A Wish in Hand

A wish in hand

(iPhone photo #51 in my 2012 365+1 project)

One of my aspirations in life is to be a photographer. This is something I’ve been interested in since the days of sneaking shots with my mother’s Polaroid, but I’m not a photographer yet. I am a photo enthusiast. One day, after a lot more study and practice, I might start calling myself a photographer, but right now I’m taking time off from even working toward the goal. I have enough pressure on me without turning every aspiration into a big job. I have to go after this at my own pace. Right now my pace is to relax and spend a year taking iPhone photos just for fun. This is my placeholder year. I’m hoping that if I just keep up daily photographs even if I don’t consider myself to be working on photography, I will still be in the habit of daily practice when I’m ready to get back to work.

One thing a lifetime of trying to become a writer has taught me is that dreams are accomplished through work. You learn to be a writer through work, study, deliberate practice of craft, and deliberate practice of self-analysis — plus a whole lot of do-overs. I’m pretty sure that’s how you learn to be a photographer as well.

One thing my year of daily photographs taught me last year is that real photography is not a result of happenstance. I called my 365 project “Happensnaps,” and that was appropriate. I was just bumbling along. Real photographers might do their share of bumbling along, but they will also plan and practice for weeks just to get one shot right. A good writer might work for weeks on one paragraph. I don’t know why I had to learn that photographers work just as hard for each great shot, but I did. If I had to name one thing I learned from my 365 it’s that I have a whole lot left to learn. You’re only just getting started in your study of photography when you have mastered all of the controls on the camera. That’s just like a writer saying “I’m ready to write my prize-winning novel now because I’ve figured out how my keyboard works.” You’re just beginning to learn, baby. You’re just a beginner.

Big dreams require big dedication. This I believe.

I believe, and yet I also recognize that thinking this way means I’m kind of hard on myself. Today I walked four miles after scrambling all day at work to just get through all the details of a Monday. I could have finished my walk thinking, “I walked four miles! I’m spectacular.” Instead I finished thinking, “When am I ever going to work up to walking six miles at a time on a regular basis?”

I needed time off this year not from the judgments of other people on my photographs, but from my own judgments. I would not have been able to post the photo above if I had taken it with a real camera. The fuzzy parts of the dandelion are in fuzzy focus. This would be a total failure in my mind if I had been in control of the focus. With the phone and its auto-focus I have to talk myself into letting a lot of shots just be what they are.

I started reading the book Quiet this week. I answered “Yes” to every single item on the introvert checklist. I am an introvert among introverts. Because it is my nature to be quiet and contemplative, and because I spent a great deal of time studying in a program that taught me to be self-critical, it is not so easy for me to just let something be what it is.

Nonetheless, this is my resolution of the day. Accept the fuzzy parts of life for what they are. See the beauty in the imperfection. Embrace the joy of the moment even if you are being a disappointment to yourself.

This too I believe.

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