For the past couple of weeks I’ve been working my little butt off, taking photos, learning new Photoshop techniques, planning shoots and generally putting my heart and soul into photography. I realised towards the end of last year that unfortunately this photography course was not going to be all I had hoped. To be fair, I think it would have been tough for it to live up to my expectations of mind blowingly inspirational classes and highly creative make up artists, fashion designers and models beating a path to my door to collaborate on weird and wonderful shoots a la Tim Walker. With money spent on fees and time set aside for this, I had to think about how I was going to deal with this situation. I had a choice to say that was that and walk away or I could keep going and make the best of it. Neither were really satisfactory. I’ve been making a conscious effort to walk away earlier from things that aren’t working out for me, but my gut feeling was that it didn’t really seem sensible to give it up. And just making the best of a bad lot seemed like a fairly lukewarm approach to my life.
And all of this got me thinking about the nature of success and failure. Would I succeed on this course, or as a photographer? What if I didn’t? Did I still want to teach yoga and photography together or not? If I didn’t, what was I going to do? Would I end up back in the city? And, most importantly, what is it that makes one person successful and another not? I didn’t believe it was luck. And I didn’t believe it was some innate, God given talent, at least not in most cases. So I guess I believed it was hard work. The willingness to keep going, even when things are tough. Especially when things are tough. I’ve always believed that there’s a lot to be said for the old Japanese proverb “Fall down seven times and stand up eight.”
Of course I’m willing to accept that there is a time for giving up on things and my own unwillingness to give up on anything before it’s well and truly dead has probably caused me a lot of unnecessary pain. But it was not the time for me to give up. I was behaving like a contestant on the X Factor, blubbing that this was my only chance and begging the judges to give me a free pass to success. Perhaps we are too used to hearing of overnight successes that are the stuff of legends, believing in their seductive ease. We don’t want to work hard, because it is hard, so we convince ourselves that the lucky break is the cornerstone of success, rather than the tough graft that precedes it. JK Rowling had the manuscript for “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” rejected by 12 publishing houses, before Bloomsbury finally said yes. Had she decided that falling down eight times meant the spell was broken, her life would have been very different, and so would ours. And, let’s face it, most of us would have given up long before the eighth knockback.
And, for my part, it’s hardly like I’d been disappointed for years, never getting anywhere. I had dedicated myself to this for exactly three months and I was whining that it wasn’t all I had dreamed of. What I needed was a good slapping. Photography, like everything else, is a craft. It takes work and perseverance and focus. I was allowing my fears of not being good enough to get in the way of my hard work and I was the only one who was going to pay the price for it. As one of my absolute favourite gurus, Christine Kane, is fond of saying “Energy Flows where Attention Goes.” So dammit, my photography is going to get my attention, at least for the next six months.
And so, at the start of this year I resolved to put my head down, keep going, and do as much as I possibly can to advance my photography in the time I have left on this course. That is my single focus. I don’t care about getting a perfect attendance record. I don’t care about getting a good grade or being liked by the teachers. I don’t care if I have to teach myself things we ought to be learning at college. I just want to produce the best body of work I am capable of producing. No excuses. No whining. No Giving Up.