Seven years is the amount of time I have been pursuing my life's passion. That's a lot of years that I have had tremendous up's and down's. It's a lot of time to let the amazing feeling of successes embrace me and the pain and flood of emotion of failure and negativity to get me down. However when I dust myself off I get back up and try again.
The last month has made me realize a lot of things and I wanted to take the time to be honest and open about my experiences. This is just coming from one aspiring photographer some will agree some will disagree but non the less here it is.
1. In the beginning you're going to suck!
Yup, that's right. In 2008 I picked up my first camera my Nikon D40 and I started to take pictures of everything. I loved it. The rush it gave me the ability to have creativity at my finger tips. I slapped on a filter from Adobe light room and BAM! I had (what I thought) was amazing photographs. I shared them with everyone. Friends, family, face book. My mom would say things like "That's amazing".
You'll learn quickly that your mom will probably be your biggest supporter (or someone who is very close to you). Truth is what you are doing probably isn't amazing it's probably awful. However that is a very, very good thing.
This is the first step in your journey and it's going to be one of the best and most memorable. Not being awesome right away will give you the fuel you need to get better and to push harder. It will also be the one time where you are truly free to explore and be yourself. You probably won't have many people on social media or elsewhere watching every move you make and judging you. Embrace the beginning, suck really hard and push to get better.
2. You NEED to work harder then you ever have
If it was easy everyone would be doing it. Signing on to be an artist is also signing on to be an entrepreneur. Exposure won't come without pushing yourself and your work. Jobs won't come without you constantly marketing. Sure some people just get really, really lucky. From my experience that is like 1% of the population.
I have been to my own pity parties several times. "Why can't the right person just see me?" "Why can't I just get lucky?". Think about it this way even if you did get "lucky" what would you do with that luck? Luck is great but if you don't know what to do with it it's just a wasted opportunity.
Good news is you can make your own luck. The more you put yourself out there and dedicate 110% of your time to your craft the more doors you will open and hence creating your own luck.
3. The grass is NOT greener on the other side
We have all been there we day dream about what it would be like to be that person who has millions of followers and thousands of comments on their work. We dream about what we would do if we had just half the opportunities that others had. Often we get lost in the notion that the other artists life is probably amazing.
Maybe their life is wonderful, maybe it isn't but here's the thing no one is going to show you the really awful things that happen. Okay maybe a few will put out blog posts or talk a little bit about failure but all in all you don't see facebook status updates that say "Wonderful day today 10 magazines turned down my editorial, I love this job".
Social media is like a limb to us these days. I know there have been days where I have admittedly spent the entire day on social media. Most people only show off the highlights of their life. Look at it this way. Two weeks ago my latest series Secret Garden was featured on Bored Panda. It went viral. Everyday since I have found a new article and feature online. I have been e-mailed by magazines, art galleries, other artists. I shared all of the wonderful achievements across all of my social media.
Yet what I didn't share was the fact that I submitted to a bunch of magazine and a ton of press. I haven't heard back from many, was turned down by a popular photography blog, didn't have my work picked up in a few magazines. I also submitted to 8 different photography contests and so far haven't even come close to being recognized by 4 of them. I didn't win, I didn't even make it onto the shortlist.
Case in point just because awesome things are happening shitty things are probably happening too. Not just in the artistic aspect of ones life but it could be anywhere in our lives. Everyone goes through their struggles after all we are all just human.
4. Self doubt, Fear and Comparison they are the devils on your shoulder
Where do I even begin with this one. These are the three demons. They want to stop you from being the best you can be. They want to deter you from following your dreams and going after what you deserve. The worst part is they live with you every single day.
Self doubt: Ever had a time when you have created something and at first you thought "This is such a great idea, I love this" then you post it online and you automatically regret it. You regret it all. Posting it, creating it, organizing it, and then you just regret the fact that your even an artist in the first place. Self doubt will tell you that you suck, you can't do it, it's too hard. It will paralyze you.
Fear: Have you ever been afraid to do something because you feared what others would think? You feared it wouldn't be good enough? You feared it would be too similar or too out of the box?
Let me tell you something you're damned if you do you're damned if you don't. People won't like what you do if it's too similar to another, people won't like what you do if it's too different. You never win.
However, you win when you let go of fear and meet it head on.
