in The Challenge and starting The Happiness Project:


I haven't finished the 10 step challenge yet, but I certainly haven't stopped. I revisited steps 1 and 2 countless times, and I make downloading a part of my day. I'm not perfect at creating action steps but I'm getting more done and getting a variety of things done, which makes me so much happier. If your only to-do for the day is edit an entire wedding or engagement session all of the other things for the week are left behind for whenever you get to them. Just taking a few minutes to write thank you notes or throw a load of clothes in the washer makes me feel like one day I will actually be a well-oiled machine.


My email is so much more manageable. I used to have my business email forward to my personal account because I was afraid of losing it. I stopped that and now it's much easier to isolate business emails that need attention. I unsubscribe to anything that you can unsubscribe to right away, and I delete things I'll never need again. I still need to start sorting, but I feel a lot better where I am.


Step 3 of the challenge is setting yourself up for success. The ways I've been practicing this the last few days... Sleeping in running clothes. I have used this trick many times in the past but the past few years I've been making excuses even the night before, about how I just have too much work to do and I can't get enough sleep if I get up and go running. That's boloney, and I can't believe HOW GOOD I am at defeating myself. It's like I only have the little cartoon devil of myself on my shoulder.


I've been setting out my clothes for the next day at night, per Lara's suggestion, and it makes things so much easier. I want to get to my office ASAP and get the most out of my workday. Working from home was toxic for me, the office makes me focus because I've set a goal of leaving before the sunsets which means I can't leave after 7 no matter what. I am so much happier when I walk out to LIGHT. I've purchased and downloaded THINGS for my iphone (also per Lara's suggestion) and I have the trial of the desktop version but haven't synced them, and for now I might just use the iphone version and save up for the real thing. It allows me to set items that need to be done the next day at night, and notifies me of them, makes them red, and checking them off feels so good. I can make projects for things like "Branding" or "Website". Which was a great flight layover activity.


I got a new tote bag (did I already say that?) and it's huge. What a huge difference it makes. I need my planner? It's in my tote bag. ALWAYS. I can carry things I need for work in a bag instead of filling my hands with papers and a laptop and card reader and purse...  I keep my notebook I use for downloading in here too.


I've gone running the past 3 days, the first day I think it was only 10 minutes, maybe a bit more, the second it was 17, and today it was 30. Today I was the most tired. I made myself keep going, I wasn't wearing a watch but I really wanted to at least do 20 minutes so I made myself do another stretch of road just in my neighborhood area and back, and I'm so glad I was able to talk myself into it rather than out of it. I knew that if I could just make myself do it, no matter how slow a job or even walk it might take, that from here on out it would be easier.


I also love being up during that early morning light. Which brings me to The Happiness Project. I saw a tweet from Emily Ley about the book and I'd been curious as to what inspirational book (business or otherwise) to read next (I haven't read many, just so you know). I bought it on amazon for my kindle without much research at all. Good reviews, and Emily Ley likes it...done. I'm not very far in at all but I already feel empowered to change. The author spends the first month of her project with resolutions to help conquer feelings of tiredness so that she'll have the energy to do these things that will make her happy. She vows to exercise at least 20 minutes 4x a week (and adds weights, that might be a later step for me), and sleeps 8 hours a night, no excuses. I took that to heart.


The main reason I discovered that I had ADD was that I was VERY lethargic. My mom took me to see the doctor when I was 11 or 12, saying I must have mono, I wanted to sleep all the time. This was probably also in contrast to the annoying over-exercising hyper child I'd been up to that point. Doing jumping jacks like a madman and telling my family members to exercise and eat healthy (I was a propagandists' dream. Save the wetlands? Sent a letter to the president...Eat healthy? "Mom, I only like fruit and yogurt now"). They couldn't find anything wrong with me. I think cross country probably balanced some of the lethargy out but once I stopped running I was a zombie. My husband saw an article in a magazine that listed lethargy as a less common symptom of ADD and everything came together. My forgetfulness. My inability to focus on conversations unless I was personally interacting (I hate large group outings). My tendency to open 50 windows (or tabs) on my internet browser, never getting around to the articles I'd opened before the inevitable crash of the computer. Snacking constantly because I needed to taste the delicious food more and more and more even if I was full already (popcorn was dangerous).


