My creative lesson 24-The repetitiveness of life gives it depth and meaning

Week 24 — Hands (2020)

14 June, 2020

One cannot lift just one hand of sand and let it fall through your fingers. You are compelled to pick up another hand of sand and let it fall through your fingers. And another hand of sand. And another.

Over and over again.

There are so many of these repetitive actions in our lives. Having that first cup of coffee in the mornings. Brushing your teeth. Leaving the house on time to catch the train to work. Making meals and folding the washing. Give a kiss good morning and a kiss good night.

Over and over again.

I used to think that my life is boring and on constant auto-pilot. Just one meaningless hand full of sand after the other. Constantly letting the sand fall on the beach.

This changed when I started to sleep really badly and then have migraines because I didn’t sleep enough. I was finally desperate enough to take the advice that I have heard and ignored for a long time:

“Get eight hours of sleep and go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday. Especially during the weekends!”

It is 7am on a Saturday morning now and I am wide awake after a good night’s sleep. Everybody else in my family is still in bed and I have the house, and my writing time, to myself.

My successful, and constant, sleeping habits made me realize that repetitions should not be looked at as a bad thing. It gives structure to our lives and allows us to practice things and become really good at it.

I have made thousands and thousands of cookies for my family throughout the years. So many that my hands automatically know what to do already. Maybe this is not what people think of when they talk about ‘muscle memory’ but my cookies are all the exact same size and delicious. (Even if I have to say so myself.) 😁

Repetition also gives you time to think about why you are doing something. I have been taking part in the 52Frames project since 2013. That is seven years of taking a photo once a week. I often ask myself why I am still taking these photos and if it isn’t time to stop yet.

But this photo project keeps showing me another angle to my creativity. Being part of the 52Frames committee and now writing these ‘creative lessons’ each week led me down paths I wouldn’t have explored if I didn’t take a photo every week.

Any big challenge or project demands the sacrifice of time and repetition.

If you want to run a marathon, you are going to have to run several times a week. The same path and often at the time of the day. Over and over again like a caged hamster on its wheel.

If you want to be a writer, you are going to have to write and write until your fingers are bleeding. And then edit those words and sentences and paragraphs again and again until they flow clear and smooth over the page.

The same goes for learning to play an instrument or creating video games. Or teaching a child to read or ride a bicycle. Even when you think you have ‘mastered’ the act, the playing field ups a level or you get a stronger opponent.

Repetitive acts such as washing the floor or going to the petrol station may not seem to be part of your life’s great goals or challenges. I think however that they are just as important as working on the larger and loftier projects.

The repetitive task of cleaning allows your mind to wander and explore ideas and thoughts that you later use in your writing. Also, it is nearly impossible for me to write when the house is dirty. It is so much easier to procrastinate and/or feel guilty about not getting to the housework when you want to do something creative.

And think also of how you can go on a photo shoot if you do not have petrol in your car? Or organize a trip to see the sunrise over Masada without checking when the sun rises? With an app on the phone whose membership fees you pay religiously every month? It is often these mundane and repetitive tasks that prepares the way to amazing adventures.

Our chores are not just things that should be done as soon as possible to get them out of the way. They are the backbones of our lives. They give us space to sleep properly, live in clean houses, feed our children and do the ‘fun’ things of life.

They also give us time and space us to self-reflect and plan our lives.

Get rid of anything repetitive that does not contribute to the life that you want to lead. But carefully consider all those constant rituals of buying bread and checking that the alarm clock is set. They may seem as insignificant as sand kernels on a beach but together they create the beach. The beach where you sit and let the sand fall through your fingers.

Over and over again.

If you want to get repetitive with you photography to practice your craft and be more creative, come and join us at