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Writing + Photography

Memoirs and musings of Darius Bashar. Toronto portrait photographer and writer, in pursuit of all things real, raw and intimate. 

Posts tagged Life Lessons
Don't You Dare Call Yourself A Professional, Unless...

Professional athletes call it two-a-days. That’s when they train twice per day.

I had this realization last September. The months prior were very challenging and unique (for me).

Without warning, one of the most important humans in my life had been diagnosed with Leukaemia. This was the first time something like this had come up.

Like with virtually all major forms of cancer, there was a realistic chance that this incredible human, that has deeply impacted my life since my birth, would no longer be with us by Christmas.

This experience brought me to the realization that there is a “last breath” looking for all of us. This wasn’t some poetic concept anymore. It was fucking real!
One day I will LITERALLY take my last breath. It could be 50 years from now, or it could be 50 mins. There is no way to know for certain and nothing you can do to prevent it from eventually finding you.

We all know this to be true with our minds. But something shifted for me last September. For the first time in my life, I felt it to be true with my heart.

It felt as if someone would literally come and take my camera and laptop away. This made me realize I had so many more photos left inside me.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how sad I would be if I did not realize and release those photos in my heart, into the world. If my last breath found me and all of a sudden it was too late.

It was a wake up call. It was obvious to me that I had allowed myself to become lazy and stagnant.

What was I waiting for? I had all the gear. I knew how to use it. I lived in an incredible city. And most importantly I fucking love photography.

Once, a voice in the back of my head had the balls to say something as stupid as,

“You’re a professional and professionals only shoot when they get paid.”

One swift dirty look from my heart, shut that guy up for good.

  • I shoot because I love photography.
  • I shoot because it reminds me that magic lives everywhere.
  • I shoot because there is no other experience that makes me feel as alive, as creating.
  • I shoot because one day I won’t be able to. One day my last breath will find me, and this life will be over.

So, I made a decision to go out and practice photography every morning.

I’d wake up at 4am, just so I’d be able to do all my morning ritual stuff (meditation, yoga, writing, etc) and then catch the sunrise. I’d be home by the time most people start work. This allowed me to do all my paid “9–5” photography work as well.

A Few Example Photos From Those Early Morning Shoots: 

(click to enlarge)

It's a profound experience to create something before 9am every morning, especially when that creation has nothing to do with commerce. It reminds you that a good day and a good *work* day are NOT the same thing. 

We are not commerce machines put here to make and spend money. That's not what this life is about. We are expression machines that have magic inside us. We just need the courage to look into our hearts and share what we find. 

During my morning mediation today, I realized that I have forgetting all of this. I have NOT been acting like a professional photographer. I have NOT been practicing my craft 5+ times a week. I know it's February and it's cold as fuck outside, but that's not an excuse. Not if I truly desire to be world class one day. 

It was a slap in the face this morning. One I needed to feel. It stung, because it was founded in truth. Thankful The Universe spoke up and did not mince words. 

So, now I course correct and get back to the work. Get back to practicing daily. Get back to activley seeking out failure. Get back to understanding my limits so I can push past them. 

But also, I get back to fun. I get back to that amazing feeling of creating and expressing daily. I get back to working with remarkable humans. I get back to discovering more of this incredible city.  And I get back to finding more magic inside my heart. 

Slaps to the face can hurt, but they can also quickly alert you to danger. It's so easy to fall into zombie mode and miss all the beauty and magic that perpetually exists around us.

What do you think? 

Is it possible to call yourself a professional if you don't practice your craft at least 5 times per week? I know it's not the only criteria, but for me it's a crucial one. 

Love to know what you guys think. 

My Photography Exposed A Major Gap In My Life

I had a powerful realization two days ago about writing, but more importantly about life. Like most meaningful lessons in life, it was simple. It almost seems obvious after the fact.

I actually already wrote about this particular lesson a few months ago, but I was only looking at it from the perspective of photography. For those of you who don’t know, I work as a professional portrait and fashion photographer.

That original post was and still remains, one of my all-time favourite writings. It was also my shortest post ever. It didn’t really attract any attention. Very few “likes”, comments and shares.

But that didn’t matter.

For me, everything was in those 22 words.

I initially wrote the post focussed on my photography process, but when I looked back, I saw it was so much more than that.

It’s a road map to living a full life. Don’t be fooled by the brevity of the original post. It’s short, but if you pay attention, everything I know about life can be found in those 4 simple steps.

I have listed 3 versions below. The first is the original, which was entirely focussed on my photography process.

The other two have slight modifications that make them specific to writing and life.

Again, don’t be fooled by how simple it is.

Also, there is a difference between simple and easy.

