This week's topic: setting ya bad self free.
If you're a creative, you'll hear the phrase "find your voice" every day. My gosh that phrase is being spoken everywhere I turn. Essentially, it means that although there may be hundreds...thousands...millions of people pursuing your same field (either professionally or as a hobby) it's important to be "you". It's important not to fall into the habit of trying to become like someone or blend in with what's trending.
I mean...I absolutely agree with it. It's 2017. The internet is crazily available. Pinterest and Facebook have exploded. It is all too easy to join online groups, pin things, and follow pages full of trends and successful people in your field. Before you know it, you're steering yourself right towards what's "in", what "works", and what is "trending". It is so easy. I've done it, you've done it, everybody's done it. If they say they haven't, then I don't believe them.
Finding your way/voice is a little like walking around with sea legs. You've just gotten off of your ship after days, weeks, months, or years of your body accepting and adapting to the movement of the sea. You step on solid ground and the sheer strength of it's immobility confuses your body. You have to learn to walk according to the land again.
The land is where you belong and the ship is where you thought you did. The land is where you feel most natural and most in control. The sea seems like a wonderful place full of magic...but no matter how you try, you don't belong there.
Here's the story of how I lost my sea legs.
Photography Nation: the land of cursive fonts, pastel colors, newborns wrapped in little blankies, and light and airy eveything. It's the land that is shiny and beautiful and you can't help it - you look at it and say "I want to go to there" (in the words of Liz Lemon). I did. I went to there. My logo was cursive and elegant. Everything I edited was bright and lovely and fresh and airy. Everything was clean. Everything was pure, like the world was on a bed of clouds and lived there forever. I was doing it. I was "being a photographer".
One problem: I'm nothing like that. My personality did not mesh with that style. Many people have a bubbly, glowy, positive, radiant energy and personality and really truly mesh with that airy land of unicorns and rainbows and pure loveliness. Sometimes I envy those people. But I do not fit there. I felt so distant from my brand. I was showing brochures and pamphlets with my name on them all in curly beautiful letters with color palettes like "pastel neutrals". I showed albums and canvases that were bright and soft.
And I felt strange. I felt like it wasn't mine or me. I felt embarrassed to ask people to pay for my services. I let a lot of sessions go for free. I did not connect at all with my own work, my own brand, and my own business. I thought it was what I wanted to portray. I thought it was what my clients wanted to see.
And then...I woke up.
I realized the "me" I wanted on display was...well...me. Work that screamed who I was. Work that I was proud of. Work I could relate to. Work I would be able to pull up on my phone when people ask me about my business and proudly show them and say "here's some examples of the work I do". I started shooting projects that meant the world to me. I had a call for models for a series called "The Supernatural Series". And I made dark and contrasty photos of kid zombies and witches and villains. I would then later hold many more themed portrait series. I started taking engaged couples and new brides and grooms and instead of featuring them in light and airy Pinteresty love scenes, I put them in the city. I shot them like they were going to be the cover photo for "Mr. & Mrs. Smith". Everything became bold and everything became badass. And I was home. And I was finally sure of myself.
We changed our name to Dual Edge Photography - a name that much better fit not only Adam and I as a photography duo, but also a brand I wanted to stand behind. I hated telling people my old business name: Chelsea Ann Photography. I don't like using my middle name. I don't like saying my name aloud so much. (I like my name...I just didn't like it being both my name and my business's name). So...why did I choose it in the first place? I don't know. But it happened. Mistakes were made. Regrets were had.
Now, I'm not saying to go out and avoid the mistakes I made. Actually, quite the opposite. Make those mistakes. Go off, sail on your ship of mystic and wonder that many people in your field live in (whatever field that may be). How can you not! It looks like a party over there! Why? Because while you're there you will be able to see who you are and who you aren't. Once you see it, you're going to sail back to your home land, and learn to walk on it again.
You have to make mistakes of all sizes - big AND small - to make you stronger, better, and more you. Whether it's the mistake of trying to blend in, or any other mistakes you may come by that you look back on and go "oh god WHY". It's all important. It all leads you where you need to be. You're a lot more badass as the ultimate version of you than you are as the un-relatable and distant version of you trying to fit in with the crowd.
Losing my sea legs was my most rewarding, incredible, and pivotal part of my career.
I am grateful for my sea legs.
They walked me to the land I belonged in.