Creativity and Instagram: Thinking Outside the Square

I feel like I have a creative crisis every five minutes these days. I spend a lot of time theorising how to remain creatively productive and energised around a (not particularly creative) nine-to-five job, and within that how to prioritise competing creative desires. And somehow it all mostly ends up with me not producing much of anything at all. It’s frustrating. I know there’s no great secret in solving this dilemma; I need to be more disciplined, get out of my head and just do stuff


There’s a part of me also realising that a big factor in what holds me back creatively is comparing myself to others. This is a chronic habit of mine and I think perhaps the greatest manifestation of this habit recently has come through Instagram. Now – I adore Instagram and it’s essentially become my go-to for creative expression. I have discovered and connected with loads of amazing people through the platform and it provides me with so much artistic inspiration. I’m honestly blown away by how drop-dead-gorgeous the feeds of some of my favourite Instagrammers are. This year especially, Instagram has really made me want to take better photos and strive toward a feed equally as beautiful. 



Somewhere along the way, however, I think the exact nature of that inspiration warped. Instead of striving to take better photos, I was striving to take photos that looked exactly like popular Instagrammers’. I mean, it’s obvious that there’s a very particular kind of Instagram aesthetic, at least in the kind of food and travel categories I mostly follow. Muted colours awash in natural light, flatlays against pristine white backgrounds, bird’s eye shots of café tabletops that could only ever have been taken whilst standing on a chair, hands thrusting bunches of flowers or ice-cream cones or cold-pressed juices into frame, an endless monotony of marble, and that same goddamn picture of the Bondi Icebergs swimming pool over and over. 

That aesthetic is seductive. Your feed looks clean and fresh and curated. I played into it and people responded. I looked at my feed and it had finally started to look like a pretty, cohesive collection because I’d ruthlessly tried to work this aesthetic into every single photo for a good few months. Instead of feeling like I was fulfilling my inspiration, however, I felt restricted. My Instagram feed looked pretty, yes. But it felt so, so same that it kind of made me sick. It wasn’t me. That aesthetic works for a lot of people, and maybe it comes perfectly naturally to them. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I wasn’t learning to become a better photographer. I was just recreating Instagram’s most likeable photos. 

About two months ago, I knew I had to start doing something different. At the same time I noticed that the picture quality on my iPhone 5 camera seemed to be deteriorating, and so I actually came to an easy decision: I would, at least for the time being, take all of my photos with my DSLR. I want to become a better photographer and this step was suddenly so obvious. iPhone photography is convenient and fun and challenging in its own way, but forcing myself to learn more about using my DSLR and post-processing is what I needed. Doing this provided a surprisingly powerful distance between the act of photo-taking and the Instagram platform itself. It quite literally forced me to start thinking outside of the square again. 



I want to be more conscious in taking photos from a place of inspiration that isn’t Instagram likes. The more I work on that, the more I realise how hard it actually is. Once you get tangled up in that big old mess it’s very difficult to get out. But I feel like I’m on the right track. I’ve always loved taking photos, and getting back to a place of capturing and sharing things that I find beautiful and interesting and happy-making without Instagram being the motivator is a liberating goal. I realise now that this is the only way I’ll ever actually find my own aesthetic. One that is genuine and personal; a natural style that has been explored and refined through experience and skill. 

Even now, just writing this, I know I need to push myself harder to step away from the ugly world of comparison and trust in my own creative style. Not just in Instagram, but in everything. But that is an exciting challenge, and I’m ready for it. 


The photos above are a few I’ve taken with my DSLR over the past two months.

Books and Baking: The Strays by Emily Bitto

“Time and sunshine began to seem endless.”

What a treat to dive straight from one brilliant book into another. Just pages into Emily Bitto’s debut novel, The Strays, I was utterly enraptured. It is a very interesting theme that seems to be transpiring this year indeed – the books that have mesmerised me most have each been first novels penned by emerging women writers. I am sure there must be something meaningful in that!

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The Strays takes place in Melbourne, my beloved home, albeit in the 1930s. A young girl named Lily befriends Eva, who is one of the three daughters of controversial modernist painter Evan Trentham. Very quickly Lily slips into the life of the Trentham family – a life that is a very different to the one she is used to. Their home is big, old and exciting, surrounded by sprawling gardens, orchards and paddocks. Eva and her sisters are left to run wild under the decidedly disinterested eye of their parents, who are rather more livened by the idea of fostering a community of creatives also willing to push the boundaries of conservative Australia. 

Over the course of several years the Trentham home grows, a ramshackle brood of artists and children in which Lily yearns to belong. She is enamoured by and envious of these bohemian characters. It is decades later that we join adult Lily in a recollection of what eventually became the most painful and haunting period of her life. 