I became obsessed with reading about ADD and reading forums and everything out of my mouth was something fascinating about ADD. I started taking medication and for a while I worked on brain exercises on lumosity.com (which I should start again, really), and the main difference for me is having energy. I don't feel like I'm some speed addict, I feel like a normal person. If you want to ask me questions about it feel free. I'm completely open about how much being diagnosed helped me. And no, I wasn't some flighty twit before who neglected work, when I feel obligated to someone to complete something I do and can, but it is a lot quicker now that I'm less distracted and more energetic.


[sidenote: I very much want to de-stigmatize the "disorder" ADD. I met a woman on the plane back from Palm Springs who was telling me about how her daughter's friend loved photography but had a learning disability...ADD. I was a bit floored thinking about the change in my emotions throughout just that one sentence; when I heard learning disability, it had such awful connotations to me, someone who needed help and should be pitied. And then when I heard ADD I felt defensive, and a little irked. I could've said something and maybe I should have. I think I did say that a lot of really creative people have ADD, but I didn't confess that I did as well. I don't know this girl and her ADD might pose a larger problem for her in school than mine did. I kind of loved school, teachers were my favorite people, because they saw a desire to learn and that glossed over my ridiculous chattiness I guess. And I always did my work and made good grades. That is, until late high school and college when my procrastination, (and inability to study in any way other than cramming), made classes excrutiating. I still made good grades but not great ones, and I'm disappointed that I didn't push myself harder. But I'm happy to be where I am now.]


So, Happy things... The Happiness Project and life in general are making me remember that I used to like things outside of work and photography (GASP). Here are some of those things:



Last week I went to a workshop hosted by 4 of my favorite photographers, the husband and wife team of Angie & Matt Sloan (or Mangie, if you enjoy celebrity couple style naming), aka Sloan Photographers; and Amelia Lyon and her husband Justin. If you follow any major wedding blogs you've undoubtedly seen their work, both teams are amazingly talented. I saw their post about the workshop on twitter and suffered major internal conflict on whether to go.


Last year was HARD. I had gone from 8 weddings in 2010 to 27(ish?) in 2011 without any major workflow or life overhauls and I felt so overwhelmed. I was so happy to have gained success but I felt like a failure for being unable to handle it, I felt like everyone else was conquering the world on their own and I needed serious help that I couldn't afford. I was still helping another photographer (who I love dearly!) edit and work on album design and the like for the first few months of the year, but I was unable to do it all and I ended up not giving 100% to anything. I felt terrible. I was so stressed out and I knew that I had taken it all upon myself. I would have laughed at the idea of exercise, I gave up on reading blogs, I never went out with friends (you can ask the friends that are still left, I always declined going out and Saturdays weren't even a question). I didn't spend much time with my husband because I was so busy working and never catching up and I thought that was more important, I'd have time in the magical future when I had figured out a better workflow or something.


the outside reflected in a bowl of milk :)


-Being outside: (I knew this but our old place had only a balcony/patio where we never bothered to buy furniture, and there was no grass for me to wiggle my toes in). I'm trying to enforce a mandatory break to go outside during the workday, and I've started eating cereal in our patio area in the mornings. I also planted some seeds (although the birds have wrecked my pots! I should've put wire in them!), something I always did in the spring as a child, and re-finding my child-self has been invaluable in this personal growth project.




-Calligraphy: I've always liked calligraphy but I have trouble making myself start at the basics of something and teach myself properly. I stumbled upon someone who started emulating fonts and styles she liked and I already had a dip pen and nibs and ink so I pulled them out. And I love it. One day I do want to take classes, but that doesn't mean I can't start here.