I have been inspired by a friend to ‘put it out there’ and get make myself a facebook page.
Why? Because I have come to think that the best thing you can do to improve your skills is to give yourself a project. Having someone else give it to you works too. The most powerful projects have three critical elements.
- A deadline, or at least a target date.
- An audience.
These things are just as important for writing as they are for photography. The old adage “You can’t edit a blank page” credited to Jodi Picoult is every bit as true for a picture as for a poem or piece of prose.
A deadline is important because it means you win the battle against the inner perfectionist. That doesn’t mean you don’t strive to do the very best you can, but that’s driven by point 2 quite adequately, but it does mean you produce something and that you show it. Only by doing that will you be able to step back and get some perspective on what it is you’ve done well, and what you need to learn more about to improve on.
The audience you choose, or the audience that chooses you may or may not be within your control. There may be people you want to review or even critique your work that may not care to. There may also be people whose opinions you don’t care for who will. In the internet age its trickier than ever to balance those two things.
The most important thing to remember is that Feedback is a Gift. My dearest friend Jane told me that once, and I have carried that sage advice close to my heart ever since. Negative and critical feedback can be of even greater value than praise, and for some people can be even harder for them to give you, so treasure it when you get it.
Praise is always nice too of course, and can help you pick up the camera, pen or keyboard again when you’re having a heavy day.
A while ago I joined up with The River Guardians as a Dolphin Watcher. It’s a citizen science project that helps ordinary people like you and I report on the behaviour of our community of swan river dolphins. Now I have to admit that I have been very slack about doing my online reporting of late because I haven’t seen dolphins lately. I do know that negative data is as important to them as sightings, but we all have moments of laziness, and I guess I haven’t been in the negative gift giving mood. But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped putting the camera in my bag every day, and yesterday I snagged a couple of shots.
The Dolphin Watch people have been great in proving me with comments (feedback) on my past photography, and that inspires me to want to share my new pictures (audience) so I’m going to guilt myself into sitting down this morning and sending through all of those days over the last week and a half when I didn’t see anything (deadline).
It’s a great little loop to keep going, and like with any habit it’s easier to keep going than to break. But when you do take a break, it can be hard to get going again.
So, long story that has failed to be short, I’m putting it out there in the hope that doing so will give the loop more momentum and make it easier for me to keep pressing the shutter button, and sharing the results.
So consider this an invitation to provide feedback – constructive comments in particular gratefully received.