My Process (Photography)

  • Find the story
  • Find the light
  • Find myself (“Anyone can take a portrait. Where is Darius in this photo?”)
  • Lose everything else

My Process (Writing)

  • Find the story (One simple take-away that the audience can articulate in a single sentence, after finishing your writing.)
  • Find the light (there is a specific access point where this story has the best chance of truly being seen)
  • Find myself (Show your heart. Show your vulnerability. Don’t lecture. Put your lived-experience at the centre of this story.)
  • Lose everything else

My Process (Life)

  • Find the story (Who do you want to be? Fundamentally different questions than, what do you want to be. One is about finding your purpose. The other is about a career.)
  • Find the light (there are specific beliefs you need to explore, that will allow this story to come to life. Just remember all beliefs are horse shit.)
  • Find myself (Explore your heart. Celebrate your vulnerability. Feel deeper. Think higher.)
  • Lose everything else

I’ve always been obsessed with exploring the creative process of highly successful artists and innovators. I would eat up anything I could find on the topic.

But what about a Life Process?

It’s taken me 35 years to realize I don’t have a conscious Life Process. Or I didn’t, until now. But guess what, not having a process is also a process. It embraces randomness, with the hopes that maybe shit goes your way. It’s very passive and totally unpredictable.

It’s like a writer waiting around for inspiration to find them. That’s not how great writing works. It’s also not how anything great works for that matter.

So, do you have an active life process that you can articulate?

If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Has it worked for you, or does it get in the way?

I’m new to the life process game, but I have a feeling it might just be a game changer.

Last week was amazing. This week was good. Yesterday Sucked.

Last week might have been my most productive ever.

What’s more interesting to me, than what I managed to complete last week, is how smoothly the week flowed. It didn’t feel like work. There wasn’t much struggle. I would definitely not use the word hustle to describe the week. It just flowed and felt great the whole way.

I got lots of positive feedback on my work. More than ever before. I was humbled by the flood of incredible support, especially after my post about goals for 2018. People from all over wanted to help me achieve these goals. I sincerely did not expect that response and still to this day, don’t fully understand why people felt so moved by that post. Just being honest.

Since that post:

  • I’ve been taken on as a client by a professional speakers coach, with a great track record
  • I was invited to speak at a really cool event in March
  • A yoga instructor has offered to teach me new flows
  • A meditation instructor has offered to show me a new advanced meditation practice
  • A friend sent my work to a few prominent magazine editors, to review
  • I booked several coffee meet-ups with really amazing people
  • Somehow I achieved over 280,000 new views in one week!!!

Honestly, I am shocked by all the love and support.

I got to ask — was this support always there and I chose to ignored it because I was afraid to ask for help?

How much potential is slipping through my hands, by letting my egos run the show?

Speaking of my ego…

This week felt different.

It was all hustle. Lots of struggle. Felt like I was chasing all week. After almost every interaction, I felt depleted and diminished. I had a very productive week, in terms of content, but every time I posted something new, I felt rushed, forced and uneasy.

What was I chasing?

If I’m honest, I think I was after the approval of the all the people in the previous week. I was writing to achieve the same ends as week one, instead of just letting go and flowing. I was chasing the past, chasing approval.

The thing with chasing, is that it can feel invigorating while you are doing it. There is definitely a runners-high you get from the process, but the moment you stand still for second, the emptiness floods through. So either you continue chasing forever (not humanily possible), or you face reality.

Yesterday I stood still…

…and let me tell you how shitty it felt. I finally stopped chasing and was promptly smacked in the face by reality. The emptiness hit me hard. I realized that I had forgotten about the magic of the process and focused entirely on the ends, which whether you get their or not, always feels empty.

I realized that the chase was less about achieving a specfic goal and more about running away from parts of myself that I am not yet ready to face. This realization was really tough. It hurt, because of how true it was.

What’s The Lesson?

Chasing is equality as toxic as the denial.

Both, put my ego in the driver’s seat.

Both, inevitably lead to emptiness.

Both, ignore the infinite wisdom of my soul.

Be Your Industry's Gord Downie

After Gord Downie's passing this fall, there was an outpouring of love and recognition for the legendary Canadian rock musician.

I remember hearing dozens of stories on the radio from other musicians who intimately knew Gord.

Gord was that guy who would always be on the side of the stage, at music festivals and concerts, dancing and cheering other bands on. It didn't matter if the band was a major headliner or if this was their first real concert. Gord would always find a way to show genuine love. 

What Can We Learn From This Beautiful Man?

Competition is an illusion that keep us apart. You don't have to believe or participate in it.

You can choose community over competition. 

What would happen to your life (and the world), if today you decided to be your industry's Gord Downie and found a way to forever be a fan. 

That's my goal with photography. I want to be the world's biggest fan. It doesn't matter who shot the photo. If it pulls at my heart, I want to cheer and dance from the sidelines. I want to lose myself in that moment and forget about silly concepts like "me" and "you".

I want to close my eyes and watch as everything collapses into just "us". just "one". just "love". 

Illustration by:  Rebecca Hendin -->

Illustration by:  Rebecca Hendin -->