Sponge Bob’s gots it. I’ve gots it. Do *you* gots it?

This morning I was driving to work, nom nom-ing on a tasty Protein Bistro Box from Starbucks, nibbling on the piece of cheese that comes with it–being normal and, you know, imagining that I was back in pioneer days and I had made this cheese myself. Because it’s two triangles of white cheddar cheese, and whenever I eat cheese like this, it just seems a very pioneer-y thing to eat. No matter that I’m currently listening to my iPod plugged into my Chrysler mini van while driving through a very unpioneer-y downtown Indianapolis–while I’m eating that cheese (and only the cheese–there’s nothing pioneer-y about a grande triple shot soy latte) I’m freaking Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Also, sometimes when I get in the shower, I imagine that I’m taking my first shower after surviving in the desert and water is amazing. This started in 1993 after watching “A Far Off Place”. (Google it, kids.) Yeah.At this point, you guys probably either think I’m certifiably insane, or you like minded imaginative folk *may* be nodding your heads like, “holy frick, someone else does this!?”

But back to the cheese. As I was sitting in morning rush hour traffic and simultaneously day dreaming about having no neighbors, no cell phones, drinking out of tin cups and eating hard molasses for a “treat”, I started thinking about how this crazy imaginative side of me translates into my life and my job. In my life, it means that I very easily can sit down on the floor with my kids and hold a plastic velociraptor in my hand and really *play* with my kids, and truly enjoy it. In those 45 minutes, I was “Jr.” the velociraptor who just wanted the super hero and dinosaur communities to get along. (Brynn was all the other dinos and Nicholas was the super heroes…who were battling over who had rights to the land of “Top Bunk”–Brynn sent me in as a spy and I learned that the super heroes were good guys, and I facilitated a peace treaty that led to a dance party at Dragon Castle. Josie was a giant baby triceratops who just tried to eat everyone willy nilly)

It also means that I encourage my children to believe in all things magical as long as possible. For me, it’s something I savor. I can remember those Christmas Eves as a ten year old when I kept my eyes peeled and stared at the night sky the entire way home from Christmas Eve service at church, shrieking at every blinking red light that I saw, “RUDOLPH, MOM!!! Karis, Lauren, Dad! I SEE him!” Or that feeling on Easter when you go to sleep just *knowing* that magic is going to happen during the night and somehow, someway, a mystical rabbit was going to bring *YOU* something special…all of the kids in the world and this creature of magic was going to leave a little bit of magic for you. So I love watching it in my kids. The wonder, the giggling over what mischief our elf, Dinglebert, has gotten into now. The real sorrow they feel when Christmas is over and that means that it will be a whole year until they see him again!

Over Thanksgiving, one of my family members commented how it was “weird” that my kids are so into magic stuff. That at that age, they didn’t believe any of it. And even I can see it in Brynn’s friends and classmates…she is in her own little world compared to most of them. Instead of video games and boys, she would rather sit in her closet building worlds with her legos, or creating plots full of twists and turns with her assortment of toys ranging from American Girls to cheap McDonald’s happy meal toys. And she doesn’t need just a dollhouse, the toys have homes in her hanging storage bin, under her dresser and even the little Squinkies dwell in her shoes.

Imagination is so very important to me, I have touched on having a hard time in Jr. High and High School. Classmates, especially the boy ones, were not kind to me. Ruthlessly teasing me for my height, my freckles, my crooked teeth, my braces, my ratty hair that I never combed, my flat chest, my high water jeans, my non name brand shoes (want me to keep going?)—my outlet was poetry and sketching. I would write dark poems, ones I’m sure would have gotten me a talk with the guidance counselor if found. My sketches were the complete opposite. I drew girls…short girls whose jeans were frayed on the bottom (is that weird that I used to *dream* of being short enough to have my jeans fray on the bottom instead of showing my ankles off??), girls with straight hair or tamed curls…girls with actual boobs, not the poky mosquito bites I was growing at 15, girls whose shirts showed off a flat tummy, not lingering baby chub. I always gave them freckles, though 😉 Healthy or not, my dark poems and my “perfect” teenager sketches helped me cope. Without those “happy places” the taunts may have been too loud, the shoves into my locker might have hurt that much more, and the constant comments questioning my gender (height plus no boobs and big bones are a hard hand of cards to get for a socially awkward 15 year old!) might have been more than I could bear. They almost were.

