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Working with Chris Orwig Is My Harvard

By  Feb 23, 2016

Topics: Digital Photography

How do you deal with roadblocks to creativity, like lack of time, or being overly tired? Where do you find inspiration and how can you consistently draw from that to improve your mind-set and your ability to create? How can you learn to open yourself up to things that are risky—but that might result in something wonderful that you could never have otherwise foreseen?

This is what Chris Orwig’s book, The Creative Fight, is all about! Chris deeply understands the creative struggle that all of us experience from time to time, and he intuitively knows what you need to do to get out of a rut or move forward in a positive way. 

I recently had the pleasure of working with Chris on a series of videos related to his book. In addition to a five-part series that focuses on different aspects of creativity, Chris also conducted a lively roundtable discussion with Peachpit staff exploring the obstacles that keep us from being our imaginative selves.

The thing about Chris is he really keeps you on your toes—if you exhibit a shred of laziness, self-doubt, or insincerity, he will call you on it. Which is part of what makes him such a great teacher. He does this not to embarrass but to delve into the underlying causes of inaction and help us push through these moments and into a more generative place.

As Chris discusses in The Creative Fight—and in his video miniseries based on the book—learning doesn’t always take place in the classroom. He illustrates this by quoting Herman Melville, who said, “a whaleship is my Harvard.” The story of Melville’s “education” demonstrates that “school isn’t a place—it’s a point of view.” What a simple but important message to remember. And one that can help us open our minds to new ways of working and to find solutions where we wouldn't ordinarily look.

I feel grateful to have worked with so many amazing photographers who remind me of this message every day, showing by example the power of stretching your mind, “to take the ordinary and run it through [your] imagination in order to create and say something new.” I have learned from these inspiring minds how to make something beautiful when things look bleak, to take time to recognize what things are working when nothing seems to be, and to focus on what matters most in living a creative life. 

Through it all, what I’ve most learned is: never stop learning. As Chris would say, keep up the good fight!