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For me, Bitto truly nailed the character of Lily and I couldn’t help but keenly connect to her depiction of childhood friendships. This book makes me remember that intensely peculiar feeling that came with visiting the home of a school friend; seeing another kid’s ordinary life always had an element of the extraordinary to it, even if it wasn’t quite as exotic as the Trenthams’. I recall the strange role of power that friends always took on when playing host, to whom I was suddenly at total behest – and on top of that, bearing a kind of neutral, invisible witness to the parental power structure under their roof. I still feel an embarrassed, awkward pang to remember my childhood self watching on idly as a friend was berated or punished by a parent (sometimes for deeds in which I was also inherently involved!), or on the contrary – seeing a friend talk boldly back to a parent in ways I’d never imagine. 

The 1930s, outer-Melbourne setting also rang strangely similar to the kinds of places I found myself in as a kid who grew up in rural Victoria: big old country houses with plenty of room for mucking about outdoors. It was quite unfamiliar territory, reading a book that indulged both the country kid in me as well as the accustomed Melbournian. Knowing the location and history behind every suburb and street name gave this story such a deeper level of understanding, and it makes me feel rather sheepish to realise I just don’t read a lot of local fiction. After The Strays, I will be making a more pointed effort to do just that. 

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There are many cups of tea in The Strays. There is lots of coffee and wine and whiskey, and several boiled eggs. Not much baking. But somehow, these ‘grasshopper brownies‘ from Smitten Kitchen came to me instantly and I couldn’t shake the idea of pairing them with this book. Back when I was a kid having sleepovers at friends’ houses, one friend’s mother in particular made a sensational peppermint slice that I was practically obsessed with. Whenever it appeared, I ate a lot of it. 

A little childhood excitement pricked in me when I stumbled across Smitten Kitchen’s grasshopper brownie recipe some time ago, because I thought perhaps I’d found my adult answer to that delicious memory. Of course, as these things often go, it remained unbaked in my Bookmarks folder for years.

I was just waiting for the right inspiration, it seems. 

Happy reading, folks – and make sure to let me know what wonderful books have hit your sweet spot lately. x

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Little Wanderings - July 1

July, I liked you. Despite that fact that you were the coldest July Melbourne has seen in twenty years, and I’m a dreadful wimp when it comes to the cold, I feel like we got along.

It may have something to do with that fact that I actually made an effort to dress cold-weather appropriate for what might be the first time in my adult life. I attribute this entirely to the discovery of minimalist fashion blog, Unfancy, and the wonderful concept of a seasonal capsule wardrobe. I’ve never been one for a huge wardrobe, but I’ve also never been very good at creating a particularly cohesive wardrobe either. With Caroline’s sage guidance, I made a solid effort in the weeks leading up to winter to buy quite a few new clothes that were both season appropriate and versatile. Those usually aren’t my strong points when it comes to buying clothes!

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And I’ll tell you what, I’m a fully-fledged capsule wardrobe convert. It’s the best. I picked the clothes I wanted to keep out for wear this winter, topped up my selection with several new purchases and then packed everything else away into storage containers. I also got rid of anything I hadn’t worn in years. By thoughtfully downsizing I’ve actually created a wardrobe that gives me so much more inspiration because the pieces I’ve selected are versatile, good quality and season appropriate (Uniqlo knits and Heattech under layers have been my saviour!). Come spring I’ll rotate some of my winter clothes out, bring in some pieces that have been in storage and purchase a few new ones as well. Part of the concept is that I’ll be less likely to get sick and tired of my clothes (I am notorious for this), and they also get a break from wear and so hopefully last a bit longer too. 

So, I’m keeping warm. That has been rather nice.


But oh, July, you got my feet itching for adventure. Most every day I had a delightful notification from Facebook letting me know how much fun I was having On This Day in 2010 (jetting off to Munich), 2012 (visiting Disneyland), 2014 (road-tripping Europe)… Yes, you’ve historically been a travel month for me, and in these funds-limited off-years I can’t help but ache for another great big trip. We made do by booking a long weekend in Sydney in November, which is a lovely little thing to look forward to. Suggestions as to what to see, do and eat (mostly the latter, naturally) are very much wanted and welcome!

Getting out of town a couple of times also helped sate the wanderlust. I adore the drenched green landscape of regional Victoria at this time of year. Those bright, overcast skies that give way to broody grey clouds just make everything look so much more vibrant. We froze our way through the most incredible fog on a day trip to the Yarra Valley – a sight definitely worth the numb toes (note to self: extra Heattech measures needed for these outings).

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Of course, July, you were also filled with delicious food adventures. Fabulous fine dining at the Yarra Valley’s Yering Station, feasts of wine and cheese at Milk the Cow, Gelato Messina door delivery (thanks Uber!), a rediscovery of the humble scroll at Pop Up Scroll and yet more gelato from Lygon Street’s lovely Pidapipó. As always, I was a happy little foodie indeed.

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Little Wanderings - July 5



I realise this is not a particularly timely retrospective, July. At this time you already seem long gone. But I know I need to work harder in getting these fingers tapping keys more often, and you’ve been a wonderful prompt, albeit a few days late. I’ll try and do better with August, okay? x


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