So am proud that my kids have creative minds? You’re dang skippy I am. Do I pray that they will completely avoid the crap that I went through during my teenager years? Heck. Yes. I’m doing everything in my power to instill self confidence in them. Sometimes I wonder, though, if I *had* been popular. If I *had* been a desirable girl, would I be the creative thinker that I am today? I’d like to think so!

Now, how does this affect my job? My photography business? This is something we talk extensively about at workshops. Creativity in this business is harder to achieve when we are constantly bombarded in our newsfeeds and blogrolls with a new, madly talented photographer every other day. Or even an established photographer trying something new that suddenly everyone is hopping on the bandwagon. I distinctly remember the first time the Baby as Art team used one of Amelia‘s headbands (she now does actions)…and that, I believe, started the headband craze that is fundamental to newborn photographers. Or when Kelley and Tracy did the “head in hands” pose first. There are very few people in this industry who can claim to be the first at anything. One thing that I’ve held onto, when I’ve felt “copied” is that I still have *me*. No one else can be Rachel Vanoven, and that’s a fact.

to my knowledge, the first "chucking of the deuces whilst posing a newborn" shot

Creativity in any kind of photography now is not limited to what you can physically do with a newborn, what new crazy pose you can come up with, I’d go so far as to even say it’s not so much even how you style them, although that does play a large role in your business direction, along with processing. No, I think the number one way to set yourself apart from the herd is to simply stop following it. Your “herd” may even be me. I can be one fluffy sheep that seems fun to follow. My processing, my style, my backdrop, my posing, my lighting, my branding, my personality, my exact verbiage for captioning your images–but you aren’t doing yourself any favors. To me, that is just showing a lack of individuality. Lack of creativity. And really, a lack of enthusiasm for your work/job.

So how do you fix it? Step away from facebook. I went so far as to create a new personal account a year ago, and intentionally NOT like photographers’ fan pages from it. I don’t need my newsfeed clogged up with a thousand other photography pages. After that, I encourage people to journal or write their own poetry. Sometimes just finding your own voice needs to be done–to build confidence to speak/write from *your* perspective, not others’. A parrot never sounds as pretty as the person it’s squawk is imitating, just saying. People can see right through a facade, especially if who you are on your fan page is drastically different from who you are at sessions.

One way I keep my creative juices going is through reading and music. Over Thanksgiving break it was brought to my attention that I have never read Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”…so it’s being shipped as I type this. Don’t get so wrapped up in the fan count, the post count, the number of sessions, the turn around time, the processing, the posing–that you lose the fun in it. I get emails asking who I mentored with–fact is–I didn’t. No workshops either. Workshops can be GREAT. Truly awesome way to take a shortcut. You just have to be careful with the knowledge that you walk away with. I strongly encourage my workshop attendees to not become “RVP Zombies”. I’m not trying to shove my processing, my personality, my branding, etc. down anyone’s throat. My sincerest desire is that everyone who takes a class will see how I do something and completely make that “something” THEIR something. Not mine. I’m not worried about losing business, as I’m up to my ears in it. I deeply just want those amazing women I meet (and all of you who I’ll never meet) to understand that you. cannot. build. a. career. based. on. you. trying. to. be. someone. else.

People comment on my fan page constantly about wanting to “pick my brain”. I say, pick your own brain (they’re kinda like noses). If you can’t afford the shortcut of a workshop, there’s this amazing little thing called  trial and error. It’s free. If you need to practice on editing skin…guess what? You have a foot. Shoot it. Edit it. Want to learn ACR? Download it and edit the shizz out of your toes. Smooth them puppies until they shine, or learn how to “matte” edit, by either googling it or simply delving into Photoshop and figure. it. out.

Guess what happens THEN? You actually learn what actions are doing. You do something and all of a sudden people are all, “Holy unique processing, Batman!” ‘cuz in a world full of mason jars and hazy edits, it can be hard to stand out if you’re lacking your own creative thought.

So yeah, all of this popped in my head, as I was driving, eating a triangle of cheese and going all Little House on the Prairie in my mind….I think I need a cigarette, I’m spent 😉

P.S. One of these days, I promise I won’t write such long winded, deep blog posts. Maybe if I just blog more I won’t feel the need to vomit advice every time! I just get so frustrated seeing so many amazingly talented people shoot themselves in the foot by trying to fit themselves into a mold that just doesn’t work.


Disclaimer: I don’t really smoke or encourage it 😉

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