'I' is for Inspiration My Life

On Persistence

I want to be a better photographer.

I’ve mentioned this a few times before. Learning to use my camera in manual mode was on my 30 Before Thirty list, and it’s something that I’ve continued to work on. I can take a decent photo, and I’m probably better than the average amateur, but am I where I want to be with my photography? Definitely not.

I love Ira Glass’ take on persistence and creative work. It’s something that I’ve kept in mind as I work on improving my skills.

“…most everybody I know who does interesting, creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be.”

“…it’s only by going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to catch up and close that gap.”

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m currently working on my 4-6 Weeks Project (a daily photograph), and I’ll continue to challenge myself after that. Persistence is good.

Can you identify? What are you working on becoming better at?

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  • Leanne
    January 13, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    i’m doing the manual thing right now too… so easy to cheat and switch back to auto! my overall goal for the future is to do what makes me happy. sounds simple but not always the easiest choice to make. i know it will make me a better person in the end…

  • natalyn
    January 13, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    I did that last year with a 365 project. I really learned a lot. And this year I am doing a 52-week project. I think a huge part of success comes from daily practice, shooting a hundred photos in a week or sometimes even in a day. It really does sharpen one’s eye and skills.

  • Pati
    January 13, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    I started doing the manual thing almost two years ago. I almost have it down. Ha! I prefer it now though, and believe you can achieve so much more, creative wise in your pictures. This also applies to my sewing. I decided to open an Etsy shop and right now am sewing and taking pictures. I know I can do so much better. Like the video said I have good taste and sometimes finding the right fabric and all the interesting things that make it mine, is so very frustrating. Thanks for the video it really helped me realize everyone must go through this too. I will keep at it and get better as I go :)

  • Stevie
    January 14, 2011 at 12:08 am

    I am working on my photography too.! Like you, I am above average, understand/use manual mode, but I am not anywhere close to where I want to be. I actually just signed up for my first photography class this week through this AH-MAZING website called Clickin’ Moms. You other Mamarazzi’s should check it out!

  • Nicolette @ Momnivore's Dilemma
    January 14, 2011 at 12:23 am

    Nice to throw a lil Ira Glass in for good measure.

    He’s a genius.

    Persistence is key, you are right, Nicole.

    I remember hearing on NPR that it takes 10,000 hours to perfect a craft. Looks like I should get off the puter now and go pick up my paintbrush…

  • Jacinta @ modelmumma
    January 14, 2011 at 12:26 am

    I would love to be a really great sewer and make my own clothes that I love to wear. My sewing has improved in the past 2 years that I’ve begun to slowly practice with crafty things and kids clothes but I’m a bit impatient and if I make a mistake it takes me a while to get the motivation to get back into it. BUT. I’ll keep at it.
    xo MODELmumma

  • Jules
    January 14, 2011 at 12:27 am

    I love that quote. I had the written one saved on my computer (pre crash) and you’ve now reminded me to go find it again and print it.

  • Dariela
    January 14, 2011 at 12:55 am

    That is a great point of view, love it!
    I’m also working on being a better photographer and this March I will take a web course mostly about light and creativity and I’m already taking more pictures. Good luck to your photography persistence! I know you don’t need it though, you are very persistent!

  • Michelle
    January 14, 2011 at 1:44 am

    Such a fantastic quote. I completely agree and can relate to it. I’m always working on my art as a makeup artist, learning new things and trying to grow every day in it. It’s nice to hear someone say they feel that way as well!

  • Ana
    January 14, 2011 at 1:51 am

    Really good post!! I completely agree, and I’ll try to think about it whenever I get mad because I cant make things be perfect. It’s nice to hear you’re not the only one who feels this way sometimes. My current “working on becoming better” is to start a blog.

    Kisses from Spain!! :)

  • Allison
    January 14, 2011 at 5:10 am

    That video is great! Thank you so much for sharing it!

  • Alison
    January 14, 2011 at 5:46 am

    I’ve been following your blog for awhile now and am finally chiming in. I’m also due in February. Several months ago, our impending arrival motivated me to start really working on my photography skills. Like you I have a Rebel Xsi. I’m to the point of shooting entirely in manual, yay! I’ve also learned to use Lightroom, which I LOVE, and have learned to do some neat photo editing things in Photoshop. I second the recommendation for Clickin Moms, that site has helped me a ton. Well worth the membership cost! I also joined Kelby training to learn about photo editing and Lightroom specifically… also highly recommend. Finally, I took an online class with Candice Stringham on Jessica Sprague’s site. Taking an online class helped me focus, but I think you can get similar information from other resources. Good luck!

  • Shannon (8foot6)
    January 14, 2011 at 6:05 am

    thank you for this…i want to become a better photographer too…but i haven’t committed to it.

    and there are a few other things i want to be better at, but have quit when it turned out that I am just average…(maybe I can close that gap?)

    its hard on the ego to ‘fail’ multiple times until you make it…

  • marybeth @ babygoodbuys.com
    January 14, 2011 at 7:04 am

    I’ve also heard that it takes 10,000 hours to perfect a craft. That’s hard for someone like me who likes to be an expert in an instant!

