There’s always the threat of burnout.
It kind of happened to me as I went through school. At any given time, I was taking one or two photo intensive classes, shooting for the college paper, and a mess of stuff on the side. It got to the point that I would actually purposefully avoid doing anything related to photography if I didn’t have to, everything just reminding me of the mounting stress levels. Blowing things off started to feel like it was the only way that I could exercise any control.
This carried on for a few weeks until one evening when I was walking home after a long day of class. A group of students had started a drum circle on the main plaza, complete with harmonicas, acoustic guitars, hula hoop dancers, hacky-sackers, a didgeridoo, and more dreadlocks than you could shake an irate Nixon at.
My body tired, stomach empty, and mind trying to prioritize my to-do list; all I really wanted was to just go home to my nightly bowl of Ramen. Something made me stop though. The event had zero news value, and the lighting was so poor that the photos themselves probably wouldn’t hold up under any real criticism. Still though, there was just some gnawing in the back of my mind telling me to stay and shoot.
While the first handful of exposures were labored, I found that something began to change the more I shot. I began to loosen up. I was noticing new details. Compositions started to come together. I realized that, since none of my peers or teachers were going to see these, I was more free to experiment and make mistakes. For the first time in too long, the thing I love became fun again.
Ever since, I have been sure to take the time to just shoot completely for me. The results were fairly clear, and started forming fairly steadily since I began shooting more and more on my own. The fact that I no longer approached photography with a sort of Pavlovian derision vastly improved the quality of the work that I was turning in to my teachers, and editors. I found myself getting excited to learn outside of class again.
So, for anyone who is pursuing a career in something that they love, it can be so easy to just overload yourself, and your passion can become just another chore. The best way to stave off this transformation is just simply to never forget to make it your own. Take time, no matter how little, whenever you can, to create just for you. I promise, you won’t regret it.