The hardest part of starting something new is knowing where to begin. We doubt ourselves, reach into the part of our minds that tells us we will fail or do something wrong, and as a result we never begin. When we step outside of what is ordinary and look for a guide book we stunt our growth. We seek direction in a place where roads have not yet been paved. The myth is that someone else would know where to begin; that someone else would get it right the first time out. But the truth is so far different. The easiest way to fail is to search for the perfect way to do something the first time you try, because in doing so, you rarely ever begin.
We inherently look for excuses to not do something that scares us. We dream big and we dream often, yet we do not always act on those dreams. So many people, including myself, will say to dream well, yet the second part to that equation – making it a reality – is equally important. Dreaming with no conviction – we suffer from this too often.
1. Stop using BUSY-NESS as an excuse.
We are all busy. I complain about it too much. In truth I am grateful, yet still I make empty wishes that I wish I could slow down. The truth is, so many of us seek busy-ness. We want to keep moving and changing and growing. And the product of that way of thinking is being busy: finishing the tasks we’ve already started and dreaming up new ones. Don’t allow being busy to stop future growth. All that can lead to is stagnation.
Find a time, even if it is only one day a week, that you dedicate to future projects. Maybe you wake up one hour earlier, or go to sleep one hour later. Maybe you eat lunch at your computer instead of at a cafe, and you take the time to draft that email you’ve been so scared to write. Set goals for yourself, and write them down, and re-write them often. Don’t let yourself forget.
Routine is an amazing thing, but figuring out how to break that routine to try something new can be even more powerful. Pick a time to dedicate to a future project, make sure you write down exactly what you need to accomplish so you don’t waste time, and then do it. By scheduling time and writing down your specific tasks, your mind will get to work in sorting out details before you ever sit down to do it.
2. Put your personality into it.
I get asked often how to draft an email to a gallery. It is a great question, since there aren’t exactly guidelines out there with exactly what an artist should say. The funny thing, though, is that no one ever taught me how to do that. I can’t say if I’m doing it right or not! So why do I mention it, then? Because the only thing I know how to do is to ignore the assumption that there is a “right” way of doing things. I work on the idea that my personality and genuine urge to move forward is all I need to do just that.
No matter what the venture is, who I am writing to, or what I need, I state my case simply and with my sincere voice. I write how I would speak, and I speak how I would want to be spoken to. I try to be relevant, and kind, and genuine. I end every email with a smiley face. Why? Because that’s me – take it or leave it. It has worked pretty well so far, and for those it hasn’t worked for, then perhaps they weren’t meant to be in my life anyway.
We don’t always know how to be “correct” or “professional” – so don’t! Just be yourself.
3. Seek advice from those you trust.
Here is a really personal example of something I am working on right now. Next year my goal is to host a convention. I’ve got the venue picked out and a lot of details coming together, but I felt stuck and unsure of where to go. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, or do something too quickly, or simply make the wrong choice. So I picked out 3 people in the photo industry that I trust and I went to them for advice. And the advice they gave me was priceless.
I went into those meetings knowing certain things about myself – for example, that I already had a set way of doing some things that I wasn’t willing to compromise on. I never recommend seeking advice unless you know 1) what your questions are, specifically, and 2) what your opinions are. Once you know those things, it is easier to not be swayed into doing something that you aren’t happy with.
4. Observe others.
So going on this convention example, I have found it very helpful to observe how other conventions are run. I have been on both sides of the spectrum, from speaking to attending, so I can understand what makes a convention run smoothly and what does not. For example, I don’t like having too many options at a convention, and I don’t like being overwhelmed by a huge amount of people. As a speaker it is awesome to have someone there helping you each step of the way so you aren’t lost or in over your head, and it is really nice to have a dedicated space to be when you aren’t speaking. All of this has been learned from simply observing – not judging, as all choices are made for a reason – but discovering what works best for me.
5. Assemble a team.
It is okay to ask for help – in fact, it usually makes your big projects even more successful. Knowing who to trust and how to help them do their part is a big plus in achieving more in the future. I’ve started working with three trusted people in my life to move forward this big project, and I can’t wait to have our first meeting. Delegate and be specific in your needs and wants. Say what you mean, and don’t hold back in sharing your expectations.
This week I tried something new when I did a lighting test. I set up two bare bulb strobes in my living room and instead of using the flash, I used the modeling lights. I hung a black piece of fabric tied to two kitchen chairs sitting on top of my dining room table. I set all of that up in front of a big glass sliding door for natural light as fill. And then I took some shots! I was dressed normally, not meaning to do a shoot, but I really liked the quality of light and wanted to see what I could build.
I changed into a new costume dress that I recently acquired and took the same picture as the test, only this time I was getting into the “Alice” character. I was shooting with only 4 feet of space between the backdrop and the window, so I photographed my head, shoulders, arms, body, legs, etc…in separate shots. In post I put them together, found a background I liked, created a hole in the ground, and chose cloud shots with lighting to match.
It was quite a new process for me as I usually don’t do so much compositing and especially because I don’t use lights! But it was awesomely fun. I don’t know that I’m necessarily set on doing this from now on, but it does encourage me to experiment a little bit more with light…though I think I still prefer my normal style of diffused, soft light. Trying something new will always lead to one of two things: a new way of doing something, or confidence in how you don’t want to do something. Both are equally important!