(Originally posted on Friday, June 26, 2009)

by Gerald Boerner

image Last week, I introduced you to the first five ways to motivate oneself from the Commentary in ‘LensWork’ by Brooks Jensen. In that commentary, he discussed creative blocks that photographers encounter in their work. Much of that related to the tendency to procrastinate and ten ways to break free of this block. Last week, we discussed the first five of these motivations, including:

  • Structure…
  • Commitment…
  • Peer Pressure…
  • Project…
  • Visualize…

Today, I want to go over the last five of these techniques in a little more detail. I am both summarizing what Jensen presents as well as some of my own experiences with these techniques…

  • Deadlines…
    Having fixed deadlines is always a good motivator. They are set by others — press deadlines from an editor, presentation deadline from a conference and/or an outside organization, or a submission deadline set by a contest. All of these things tend to motivate most people who value achievement. A missed deadline not only makes us look bad, but it may tarnish our professional reputation "…commit to a deadline — the motivation will follow."
    I can’t tell you how many times I have been up to the wee hours of the morning before a presentation duplicating CDs or collating handouts, but my wife can attest to these long hours. In a word — too many…! I have been notorious in concentrating on my PowerPoint presentation and leaving some details for the last moment. When I have set a deadline for all details, I can tell you how much more that I can enjoy the conference and have been relaxes for the actual presentation…
  • Publication…
    Here Jensen refers not to the final completion of the project, but to interim publication via a web site or PDF preview to be used to prepare your audience for your final exhibit and/or article/book. These interim steps become milestones (project management lingo) on the way to our final goal. They not only motivate by virture of being a set of deadlines, they require us, e.g., motivate us, to reach a defined stage of completion by that date.
    While in school, these interim targets were often set by our teachers in their course syllabi. As a teacher, I found that this was a necessary feature, especially in online classes. But in the ‘real world’, we must set these on our own. Here is another way that Peer Pressure can help us: our peers can help remind us of these interim deadlines… A ‘Buddy System’ can work out well here; I’ll help remind you and you help remind me. When accomplished, we have reinforcement that we often need to maintain motivation…
  • Starvation…
    As Maslow has pointed out, humans, like animals, work with a hierarchy of needs. Survival needs, like eating and shelter, are among the most basic of these needs. They provide a high degree of motivation when we are deprived of them. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be), the amateur or hobbiest often is deprived of this strong motivation since their livelihood is not depending on our advocation — the professional is often highly motivated by this factor. We will not all quit our day jobs to dedicate ourselves to writing or painting or photography, but we an set other rewards that can substitute for the motivation.
    This other motivation can take the form of a specific reward, such as a new camera lens or a set of paints or other gadgets related to our advocation. These incentives will not produce the same level of motivation as starvation, but they can keep us moving towards our goal, just like the hungry rat will traverse the maze for a bit of food. Whatever the energizing source, the motivation Nowcan move us closer to our goals…
  • Mortality…
    As used by Jensen, this motivation arises from our growing awareness that as we get older, we have less time in which to finish our tasks. This should motivate us to push forward. Rather than putting off a task to tomorrow, whatever we can accomplish today will get us closer to our goal. We do not know exactly how long we have in our life, so there is not time to lose, especially as we get older. Motivation derived from our diminished life expectancy should push us to produce every day…
  • Magazine Submission…
    Depending on our context, this may be any contractual obligation to write an article, prepare an exhibit, produce a work of art; whatever is included in our contract. The motivation derived from finishing a task serves to prod us on to the next task. Few of us have the luxury (or misfortune) of only achieving one tash in our lifetime. Motivation from the completion of one tash becomes the transition to our defining a new goal and a new task. Successful completion may yield a new commission or contract from the same client. We need to start the planning process anew. But we must know when something is done ‘well enough’ and not get focused on perfection…

Now is the time to put some of these suggestions to work. As you do so, you probably should keep a diary to monitor your progress, at least initially, along this journey. Success is waiting for you, just start taking the path to this goal one foot at a time…

Next Week: We will start a new series of explorations into the relationship between attention and motivation, with a special emphasis upon how different elements of your photo composition affect your viewer — and their psychological responses to these photos…