Does Your Creativity Require Investment of Time and Money To Get the Most From It?

Does Your Creativity Require Investment of Time and Money To Get the Most From It?

Creativity is central to most forms of photography and videography, but what is it? Is it an innate aptitude for creating, or is it a skill that is learned and improved? And moreover, does it require investment to get the most out of it?

There's little doubt that a propensity to create is at least partly hardwired into creatives. Whether the dichotomy of creative and logical minds has any credence — and I'm not convinced it does — those who experience the relentless pull to create can seldom swim fast enough in the other direction to avoid it. Those who are creative must create. But creativity isn't binary; there are degrees to it, and even the most creative people need to work to get the most out of it. So, how do you do that?

If you want to improve at mental mathematics, you would need to practice it regularly. To take that up a level, if you wanted to improve your logical thinking, you could perhaps practice logical problems or learn formal logic. Even if you're somebody naturally aligned with the solid ground of numbers and logic, you can still get better or worse at that. The same is true of creativity, despite how loose the word is. That is, creativity's domain is fuzzy. So, if you chose to improve your creativity, you would presumably create. But is that enough? With logic (and I'm sorry for continuously using that as the other side of the coin), there are objective answers; with creativity, it's less defined. Terrible creativity is still creativity, whereas a terrible solution to a logical problem isn't comfortably called "logic." So, how does one hone their creativity?

As far as I can tell, it's best treated like any other skill, and the creative person must find ways to improve. So, in answer to the title's question, I believe creativity does require investment if you want to grow it. Investments in your creativity will be either financial or in terms of time, and often both. Here are the three I believe to be the most effective.

Education

If creativity is a skill, as I believe it is, then learning about that skill and the ways in which other people have prospered with it is powerful. Producing consistent, high-end creativity is difficult and taxing, and yet there are people out there who have churned out masterpiece after masterpiece for decades. Every area, from photographers to writers, has people who create with excellence and such regularity that many ask: "where does she get her ideas?" Some of these people share their methods and findings, and that is supremely valuable to anyone hoping to mimic their creative success. Education requires far more time than a financial investment, and I'd argue has had the biggest returns for me.

Some of the best pieces of educational material I have consumed are books. So, if you like to read or listen to audiobooks, I would recommend "The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life" by Twyla Tharp, "The Art of Creative Thinking" by Rod Judkins, and "Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World" by David Epstein.

Inspiration

When I studied philosophy, there was an undefined split between different areas. Formal logic and most of metaphysics were seen as rigid and able to be proven to some degree, whereas ethics, for example, was seen as far looser. We used to refer to theories that couldn't really be proven or disproven as "fluffy," and in many ways, that's how I see creativity. And if creativity is fluffy, so is inspiration, yet it is absolutely essential to us creatives. Becoming inspired, usually by somebody else's creativity, ignites my need to create, and so seeking out inspiration is a worthy investment.

The investment can be weighted more or less how you like, towards either time or money. The internet is a vault of inspiration that you can never come close to emptying and requires little investment. However, exhibitions, books, shows, films, and my personal favorite, travel, all require a financial investment. If you're not actively investing time and money into seeking out inspiration for your creative endeavors, you're putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Equipment

Ryan Beatty for FAULT Magazine

Now we move away from the investment of time, and far more into the investment of money. I've no doubts that this section will rub many people the wrong way. I can hear them seething in the comments about how you can create great images with an old mobile phone, and they're not wrong. I even wrote recently on how I dislike the gatekeeping nature of photographers when it comes to mobile phone photography. But that doesn't mean that equipment can't aid your creativity. Whether you ought to buy equipment for better results is a road so well traveled that it has become pitted and tiring to walk, so I won't. The truth is, most great works were created using great equipment, whether painting, film, music, or any other of the spread on the smorgasbord of creativity.

I always lean towards investing time over money when it comes to my own creativity, but I can't pretend that new equipment — particularly equipment that does what I could not do without it — hasn't seen my creativity flourish. It's all too easy to become jaded, and sometimes, equipment is the jolt you need. The equipment needn't be a medium format body and lens (although that did cause my creativity to bubble up too!) but just a new accessory. The best example I have are the Aputure MC RGB LED lights, which are $90 each and suddenly had me dreaming up ways of pairing this with other LED lights for more interesting and colorful scenes in both portraiture for magazines and commercial still life work.

Do You Think Creativity Requires Investment?

Do you agree that creativity requires investment? That is, to continually grow and improve your creativity, you must invest time and money in it. If you do, then I have some questions for you. What sort of investment yields the greatest returns, time or money? What boosts your creativity the most? What would you recommend anyone in a creative rut should do to escape it? Share your answers and thoughts in the comment section below.

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4 Comments
David T's picture

Should also mention location fees. Often it also makes sense just to pay people to collab (at least their gas money).

Catherine Bowlene's picture

I think yes, creativity needs time and effort to grow and develop, just like any other skill. Not so sure about money, because there are always cheaper options for practically everything, from Gimp and Photoworks instead of Photoshop (with their subscription model which isn't for everyone) to tons of tutorials about how to repeat the outfit or make up much cheaper than the original was. But some amount of money will also be necessary.

Just Vibes's picture

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Tom Reichner's picture

Robert Baggs asked,

"What sort of investment yields the greatest returns, time or money?"

For me, this is not binary. Time and money go together, hand in hand, when it comes to investing in my photography.

The biggest investment that I put into my photography is travel. Travel is the ultimate merger of time and money - it forces one to invest both.

The key is to go about one's travel in the way that gets the most out of every dollar spent, and the most out of every day spent afield. The more days I spend afield, the more quality photos I can create. And normally, there is a fixed amount of money that I have available to me for the trip. So the trick is to figure out how to used a given amount of money to spend the longest possible amount of time out there shooting ..... and also how to get the most out of the time and money by being prepared and knowledgeable, so that one spends one's time in the most productive areas.

In wildlife photography, it takes a lot of research and planning to ensure that one will spend most of the trip actually looking through the viewfinder and taking photos, instead of spending most of the time searching for something to shoot. Quite literally, it takes hundreds and hundreds of hours researching the species one is going to shoot and researching the area one is going to be shooting at. By putting all of this time in, months before the trip, it ensures that I will get the very most out of every dollar I spend for gasoline, motels, restaurant meals, entry permits, etc.