Funny how things always seem to settle into something familiar even when you are in the most unfamiliar of places. I thought that traveling far from home and having all my time available to dedicate to my work meant ultimate productivity and a creative high point. However, I've come to discover that a lot of what stands between me and productivity is not location dependent, but has to do with me and my attitude towards my work.
In a perfect world, I'd be one of those people who gets up at 6am, goes for a run, reads the news, and tackles half their day's to-do list before noon, someone who "can't help but work too much". However, in reality, I am often lazy, I enjoy sleeping in, going off on internet tangents, and I spend a lot of time not doing the things I'm supposed to do. I'm often bitter about this part of myself, often brutal in the way I criticise my habits, but I'm slowly learning that this is just something I have to deal with and overcome, and a lack of motivation is not innately a broken part of my being.
I feel like my current project has taught me a lot about motivation, and patience. When I don't feel productive, I don't feel motivated and without motivation I tend not to be productive, and so begins the vicious cycle. But perhaps I need to redefine what it means to be "productive" when working on something that's often not advanced by what I've produced at the end of a day.
A huge part of my project is working with my grandparents. And I've slowly come to learn that even though they are family, a relationship must still be built where they are comfortable enough with me to let me photograph them, or interview them in a meaningful way. Building relationships take time, a lot of time that is chatting, going out together, just being present. Understanding and reflection also takes time, which is something I thought I could achieve within an 8 hour work week. Yes, some understanding can be gained by reading and researching for a certain amount of hours. But when contemplating questions like, what is it like to live in China as a Chinese-Canadian person? What does this place mean to me? What is the importance of my relationship to this culture? The understanding comes slow and creeping, barely noticeable. After a few months you look back and see that you understand a bit more than before. There's no telling when you'll reach the point of knowing the answers to those questions, perhaps you never will.
That is the difficulty sometimes with making art that requires deep contemplation of the life you live - it takes time, and it is scary. In an age where everything happens instantly and we are constantly being fed news of the success of others around us, it's hard to feel accomplished when you don't have the product or the rewards to show for it. The more I think about it, the more I remind myself to be patient, to not be so obsessed with output, not be so obsessed with perfection. I have this opportunity (this rare, precious opportunity), to be thoughtful, meandering, and present with these experiences, without the anxiety of a deadline...at least not yet. So I should take advantage of it. Take a deep breath, and remember that good art speaks to life, a life that must be well-observed, and well-lived
Some images from the past couple of weeks: