Training for the Creative Marathon

Training for the Creative Marathon

We can learn a lot from athletes. They know, factually and without dispute, that they must practice before they compete. A runner knows that he or she must run most days leading up to a marathon to build endurance. A high jumper knows that he or she must practice in order to be able to achieve the jump of their dreams. Yet a lot other professions, passions or hobbies aren’t necessarily seen in the same way. Photographers and artists, for some reason, seem exempt in this category. We get an idea, and then when it doesn’t work out, we consider it, or ourselves, a failure. So rarely do we try again, each day, practicing until we get it right. We simply assume we are not good at it.

Part of the problem is how we view the arts. We are taught that art is something very natural, that if we are to be good at it we are born that way with a certain intuition and magic. Yet it does not have to be so. I am not naturally good at very many things. Photoshop is not intuitive to me, and I have to work hard. I always have. In school I got mediocre grades, didn’t get into any great colleges, and I worked twice as hard as anyone I knew in school then. So working hard isn’t an issue, but self-confidence can be.

Like any athlete, if you do put in the practice and you don’t see any obvious changes, it is easy to get discouraged. We practice and fail and don’t seem to get better – we can’t log our running times our measure our high jumps – so it might all seem for naught. But, instead of getting so down on ourselves, we must simply figure out a way to measure how much our practice time is helping.

One way to do that is to create a running list of everything that you’ve learned from failing. Each time you try something new and fail, write down one thing that you learned from the process. For a photographer, it might be certain lighting, a tool in Photoshop, etc. The second thing to do is to actively seek a solution. If you can’t figure out how to do something in Photoshop, go searching for the answer to that specific thing. What if we all took more notice of what exactly has gone wrong and how to fix it, *and* we practiced each day for the thing we love most?

I did this in high school. I practiced everyday, took note of things I was bad at, sought out extra help in areas I needed to improve, and yet still, despite all of that, I did not get into a great college. I still got bad grades. What I have learned since leaving the school system has been life-changing. When I was trapped in that way of thinking, I did not have the capacity to judge myself outside of the standards imposed on me: testing, grading, report cards, etc. I thought that the measure of my worth was directly proportional to how “fridge-worthy” my report card was. And so I judged myself based on rules that someone else created.

What I know now is that there is no way of grading your passion. There is no way of knowing if you are certainly getting better or worse. All we can know is this: the way the tide breaks on our life is a particular pattern that only we can learn to love. We cannot change the way the tide breaks, we can only jump in the waves or stand aside and watch it happen. We can choose to pursue our passion or we can give up trying. And no one can grade us on hard we played in the waves. That is for us to know, and so our worth is not measurable by mathematic standards, but instead by how much we practiced what we love.

9 thoughts on “Training for the Creative Marathon

  1. About a month ago, I had this picture in my head that I decided to do and I was so keen on it. On paper it sounded totally awesome. In execution it was TERRIBLE. So terrible. I just had to laugh at myself because it was so bad. BUT I did learn to do some pretty neat things because of it. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing art or how skilled you are at it – sometimes, you’re going to try something new and butcher it 😀

    That said, I did another experimental photo on Monday and I am SO excited about it because it worked perfectly. And I’m going crazy wanting to share it, but I’m waiting until next week. Going out of my mind!

    Hope you’re having a lovely day Brooke <3

    1. Oh Jenessa that is FANTASTIC! I’ll be very eager to see it!! In my opinion, failure is more preferable than success. I’d rather fail a hundred times to achieve one success, because that means I’m learning and growing and experiencing new things. You are awesomely brave to try and fail, and to try and succeed and hold it back until you’re perfectly ready. I love that 🙂

  2. I absoluty agree with you. I am 29 years old,and i from Argentina, and this problem with ourself, with the transformation of idea in something real, succes,etc.,I feel in every moment. Your words are very important for me and I appreciate you sharing this reflection.

  3. Thank you for this! Just this last weekend I tried something new and it was awful! I could not achieve what I was going for and NOTHING about it was good! I was so discouraged, I thought I should probably just never pick up my camera again. What you said here made me feel better. Thank you! 🙂

  4. Your images and your written posts always make me stop a beat and go back in time, wether to my childhood or not so recent past, and reflect on what were my struggles were and what I did to alter such. Sometimes it makes me reflect my future and anticipate how to fly over the hurdles that life puts upon us, trying to trip is up. Or is it just a hurdle that makes us decide a path or which door to enter, blindly anticipating the next step. Sometimes, I really wish I could translate my inner most into what you create. They say the best images are the ones you wish you had shot. All of your work makes me feel that way. You are truly unique, genuine and authentic in each image.

  5. I am working on an image, but I need my husband or daughter’s help with a photo of me from an angle under the pool deck looking up – I am heat intolerant and can only be outside on my own for a limited amount of time – and the wee one is at Girl Scout Camp (I fetch her this afternoon) and the Hubs has been working extra long hours this week after a business trip to Brazil last week… I have been refining the details for the shoot in my head – I think that when we finally get out there this weekend – it will be fast and fabulous! I am beginning to use your philosophy of thinking things through prior to shooting, Brooke, and I have been having better results, quicker and easier shoots of my self-portraits! Life is good!

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