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So, long story short, it's been quite the year.

It's crazy to think that just a year ago, I had flown from Vietnam to Taiwan to start the new year abroad. And while 2019 was interjected with the usual college shenanigans, I've done my fair share of traveling that is still just sitting catalogued on my piling hard drives.

With every additional travel experience, I am fortunate to be granted with exposure to new cultures and experiences: lots of good food, lots of adventures, and lots and lots of photos and videos.

However, even in the face of this diversity and novel stimuli, I will admit I've fallen behind on editing. But more importantly, I've lost part of my creative spirit. I've lost the drive for the sake of creating for myself.

I guess here's where I make a short story long...

In the Spring 2019 semester at UC Berkeley, I continued my photography side hustle. And while that chapter allowed me to talk and interact with many amazing individuals, the sheer amount of shoots that I tried to tackle stuck me in a creative rut. The repetition of doing 28 shoots over the course of a few weeks ultimately ended with me getting physically sick.

After the semester, I was lucky enough to get a quick break over summer vacation traveling abroad to Europe. I think my mistake was ultimately still pushing myself to photograph and record the experience rather than focusing on the quality of my experience in that moment. I wasn't actively playing catch-up as I kept accumulating more and more photos.

I find that I am increasingly no longer committing myself to the process of creation and I'm simply going through the motions. Capture this shot at this moment. Approach this video clip with a left-right pan and mind how I'm going to transition to the next shot.

After that vacation, I picked up an internship working at a start-up in SF. I was fortunate enough to be able to exercise more photography and videography skills for a different environment in that internship. But in that position, while I could exercise some creative license, I was still creating for someone else. I wasn't creating nor committing to the creative process for myself.

In just a few moments, the Fall 2019 semester at Cal began... and somehow we are here now: just a few hours away from 2020. I haven't been inspired to create in that time and I was even more restricted by the daunting task of the accumulated data on my hard drives.

So, what now?

The turn of the year is always a good time for reflection and for looking back. I've acknowledged what I deemed as the faults because foresight is always 20/20 (2020!). But I think the more important part is for me to acknowledge what I've learned in the past year.

1.) Understand my value as a creator.

2.) Commit to the quality of a project rather than the number of projects.

3.) What's my story?

1. Part of my disillusion that emerged with grad shoots was my adamant stance to keep my pricing low. While you'll find photographers at UC Berkeley who price at $100/hr, I was doing nearly unlimited edits for $75/2 hours. 37.5% of the price that others were charging. I still stand by the idea of keeping prices low for those who shouldn't face that additional financial strain, but I also have to understand the effort and skill that I'm providing to the task at hand to make sure I'm properly valuing my creative mind. Part of my growth is understanding where that trade-off lies.

2. As I collect more SD cards, I'm still trying to be mindful of not being shutter happy when I see a composition I like, but I'm not being mindful of the full life-cycle: is that photograph actually going to end up anywhere or just lie forgotten in a digital store? I want to recommit myself to projects that I am properly motivated to bring to completion rather than tackle projects inspired by FOMO.

3. Peter McKinnon mentioned this in a video a while back and my communications teacher reiterated this idea, but I want to start creating with a story in mind. While the aesthetics are a big part of creation, I want to start motivating the creative process with a story or narrative behind it. Why am I creating this? Why does this inspire me? There has to be a greater purpose behind the final product rather than "this looks cool." I want to hold a greater personal stake in my work, and I want to share what I think is important and special, regardless of the likes and comments I anticipate.

Motivating myself to create again is a major part of my New Year's Resolution, but I want it to hold more resolute in my person going forwards. I want to challenge myself again as a creator, not as a photographer or videographer. And I want to rediscover this in 2020, one pixel at a time.

Cheers and happy new year!

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