“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
~ Thomas Edison
One of my photography tutors used to say that you shouldn’t worry too much about equipment when you’re getting started with photography, because you won’t find the camera that works best for you until the third attempt. The same goes for your camera bag, your tripod, your remote control and pretty much everything else too.
The first tripod is too flimsy, the second too heavy, but by the time you buy the third you know exactly what you need and, like Goldilocks, you’re in the position to get something “just right.”
And, although you might be frustrated with the time and money you wasted on the first two attempts, you can’t really be too upset because if you hadn’t made those mistakes, you wouldn’t have had the experience to know what “just right” feels like. You couldn’t have bought that perfect tripod, without buying the others.
But when it comes to our creative work?
We’re much much tougher on ourselves.
When I created “The Calling,” I created and scrapped the image five times before I got to the one that I kept. I was learning new skills in Photoshop, skills that I needed to create the kind of images I was desperate to create.
I wanted to make things up. I wanted to make the world the way I see it in my mind, the way I see it in my imagination. I kept trying different tools and different techniques and none of them worked. Every time I scrapped the image, I almost didn’t start again.
I started to get more and more frustrated over the amount of time being wasted on solutions that ultimately turned out not to be the one. I started thinking that perhaps this whole compositing thing was not for me. Perhaps I wasn’t good enough to do it and should just give up. Maybe other people could do it but not me.
It’s just the same with setting up the classroom for the new online classes I am working on. I have been mired in technical difficulties for the last two months and earlier this week I was definitely feeling like giving up.
Although I’m not that technically minded, I like to think that I can figure most things out and, if I have a step by step guide, I can usually do most things myself.
I built my website myself using a WordPress tutorial I got from a free webinar. I created my first online store, and then the next one….and then the “just right” one.
But this virtual classroom had me stumped. I looked at one solution, and then another, and then another, and nothing seemed like it was going to work for me. I would get so far with one piece of software and then I would hit a brick wall, an incompatibility that was going to make everything much more troublesome. Or I would find out that it didn’t have a feature that I absolutely needed…always after spending hours working on it.
And I felt just the same way as I did when creating “The Calling.” Maybe this online teaching stuff wasn’t for me. Maybe I wasn’t up to it. Maybe it wasn’t worth the hassle.
But then just a few days ago I started thinking about that tripod again and how I had never, not once, felt this way about my ability to purchase a tripod. I never felt that other people could buy a tripod, but not me.
“I’m not up to buying a tripod.”
Just even to say it out loud sounds ridiculous.
And it shows that everything is about perspective.
When we start buying a tripod, we simply don’t know all the things we need to in order to make the right buying decision. We don’t know what is too heavy to carry around. We don’t know how sturdy it has to be not to be blown over in the first light breeze.
We don’t make assumptions about what it says about us that we don’t know which tripod to buy. We simply didn’t know it was too heavy. And now we do.
And we can save ourselves a lot of time and a lot of angst it we make it just the same with our creative work. The failures and the missteps are part of the later success. We are learning what won’t work, and that takes us closer to knowing what will.
Maybe there are ten thousand ways that won’t work, maybe there are just two. In either case, the number of ways that won’t work has absolutely nothing to do with you. It’s just your job to count them off, and move on.
Although I do have to say that I hope there aren’t another 9,995 pieces of online classroom software for me to wade through. That could take a while.