A blog about how to find creativity when you feel blank


Where do your ideas come from?  Where do mine come from? Every time I’ve come up with something that I feel is creative, I am insanely proud of it.  Not because I think I’m a creative genius, but because I know that to get there, I had to work for it.

Some people seem to pull ideas out of the sky and I’m mesmerized by those people.  My husband is one of them.  I never thought of myself as creative, although I knew I had done many creative things in my life.  But even when it was more subconscious, I had a system and without it, I’d be a blank piece of paper.

For 36 years I’ve doodled the same stupid flower on every piece of paper in front of me.   I don’t love that flower, but I just can’t draw ANYTHING else and my mind doesn’t have a clue where to go next.  For a long time, I felt THAT stuck with my photography.

But I recently found the strategies that make ideas come to me faster than I can keep up with.

THE LIST: I first heard Lindsay Adler talk about her methods when I was at her Look Fabulous workshop.  She talked about creating idea lists and brainstorming words based around the one element you knew had to be in the photo….whether it was about a theme you had in mind, a color, a memory, the model, a location.  So I started to do that and it began to work for me.  But I was still often stuck and I wanted to find something that would really bring out the story telling in my images.

THE THEMES:  I found a list online of Language Arts themes, and I began to pull from them. I keep them on my phone so that they are always with me.  I can look at a prompt such as picking up the pieces, and think about what that means to me.  Are there any stories in my past that can be told through that idea?  Is there anything in the location I’m shooting in that can be used to to tell a story with that theme in mind.  When we were filming The Concept for The Framed Network with Lindsay Adler and Brooke Shaden, I pulled out my trusty list constantly because we were in so many incredible locations and I would often only have a few minutes to come up with a story worth telling with a photograph.  One of the days we were shooting in an elevator and everyone was feeling creative, but my friend and unbelievably talented photographer,  Bill Persons was at a temporary loss for what to shoot.  I showed him my list, and I was overwhelmed with excitement for Bill as I actually saw the idea light up his face after scrolling through the topics.  It really is a magical tool!  Another way I have been able to use it is to apply it to images I’ve taken in the past that lacked a story.  Just by attaching something to it, I’ve been able to manipulate my image into something more.

AWESOME WRITING PROMPTS: Today I decided to use another writing prompt idea that I recently saw that said to write a story where each sentence starts with the next letter of the alphabet.

I took a portrait of my cousin in the Palo Duro Canyon that I absolutely love but it had no meaning behind it.  We were at the end of a shoot and she put on a fox mask and the moment was just perfect.  But I couldn’t feel inspired to edit it until it had more to it.  So, I spent half an hour writing something with each sentence starting with the next letter of the alphabet.  As I wrote, I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen or how to bring the story from beginning to end in exactly 26 sentences.  But I think I pulled it off pretty well and now, I absolutely love my image.  I hope that if anyone ever reads this, they might find these tips to be something they can use to feel creative.  You don’t have to be born with ideas as long as you look everywhere around you with an idea travel guide.

Two Birds Photography: Faith’s Story- THE ABC SENTENCE METHOD

Model:  Kasey Thomas

Almost everyone I’ve met in my short life has had a story to tell about a turning point in their lives.  Be it a catastrophe that causes the change or a completely willing leap into a new chapter of existence.  Careless decisions have destroyed even the most level headed of my acquaintances.  Deciding to hear as many of their stories as possible in order to sort out my own need to follow the wind, I began to interview.  Each story had its own charm.  Favorable moments were followed by devastating losses.  Girls tended to tell tales of love that swept them off their feet, sometimes planting them firmly in their forevers but often leaving them longing for another change.   Hearing so many highs and lows started to make me think, we are all too similar, too boring.  Insanely predictable.

Just when I was about to put my project to rest, I met Faith, who had none of that which her name implied.  Kicking around the red dust beneath her feet, she began to talk in a melodic tone of voice that can only belong to a person who has loved and lost more than most of us can imagine.  Love, to most of us is a feeling of deepest connections between ourselves and other people, but to Faith, love had an entirely different meaning.  Most of the time, Faith wandered around the desert outside in her home in the Palo Duro Canyon.  Never hungry, but never full either, she survived by drinking cactus juice and hunting for protein among the small furry animals such as deer, rabbits and the red fox.

One tense panhandle  afternoon , 120 degrees of heat was beating down on Faith’s body as she searched for the day’s water supply.  Peering from the depth’s of a barren cave were two little eyes belonging to a red fox who had spent several days watching Faith struggle to find food.  Quietly, timidly, yet purposefully, the little fox emerged with a collection of berries and gently pushed them over to Faith before lying down beside her with a submissive stare.  Realizing this creature’s intent was to share, Faith graciously accepted a berry, broke it in two, and placed the other half in the palm of her shaking , outstretched hand.  Something powerful began that afternoon as Faith found herself a companion with which to share her survival in a fierce canyon life.  Together they lived, often caring more for the other than their own selves.  Unlikely friends, relying on one another when life had previously found them alone.

Violent storms are no stranger to the Palo Duro Plains and when Faith and her faithful friend were awoken to the deafening sound of the winds, it was clear they would have to find cover fast.  Winds were howling and Faith was blinded by a force that struck her in the head and left her unconscious.  XII days went by with  Faith lying alone in the desert before she finally awoke.  Yearning for her companion, Faith spent years wandering in a desperate search, begging the plains to show her a sign of where her lost friend could be.

Zig zagging down a winding, dusty road is where I finally found her and she imparted her life story, the story I was waiting for.


  1. Pop

    Your story about Faith totally makes the picture work for me. The creative approach you took to writing about it probably made what is a chore for most people fun! I applaud your blog article as I am certain it will help all who read it and try your approach. My favorite line of your story is “XII days went by…” It was also nice that you give special credit to those who have helped you become so creative and confident in your photography. Can’t wait for your next article.

  2. Carly Webber

    Bonnie – this is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. I constantly feel like I’m not creative, that my ideas are bland or that I seem to flounder within the ideas and inspiration of others; that as a perfectionist, I don’t have the courage in myself to LET GO and to risk potential failure. But I think thats where the greatest rewards are yes? Thanks for the great links and sharing your story – will definitely give some of these a go!

    • Carly, Your comment made me so happy! I was hoping that what has been working for me would work for someone else and it makes my world that it could help fuel your inspiration too! Especially after looking through your work and feeling incredibly inspired by YOU! Thank you for taking the time to tell me how it made you feel!

  3. Pingback: The Great Blog Hop of 2014 | fromthebirdcage

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