Doing Things for Yourself & The Benefit of Unpublished Work

I was struggling this week with what to talk about. I sat starting at a blank page for what felt like hours begging for the inspiration to come. I started to look through my draft articles hoping that a past explored idea might jump out at me and evoke a new article of genius…and then it hit me. I’ve written a lot of articles that I’ve never published. For various reasons really, but when I looked at them all as a collective group I realised something striking – that in every single instance the unpublished works are ones that have been written more for myself than the benefit of others. There isn’t really an overall message or lesson within them, but I find writing writing very cathartic, and the time I’ve spent writing these articles has actually been time spent working through certain ideas or problems in my mind.

Some of the articles have gone on to build the foundations of other ideas (workshop topics, things for the print magazine, the beginnings of other posts) while the rest have just sat there, for no one else to see. It’s also probably no coincidence that the majority of these unpublished works tend to be my way of dealing with negative experiences or feelings. I guess it’s been a little like writing a diary. No one else needs to read it for it to serve it’s purpose.

So I started wondering if any of you ever do the same with whatever line of work you’re in. Photographers, do you ever do shoots and never share them? Designers, do you ever draw up concepts that never make your final collections? I would imagine some of you do, but for the rest of you, if not I’d encourage you to do it. Sometimes when I decide it’s best not to publish something I feel deflated, like I’ve wasted hours on something that no one else is going to see. This is entirely flawed thinking as to explore and experiment without the constant need to share is actually completely freeing. It enables you to be honest with yourself and explore ideas you otherwise wouldn’t for fear of of judgement. Maybe it’s something dark, or scary, or just simply irrelevant to your line of work. That doesn’t mean that spending some time exploring it is time wasted.

Social media and blogging are fantastic for so many reasons, but the downsides do include the fact that a lot of us probably feel the need to always be sharing something new. To be seen to be always coming up with exciting and interesting new ideas.

“Oh but I’m just so busy to do anything just for myself” is an excuse we fall back on over and over, and I would imagine many of you are now thinking, but maybe it’s not busyness that’s the problem but apathy. Are we stifling our own creativity with the false idea of having no time to improve? Why is it that without other people’s approval we feel like things aren’t worth exploring?

We’ve spoken about the benefits of personal projects in the Green Room before, about how they can improve your skills and make you grow as an artist, but today I’d encourage you to think about projects or ideas you can explore without letting the fact that others will eventually see it hinder your creativity. Go wild and experiment, you never know where it might lead.

11 comments

  1. Yes, I do this with blog posts. I just wrote (and published) a post the other day about not putting anything on your blog you don’t want anyone to see – fleeting grievances with friends; things you could get the sack for; etc – but that doesn’t mean I don’t WRITE those things. It’s very therapeutic to write a “So, nuuuuurh!” post when somebody’s annoyed me; it helps me get my thoughts straight and get me past whatever I was upset about, but nobody else ever needs to read it!

  2. Brilliant post, Kat. I, too, find myself writing therapeutical posts and never posting them. As you said it is sort of like writing a diary. I like it. With my photography I’m also very similar, I take a lot of personal shots that never see the “light of day” online, but I think I like it that way :). Keeps a part of it private, you know? Keep up the great work, Kat! <3

  3. Always. I create, pursue, and fund all of my personal projects. It is important as an artist to pursue things outside of business to stay fresh and creative. I can only speak for myself, I never went straight into weddings when I started photography. I gradually made my way into it. I came into photography from pursing personal projects in college. So yes, personal projects are important.

  4. I do.
    I have a studio cupboard full of feather creations that are not designs as such, but something I enjoyed making at the time. I like to look through them to give myself inspiration sometimes, but I would never put them ‘out there’. I never really thought why until now.
    Thanks Kat, now I know their purpose is to just ‘be’.

  5. I think it’s good to do things for yourself as well as for work. Personal development doesn’t always need to be publicised, but it is an important role that we see being used in big companies when we’re on a payroll, but it’s just as important in small businesses. I’ve also got blog posts I’ve not published; sometimes its the act of writing a blog post that can generate an idea which can in turn inspire a new path, but the blog post itself might not be right for the blog at the time. Brilliant post, Kat. I really enjoy these green room posts! x

  6. I do this Kat. I have a lot of draft Blog posts which are just sitting there. Sometimes I look back at them and use bits of them towards other things but I can’t bring myself to delete them even though they are not ‘good enough’ to publish as I wrote them. I also write a lot of journal type pieces which, as you suggest, are probably dealing more with negative thoughts and emotions. Writing is definitely good for the soul but I think keeping some of it back is to be recommended! Still loving the Green Room concept, thanks for sharing xx

  7. Yes, I have projects that I photograph just for myself. Sometimes people see the pictures and say, “You should sell that.” There are times when I consider it, and then I think, “That is just for me!”

  8. I feel like I am time poor at the best of times, but I also find that if you have a pressure to produce work that is publish-quality every time you try then you burn out. I guess at the moment working on our house is my ‘that’s for me’ kind of outlet!

  9. I’m glad to hear its not just me, there are often photographs I take that never get “published” and blog posts I write that never go anywhere. I think you’re right Kat sometimes with social media we all feel everything we share must be something new and exciting, but sometimes I write something and read it back deicde its boring and leave it in the unpublished file!

  10. Whenever I shoot for creativity, I usually shoot friends or relatives. I feel guilty not sharing the pics as much as I would a clients pics, but it does help me figure things out and find new direction. Sometimes, I just need to shake negative thoughts when I don’t feel that I’m the best photog I can be. Shooting and not sharing helps.

Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *