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Getting Your Creative Spark Back with Alyssa Whalen

Getting Your Creative Spark Back with Alyssa Whalen

Austin Merrill |

Creativity. Such a simple word, but can feel so hard to grasp. It's fleeting and seems to come and go on its own time, never staying when you need it most.

The word ‘Creativity’ is derived from the latin word creō which means “to create or make.” This word’s meaning has changed over the centuries. It used to be reserved for things that were created from nothing. In the Christian period, it meant “to create from nothing” in reference to God’s creation (referencing the Bible.)

Now, we use the word creativity and can link it to not only creations from nothing such as art, but we can link it to anything! Science, imagination, math, home building, mechanics, cooking, working out, and even hanging floating shelves.

I probably say “we just have to get creative” about five times a day to anyone, any object, or any situation I may be struggling with at that moment.

Woman standing with a camera wearing a black shirt

Finding Your Passion

I fully believe that everyone has a creative side. I also fully believe everyone has a passion. And I believe those two are correlated.

My friend, Alaina, is a Safety Coordinator at a manufacturing plant. But her creative passion is nail art. She can sit for hours painting nails and doing fun designs. She is completely self taught and she is really good. She always has the most fun nails, too.

For my other friend, Arielle, her creative outlet is painting and graphic design. She loves to create concepts, doodle in her sketch pad, come up with product designs, and paint different canvases like wood, metal, and surfboards. She’s tried every modality. She is so good at what she does she got a job in product design.

For me, it is photography.

I grew up in a home where my mother constantly pushed us to try new things. We had to play one musical instrument and play one sport at all times. We could pick what we wanted to do in each category, but that was the rule.

I’ve always leaned towards more artistic and creative ventures. I loved things like art projects, sewing, dance, and knitting. So when my mom suggested I take a photography class in high school, it didn’t seem that far off from the things I loved already.

The class I took was about nature photography, but I immediately fell in love with portrait photography. While everyone else was taking pictures of ducks at the park, I had somehow convinced my sister to be my model and I was off making her pose and telling her she needed better facial expressions.

The thing that solidified it for me was the support and encouragement I received. To be quite honest, I don’t know why anyone told me I was good or “had an eye for photography.” Looking back, they were horrible pictures. But I’m so grateful that people encouraged me to continue developing this skill, and that I listened to my intuition and how being behind the camera made me feel.

I might have been lucky enough to find my creative passion early on in life when I was only 15, but I believe it is never too late to find your passion.

I Can’t Get Out Of This Creative Rut

Have you been there? Feeling like absolutely nothing is coming to your brain? Maybe you have a deadline or need to get something done, but just can't finish it?

Everyone will get in creative ruts at times. Even writing this blog post I got into a rut that I felt stuck in for weeks.

How do I want to present myself as a creator

What will people think of me?

Is this too personal?

I’m not a good enough photographer to call myself a photographer…

Those are all things I was thinking while trying to write this, and it blocked me from being creative. Instead of letting that feeling of being stuck overwhelm me, I set this blog on the back burner and focused on other things I could get done.

Interestingly enough, it was a personal photography project that reignited my creativity and I finally felt ready to pick up this blog again and everything started to flow.

But what happens when you get into a rut that is much longer than a few days or even weeks?

I have been there too.

I’m from warm, sunny, and chill Los Angeles, California. But I have lived in small-town, Idaho for a few years now. There is a stark difference between these two places in almost every way you can think of and I just don’t quite fit in.

My personality, the things I care about, the things I don’t care about, the weather and activities I like to do, my personal style and how I do my hair, makeup, and the clothes I choose. I’m different and it was noticeable.

Over the last few years, I felt as though I was taking up too much space being myself, taking pictures, or talking about the things I like to do like paddle boarding, late night talks on the beach with friends listening to the waves crash, driving to my favorite taco stand on the street corner of Del Amo Boulevard.

Every time I talked about these things, I was shut down in one way or another. Over time, that feeling of ‘shut down’ became a permanent mode. I stopped talking about things I loved, stopped getting excited, stopped getting ready for the day, stopped going out and socializing. I completely lost myself.

And with that I lost what made me, me… my creativity.

I was too worried about blending in and not taking up the space of others. Not saying anything that would get backlash, shut down or make someone react and notice me. I started dreading leaving my house and started thinking in a perfectionistic way. There was a right and wrong. Black and white.

There was no room for creativity in my world anymore.

Woman looking through a camera

Getting Your Creative Spark Back

When I finally hit that wall you hit when you just can't go on anymore, I realized I didn't recognize myself. So I started making a list of all the things I liked and that made me, me. On the top of that list was photography.

I hadn’t taken my camera out in months, and looking back on photo shoots I did, those pictures feel so lifeless and bland. In a technical sense they are great photos, but they lacked my personality and creative touch.

I started asking myself why I stopped loving the one thing I had been so passionate about for the last 13 years and I realized I was viewing it as a chore more than a passion. Instead of saying “I get to take photos today!” I was saying “I have to go take photos today.”

I wrote down everything I could think of as to why I used to love photography. I used to use it as a creative outlet to try new things, be creative, let my imagination run wild, learn new techniques in Adobe Photoshop, and create eye-catching images. But I wasn’t using it for that any more.

So I made up a challenge for myself for 2023 to help my brain get back into a creative head space again. I decided to take a themed self portrait for every holiday of this year and I was going to post them to my personal social media.

I could make them anything I wanted them to be, take them anywhere, choose any outfit, makeup, props, accessories, etc. I just had to take them and post them.

As I got to work on this project, it was extremely hard to come up with concepts, ideas, color themes, outfits, makeup. My “New Year’s Eve” photos were basic and bland. But it started and I posted them.

As I got to work on the next photo shoot, I couldn't think of how I wanted them to look. I started buying random things I thought might work as a backdrop or props. I set up a few different things, but nothing felt ‘right.’ But that was such a good sign and relief. Not feeling right meant I was feeling an opinion about it.

My next self portrait finally came together, and then I was already excited to plan the next one.


A feeling I had not felt in a while.

After posting my third social media post, I was reminded of the feelings I had after posting my first ever “photoshoot” of my sister online. The feeling of encouragement.

So many people reached out and said they loved this little challenge I was doing, how they were excited for the next holiday to see what I came up with, and how they loved my ideas and creativity.

Being creative with photography again has helped open up my mind and creativity in other areas of my life as well. I’m getting better grades in school, I’m completing work projects faster, and I’m overall a happier person with who I am and being myself around others.

Maybe the moral of this story is just that: passions, community and encouragement fosters creativity. Not only is finding your passion important to all areas of your life, but so is finding a community who will help and encourage you on that journey.

It is never too late to find those things.

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