It intrigues me that on two sites I check daily both posted articles on the same day about how new equipment affected the creative energy of the authors.
One article appears in the Luminous Landscape website. Click on "What's New" and there's an article posted by guest author Mark Dubovoy titled, Does Equipment Affect Creativity? He writes about using some fancy and very expensive equipment for the first time, but that's only a way to open up the question. Clearly for Dubovoy, the new equipment forced him out of a creative rut by necessitating a different kind of shooting style and technique. He went out with the new equipment and began shooting a new subject in new ways (for him) .
On the same day (i.e., February 15), David duChemin posted on his blog an article titled, Since the Switch. He's talking about switching from Canon equipment and pro-quality Canon L lenses to Nikon bodies and Sigma lenses. DuChemin noticed that the switch, in and of itself, "forced [a] change of my creative process. Suddenly I’m having to think about my tools again and where I once might have chosen a series of settings out of habit, I’m forced, through unfamiliarity, to be very intentional about things. The discovery is a lot of fun and I think when you re-inject fun into your process you give the muse some room to dance."
Neither photographer is advocating we go out and spend thousands of dollars just to get a kick in our creative butts. They're both reminding us, however, that the ingredients in our creative soup can be spiced up by forcing ourselves to operate in new ways, even if by simply imposing different mechanical rules on our workflow. Intentionality gets reinserted into the process when habit becomes undependable.
I cite my own case, for example. For several years my walk-around lense of choice had been a 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom. I'm now deliberately putting a prime lens on my camera instead. For me the first creative decision I have to make occurs before I leave the house. I need to decide whether I'm shooting wide or narrow today, and how wide or how narrow. It forces me to previsualize the shoot even before I know what I'm going to photograph. The zoom eliminated that creative decision from my workflow because it always offered all options between the two extremes of its zoom range. Now I have to commit before I even know what will be in front of my lens. Of course, I could just bring the zoom, or a few other lenses, along for the walk. But I enjoy the constraint I'm imposing on myself, and I think my creative vision benefits from it.
As duChemin says, it's about intentionality. And intentionality is an essential ingredient not just in the creative, but also in the spiritual component of our venture.