Comparison: This happens to me ALLLL the time. I'm constantly being compared to more popular artists. It used to bother me in the beginning it was like "Wait, what I don't even look at that person's work". Now I believe it's okay. Humans want to compare everything. It's just natural to us. Within the art world it gets even more intense. Don't try to defend why you do what you do when someone tries to compare you to someone else. Or when they try to say "This persons work is so much better" when you are in the same genre. Just take it with a grain of salt. You don't need to prove anything to anyone.
Also, STOP comparing yourself to other people. "If only I was as good as this person". Your wasting your time. You could be shooting or painting or sewing or whatever it is you do. You could create something that is mind blowing and world changing but instead your busy browsing someone else's achievements and feeling sad. When you think of it that way it just doesn't make sense does it?
5. Negativity and hate is real and it hurts
Before I get into this one I have two favorite quotes that I want to share:
"If you have no critics you'll likely have no success" - Malcolm X
"There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, Say nothing and Be nothing" - Aristotle
The first time you see a negative comment on your work it feels like an arrow just shot through your heart. Heck, when I read negative comments still to this day I get this really awful fuzzy feeling kind of like being electrocuted over and over again. So many thoughts flood your brain. "Why would someone say this" "Who is this person" "I'm so angry"! This need to defend yourself will come very quickly. After all someone has just completely bruised your ego.
We just let someone who's probably a million miles away sitting behind their computer using their keyboard as a machine gun hurt us. I have had to deal with my fair share of negativity. I have been bullied by other photographers. Yes this is a thing that happens. I have had people just say awful things about the models I photograph or about me without even knowing me or the model.
My eye's were opened even wider after my series went viral. Though there was an amazing amount of love and support there was in the midst some very hurtful comments. I stopped reading the comments because I know in myself that I will get too hung up on them. So my husband will go through and check things out to see how they are looking and report back to me.
When we get caught up spending hours reading comments we begin to lose sight of the big dream we have. The path we walk starts to get crowded. Boulders fall in front of us, pebbles pop out to trip us, sink holes open up and we fall through. We desperately try to climb out but get pulled in deeper and deeper.
A few things to remember when dealing with people and their negativity.
- This person probably has their own insecurities. Why would they take the precious time to comment something hurtful, to accuse or to be mean if there wasn't something within them that wasn't bothering them. The quote is "Misery loves company"
- Some people are just really mean. They probably left a mean comment and forgot about it 30 seconds later. That will be the comment you remember for 30 days. If they don't care neither should you.
- You are doing something right. Congratulate yourself every time someone says something awful. Think about it this way you have done something so impactful it ruffled someone elses feathers. If everyone loved you and what you were doing things would get boring and you would get boring and there would be no conversation around what you did. You wouldn't have an impact.
- Sometimes people just wish they had the courage to do what you are doing but they don't and they want you to feel bad about it.
-They don't know your whole story. They don't know the reasons why you do what you do or create what you do. They don't know and they probably don't care. Which again means you shouldn't care about them.
Some people just can't stand it when other people are succeeding or going after their goals. Because it means you have courage and strength. It's really easy to just stop what you are doing, hide in a corner and never move. Other people want this to happen. They want to see you fail because it makes them feel better. If they are in the same industry as you and are bullying you it's because they probably want to level the playing field. It's easier to compete against no one.
I have learned to take the negativity and let it fuel me. It's a negativity vault. When I come across it I take it process it and store it in my "Fuck you I'm going to keep going" drawer.
6. You have to love what you are doing so much that nothing deters you
It's that simple. You just have to love what you are doing more then anything else. More then the hate, more then the negative comments, more then your own fear, more then self doubt. You have to wake up every morning knowing that you have this passion and that you deserve to be passionate. You have to believe that you deserve success. If you don't believe it it won't happen.
7. You will fail.
"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all"- J.K Rowling
I think J.K sums it up pretty good. You won't succeed unless you try and when you try failure is inevitable. You just can't be afraid to fail. Go after failure. I fail all the time. Everyday I fail at something.
Failure does many things for you. It helps you realize where you are going wrong and allows you the chance to fix and tweak things. I you let it it can be the #1 thing that fuels you to keep going and keeps your passion alive.
Failure isn't a bad thing. The bad thing is not doing what you are meant to be doing!
So go out there be fearless, be brave, be vulnerable and just follow your heart.