You have got to want it.
When I first started writing, that was all I wanted. It really was. That was all I really wanted to do and every other thing in my life was just something I had to do to sustain that obsession. Creating was everything.
But, then, as the old, old story goes, life intervened. I developed debts and I started to indulge in habits that, frankly, weren’t cheap. I discovered that, in spite of what the romantics tell you, money does seem to make the world go ’round. And I set about making it as quickly and in as much volume as possible. Truth be told, I did pretty well. I mean, I didn’t quite sell my soul, but, you know, I did manage to make a career that has afforded me a fairly comfortable living for quite a few years. Don’t misunderstand me, now, it still does make me a fine, safe living, but, well, along the way to level of physical comfort, something else died a little.
For a long time, I just stopped writing at all.
I mean, I didn’t crank out a single word that wasn’t in the service of my “day job”, which, I assure you, was anything but creative in the ways I wanted to be. In short, I wasn’t writing fiction.
So, in an effort to combat that, I got a camera. A regular, old, second-hand, film camera. A Nikon, in fact, with a 55mm lens and a zoom lens, too. The kind you see the old photojournalists use in old movies. But, I had no time to really get to use it, so, even that lay by the wayside until I got a digital camera a couple years ago.
And, oh, do I have excuses for why I haven’t chased any of those creative dreams!
Me oh my, the list seems endless! But, recently, I’ve been reminded that no matter how long the list is, it is still a list of excuses. This past week, John Scalzi wrote on his blog about just this thing. In his post, titled “Writing: Find the time or don’t“, he basically said that if you really loved writing, you’d make the time to do it. That, somehow, you’d find the time and energy to write your 250 or 300 words or whatever your writing goal is for the day. And, in principal, I agree with him, though, of course, the reality of that is sometimes a little more difficult to accomplish. I should mention, however, that 300 words on this post was the end of the sentence that started this paragraph. So, yes, it is possible, isn’t it?
The other thing, though, that sort of got me thinking along these lines was the light in a co-worker’s eyes when he talked about using that old Nikon of mine for a class. You see, he’s a young husband and father and trying to get a degree and can’t afford a film camera of his own and, being the sort of kind-hearted guy I am, I lent it to him so he didn’t have to spend the money. As it turns out, though, I may be the one getting the most benefit from it. See, the light in his eyes, the joy, as he discovers the wonder and magic of photography for the first time. It reminds me of the fun I had that first year with my DSLR, pointing it at anything I could, just for fun.
But, somewhere along the line in just the past three years, I got so caught up with the technical aspect of photography, the settings and the gear and such, that I forgot to look through that viewfinder at the picture I was taking. I’ve been told by an institutional source, essentially, that my composition sucks, and I find it hard to disagree. The only problem is, I’m not quite sure what to do about it. How do I recapture the fun of taking photos and let the volume of shots slowly build up into some skill?
In the end, whether it’s writing or photography or any other creative endeavor, the only way I improve is through practice and truly constructive criticism and more practice. I know that was one of the reasons my writing declined in quality, because I wasn’t putting that into practice, and, I think, that’s one reason my photography hasn’t really clicked for me either. So, as the saying goes, the only way out is through. In this case, through practice. Like Scott Bourne wrote on Photofocus, I need to “Practice Photography like the Concert Pianist Practices Piano“. So, now, the trick is to find the photographic and writing equivalents of the piano scales.
And, of course, practice, practice, practice!