There’s a segment of readers (yes, those of you who have life and your career all figured out) who will dismiss this as drivel. This is for the more humble among you…
Is it meeting your needs…
Or merely creating new wants?
Is it honoring your time or squandering your time?
Is it connecting you with those you care about, or separating you from them?
Is it exposing you or giving you a place to hide?
Is it important, or only urgent?
Is it right, or simply convenient?
Is it making things better, or merely more pressing?
Is it leveraging your work or wasting it?
What is it for?
…and, immediately, I began to reflect on my own career as a creative professional.
For years, I had derived my sense of self worth directly from my work and others’ perceptions of it. If people liked it, I felt great; if people hated it or didn’t praise me enough, I felt worthless and ready to throw in the towel. (It’s a very common plight of the creative pro, for truth?)
Instead of using photography as a means to an end, I treated it as an end unto itself. Instead of building it around my life, it became my life. Family outings were not so much about spending time together but rather a giant opportunity for me to document moments and perfect scenes of other people all around me in hopes of being lauded as an inspiring person. Time I could have spent with the ones I loved at home was, instead, spent in front of a computer editing random photos, posting online, and constantly checking my online approval rating. My Internet presence was less about targeting paying clients and more about receiving adoration from the masses. I treated photography less like a business and more like a personal PR campaign.
I was abandoning my family in pursuit of my own self worth…sort of missing the forest for the trees.
But, you have to get your work out there to be noticed and start making money, right? Yes, this is true, and it often involves a lot of unpaid hours and toil and sweat and tears (more metaphorically, for some of us). I’m not denying that. Being one’s “own boss” is frequently a more time-consuming task than simply punching a clock.
But, what is your purpose?
What is your end goal? What are you hoping to achieve? I had spent years trying to find my own self worth through creative pursuits, including photography. My end goal was to be self employed so that I could be Self Employed. I wanted to be someone special, someone elite, someone I felt worth being.
Commenters here will call me a sniveling idiot, and that’s perfectly fine…but there’s a segment of readers who have struggled with the exact, same thing. It wasn’t until I reached a turning point and determined to hang up the creative arts entirely that I saw a shift in my mentality.
A series of life events brought me to a critical point. I had come to the place where I determined that if I never touched a camera again in my life, I would be perfectly fine with it…and I didn’t for months. I didn’t photograph, I didn’t write, I didn’t share. My priorities began to shift from a selfish life’s goal to simply being the husband and father I was intended to be. Instead of abandoning my higher calling to chase after my own elusive dreams at the expense of my family, my purpose became very simple: to provide for and be a part of my family by any means necessary. I went from working in an air-conditioned office and spending every waking hour thinking about my plans to sweating on a job site as a commercial roofer — and I am very thankful for it. My skills and talents went from being an end unto themselves to simply being a tool I could use to fulfill my higher purpose. That whole period of time was like a giant reset button on life and my way of thinking.
Do I still struggle?
Abso-friggin’-lutely. Very rarely do we ever “win” a battle in life; it is more often a daily pursuit and an active choice we must make. Are there days when I still needlessly spend more time in my office than I should. Yes. Am I still tempted with delusions of grandeur? Of course…narcissism runs deep (but knowing is the first step to recovery, right?). Do I always live up to the expectations and felt needs of my wife and children to be the husband and father they need me to be? Definitely not. But, it’s a work in progress.
…is to make the most of my time with those I love while fulfilling my obligations to them. If photography is a tool that I can use to accomplish that, great; if another route is necessary, that’s fine. I have been blessed in many ways, but my family is the greatest of them.
So, I ask you:
- Is photography meeting your needs…regardless of whether it’s a hobby or a career?
- Is it honoring your time or squandering it?
- Is it connecting you with those you care about, or separating you from them?
- Is it truly important, or only urgent?
- Is it making things better?