I want to point your attention to something I’m really proud of:
If you followed that link, you’ll see my Photo-A-Day project. Specifically, you’ll see a Photo-A-Day project abandoned almost a year ago at picture #105.
For those of you who don’t know how a Photo-A-Day Challenge works, it’s pretty self-explanatory. You take a photo, every day, for a year. The photo must be taken on the day it’s counted for. No taking a week’s worth of photos on Sunday, and then posting one of them every day for the next seven days.
And, as you’ve probably noticed, I completely failed.
Granted, quitting a photo-a-day project is really common. I’m pretty sure more people drop their photo 365 than their New Year’s resolutions. But I was also confident that I wouldn’t be one of those people. I’m practically an expert at goal setting and completion. I’m the person that doesn’t do a New Year’s resolution; I do a New Year’s resolution spreadsheet. For me, taking a photo every day with my iPhone was not going to be a problem.
Oh boy, was I wrong.
One thing led to another. First I missed a day and had to play catch-up. Then I didn’t get a chance to post for a few days and got backlogged with editing images and writing descriptions. And finally the coup de grace: the phone on my camera died.
I bet you’ve heard all of those justifications before. Running out of time, forgetting the project, equipment malfunction. . .It was like a laundry list of the New Years excuses everyone else used. I just couldn’t believe they were happening to me—I wasn’t that kind of girl!
I eventually stopped posting, with some vague idea that I would complete the project “when I had time.” (I bet you’ve heard that one before, too). I basically crossed my fingers and hoped that no one would notice as my short gap between posts stretched into months.
And then a photographer mentioned it at a shoot. He’d been following me on Flickr, and seen that I’d stopped updating.
I gave him what was honestly a bullshit excuse. I told him my camera broke (technically true), and that I should be starting up again soon now that I owned a new phone.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t want to keep going. My photo-a-day had become an “ought to,” and not a project I looked forward to. I was being pushed into it out of obligation and the weight of public accountability rather than pulled into it because I was excited.
The photo-a-day had been a fun project at the beginning. I got the chance to experiment on the other side of the lens for once. And although I enjoyed it, I also learned that I enjoyed modeling more—photography wasn’t what I wanted to do. But after I came to that realization, I still felt obligated to take the next two-hundred-and-something pictures.
Have you ever heard the phrase “The only way to fail is to stop trying?” Well, I’m not so sure that’s true. This project failed. And yet, I got something worthwhile out of it. It wasn’t that I failed posting a photo a day—I succeeded in learning what I wanted to about the camera. Really, the biggest problem is that I kept going after I had gotten the value out of it.
So yeah, I failed. In front of other people, no less. But guess what? It turns out this kind of failure is a success in its own way. And that unfinished photo-a-day is staying there as a reminder that I’m proud I quit.