If you truly plan on being great then go out and chase after that. You can’t just sit around making plans, you must stay moving and see what life brings you. Plans usually don’t work out the way you pictured them in your head anyway. In your search for greatness it’s important to keep motivating yourself, too. That means you should grant yourself the joy of small successes over time on your ever-enduring journey. These are the first few points that lay at the heart of striving to prosper.
Why does this all matter and what does this have to do with photography, you might think? It matters because if there is one way to help you accomplish all the above mentioned, it’s by doing a 365 days project. Although photography will be the focus of this article, the concepts I elaborate on can be applied to any creative field you are interested in.
The picture you see here above is the first picture I’ve taken for the 365 days project I did in 2015. I only recently got into photography, did everything with my iPhone and had absolutely no clue how I was going to be able to take a picture every single day of the year to come. The thing is, that fear was exactly the reason I started the project. As I just discovered that photography was something I enjoyed doing I was anxious to see what I could accomplish with a camera, even with one as simple as an iPhone. The project wouldn’t allow me to sit around making big plans that eventually get shelved anyway. By making it known to my Facebook and Instagram friends that I would be doing the project, I locked myself into my promise to capture, edit and share an image every day. These 365 days of producing something daily, forced me to stop thinking about any long-term consequences, difficulties and stopped me from over-planning everything. The project forced me to keep it moving.
Did this mean that every photo I would take that year had to be a timeless classic? Obviously, no. I even told my following that they might see some terrible photos during the year but that I hoped to capture a few gems here and there too. It didn’t really matter if the photos I was taking where any good anyway. The point of the project is to learn as much as you can and to learn something every day. If I was taking perfect photos only, I wouldn’t be learning much because after all you learn from your mistakes, don’t you?
That’s why the picture you see here is so terrible, I hate it. This photo might be the worst photo I ever shared and if it wasn’t for the project, I wouldn’t have taken the photo and definitely would never have posted it online. I had no choice though; I had been busy all day and my chances of taking a solid shot for the day had diminished significantly with the sun setting long ago. I got out and took a few terrible photos of which this one I eventually picked as the best (can you imagine how terrible the other ones where?).
Why did I pick this photo you ask? Well, despite it being an overall bad photo, I did manage to achieve some kind of symmetry and minimalism, applying a few of the concepts I was exploring during my project. Exemplifying my daily learning process, it taught me about looking critically at my work, identifying the qualities and inferiorities of it, and the importance of planning when you are shooting. These are all very valuable qualities and, during this project, transcend the goal of just taking a pretty photograph.
If you look at your learning process as a goal in itself, then the daily success in posting your image is your reward. It’s pretty difficult to consistently come up with something for a year straight and your fulfillment in doing it should not only come from accomplishing this at the end. As a learning process is usually something that is only rewarding in the long term, it’s hard to stay motivated in the moment. That’s why the thing that kept me going, is being able to pat myself on the back when I accomplished my daily mission as well as the wonderful feedback I received from everybody. I tried to maximize this effect by trying to post around the same time every day when I knew that a lot of my friends would be able to see how I got around creating my image. I would write a little caption when fitting to let people see my process and ask them to share their opinion, even when it wasn’t a positive one. The point is to really experience the process but grant yourself the joy of these daily successes to keep you going. Your journey has no end and if your only satisfaction comes from completing it, that’s exactly what you will never get. Find satisfaction in the small things until bigger things start happening for you. This is your key to persistence.
Even when you do end up accomplishing bigger things, it’s important to keep cherishing the things that now seem insignificant. As you can see in the above written, I started from the bottom but ended up taking a few of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken during this year. Until this day, I believe that this first year of photography has been super valuable to me and brought me to do things I never imagined possible. As I am writing this at the end of 2016, January 1st 2017 is the perfect moment to really put those new years resolutions to work and see if you can hold out a full year of keeping at least this one. Mirroring your project to a calendar year gives you a little more momentum that you can use as an extra motivational push. If that’s too soon (or too late!) for you, that’s fine. You can start a project like this whenever you like; you make your own rules. You can pick another date that’s significant to you or a random one that just feels right, it’s whatever. Just don’t forget to enjoy the small successes, see your failures as opportunities and employ that growth mindset that will make you complete your project. You will kickstart your photography career. You will be great.