In November of 2015, I booked a personal mentoring session with a successful photography company I love. I knew I was facing a monumental shift in life, moving away from Houston, quitting my day job, uprooting my young photography business, so I scheduled the mentoring one year out (October 2016) in Nashville and I planned to spend the months checking certain things off my list that I’d heard I needed to do to succeed in my new circumstance. I thought that giving myself a one year deadline would be enough to get my ducks in a row and establish the backlog of work on my business that my day job had kept me from. I thought that mentoring session would teach me how to be like the photographers I so envied and revered and would make all the pieces fit together perfectly. But the year went nothing like I had planned (reference pretty much ALL of the blog posts from Summer 2016) and this turmoil served to create a mentoring session with very mixed – and initially negative – results.

A year of foggy uncertainty, setbacks and roadblocks (Acadia National Park)

After nearly 7 years at a corporate job that slowly extinguished my creativity beneath layers of technical writing and doldrums, it took 9 long months to find myself again. I whispered for inspiration, but it never came. I despaired and thought the artful yarns and words were lost forever. I thought I’d never draw or create again. I was a slave once more but to a new master: emulation. I saw what other photographers were doing and figured I needed to do the same to be successful. But, I was reminded once more that, for a creative, action is impossible without inspiration. Blogging was a loathsome chore because I was forcing myself to write inauthentically. Try as I might, that personal voice was gone, replaced by a seemingly brick and mortar mental wall. Everything was forced; everything was joyless.

Immediately following the mentoring session, I had an intense crisis of conscious. This photographer has three people working 10 hour days, churning out content and clients like a machine. Obviously, they are the pinnacle of business success but, looking behind the mystical curtain of financial achievement, I perceived a lack of passion and a slight departure from the pursuit of art or creativity. Was this really what I wanted? If this is what it takes to be a photographer, do I honestly want this for my life? True, this company is incredibly successful  but, something just didn’t feel right. Hopes dashed and feeling like I was back at (or rather, still at) square one with no inspiration or direction to speak of, I forced myself to compartmentalize and move on for the time being since I had Grand Ole Opry tickets that night to a show I’d waited to experience for quite a long time. I resolved myself to enjoy that show as much as possible and be completely present in that moment – more than I had been for anything that whole year. I went in broken and unmoored, feeling like I had nothing left to give and no future to speak of, ready to receive whatever experience the night had for me.  The outcome was nothing less than astounding.

I was pretty much a teary-eyed mess throughout the entire show-revelling in the live performance of songs so dearly scripted across my history. I felt able to touch and freely access a part of myself long-buried by a mixture of numbness, fear of judgement or failure, and false, distracted living. In a way, I was reborn in that auditorium, awakened to what was there beneath the surface. That passion, that drive, that myriad of thought and creation.  It was easily the most transcendent night in my memory.

martina mcbride band against cancer grand ole opry nashville tennessee country concert

Martina McBride at the Grand Ole Opry

Though I could feel something critical had changed that night, nothing actually materialized for two days. And then, in a flash, in an instant, during the middle of the night, in the midst of illness and the throws of sleeplessness, the universe righted itself. The ideas poured out, the firehose of creativity and thought production came roaring to life and I helplessly, marvellously reached for any pen and keyboard I had available to me, bouncing for hours between written words and image creation. My voice was alive, returned to me at last.

smoky mountain sunset national park blue mountains

If you’re searching for a mountain top experience, the Smokies aren’t bad candidates…


In truth, that voice was inside me all along. All I needed were the requisite pieces to collect, align and unlock. It was the sketch journal I bought during the summer in desperation to try something – ANYTHING – creative again. It was that stressful, overwhelming day of looking into another photography studio’s intense machine of a business and schedule to realize that I want no part of something that will bury my uniqueness once more beneath procedure and requirements. It took a mountaintop experience at the Grand Ole Opry, of all places, transcended by music, enraptured by artistry and the visible pursuit of dreams and long shots displayed onstage. It took all of these elements and this precise amount of time spent healing, gathering, synthesizing and rediscovering for my voice to appear again. If you seek passion and pursue inspiration, what you will wind up finding is yourself. And now, with more resolve that I have felt in a long collection of empty years, I know I must work just as I live: on my terms.


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