    I’m working very hard to become a better blogger. I have few technical skills that apply to blogging, and I know I can “step up my game” if I focus on increasing my knowledge and breaking out of my comfort zone.

    Thanks for the daily dose of inspiration!

  • MS
    January 14, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Love your blog, love Ira Glass and I’m in the same boat. While photography isn’t my thing, I am trying to improve my skills with quilting and may take up knitting again. Yes, its frustrating to not be able to make things exactly as they are in my head…but I’ll never get there without the practice.

  • Jenny
    January 14, 2011 at 7:38 am

    Great post – hit home for me. In addition to trying to be a better writer and photographer, more recently I’ve started on a quest to do better on my personal finances. I’m always broke! It would be so easy to break from the rules I’m trying to go by and get discouraged and slip back into more care-free and happy spending (to make me feel better – you see how I get into trouble here?), but I am trying to be PERSISTENT and keep it up. Anyway, money problems have been on my mind this morning and this post kind of made me feel better, I just have to stick with it.

  • Maretta
    January 14, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Totally and utterly agree. I probably know more of the basics that the average person but learning to take better photographs is at the top of my to do list (as is getting new camera take them with) but I haven’t quite managed to start. I’ve been meaning to check out my favourite bloggers and see what cameras you use and you’ve spurred me on!

    I know you have a Zumi but what else do you use?

  • Kate
    January 14, 2011 at 8:49 am

    I am trying to be a better painter. I haven’t done much painting (in oil) since I graduated from art school (with a graphic design degree) in 2005. Recently I have had more time for painting, the space to keep my easel set up and a wildly supportive husband who encourages me to try to paint on a regular basis. In the last year I have made 1 large painting and am mid way through two others. I love it, and I can feel myself remembering all the things I was taught in college.

    Practice makes perfect!

  • katrina
    January 14, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Never underestimate letting your camera do a little bit of the work, either.
    I took courses in photography, and can shoot in manual mode. But for everyday pictures, I tend to shoot in shutter priority mode, occasionally aperature if I’m being artsy.
    Shutter speed, ISO, and white balance are three of the most important settings for a good photo. Aperature is important, but depending on your lens, the camera might already be setting it at an acceptable aperature for you. Also, if a number is blinking in your viewfinder? pay attention, the camera is telling you it thinks you have something set badly for the situation.

  • meggan
    January 14, 2011 at 9:03 am

    You’re already so creative – this will be great fun for you to delve even further into what you can do with manual photography! I’m a graphic designer who is also working on becoming a more prolific artist this year. Fear of having something turn out less than perfect ultimately kept me from getting much on paper (well, that and *looking* at all the cool things other people are creating rather than doing more myself). So I’m enrolled in an etching class where we’re working with some experimental techniques. 2011 will be a good one!

  • Debbie
    January 14, 2011 at 9:11 am

    This is great. I think he really nailed it with the first quote you excerpted.

    I, too, am anxious to get off of the auto setting.

  • dawn
    January 14, 2011 at 9:24 am

    i love this. it reminds me that anything anyone does is a process and it takes time + effort {even for masters like ira glass!}. i just started back into art + writing, and it’s frustrating sometimes when the actual end product doesn’t meet my expectations. but i’ve made some happy mistakes + and am learning so much…and i still love doing it! thank you for sharing :)

  • Ashley
    January 14, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Learning to use my new camera is 2nd on my 30 by 30 list.
    I was sent this link by a friend and I’m going to use it’s tutorials to help.


  • Alicia
    January 14, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Wow does that resonate. Thanks for posting.

  • D
    January 14, 2011 at 9:51 am

    that was awesome! thanks for posting.

  • Melissa M.
    January 14, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Thanks for sharing this! I love Ira Glass, and it made me feel so much better to hear his story! I totally feel that way about design. I feel like I can recognize great design, but I just can’t seem to achieve it. Same thing with illustration. I can tell that I’m improving, but I really need to learn to be more dedicated.

  • Jay
    January 14, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Amen Sister! I struggle with giving up a lot because I hate to be mediocre at ANYTHING, so rather than be mediocre I usually quit whatever the pursuit is. Thanks for posting the clip. Ira Glass is such a master at what he does, and I often assume that great artists are born with talent and don’t often think of the failures that they’ve had to endure or the long process that they have had to go through to become what they are. Ultimately only what we see is the fantastic result.

  • Kellie
    January 14, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Awesome post! I’m focusing more on my photography this year too. I have been working on it for a few years now but I still want to get better. So I’m doing a 365 self portrait challenge this year and it feels so good to actually get out my camera every day and practice.

  • Jamie Lee
    January 14, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I’m working on becoming a better writer. I’ve always loved to write and I believe that if I focus myself and practice, that I could do for a living. It sounds so silly right now and if you were to check out my work you probably wouldn’t believe me. I think I’ve just spent so much time trying to get things out, that I’m glossing over what I say just to feel finished. If I slow down and focus on the words that I’m putting on the page, then I will bring myself back to that inspired place.

  • HollyP
    January 14, 2011 at 11:17 am

    One of the miracles of being a parent and watching kids grow close-up is that you might get a chance to see this in action.

    My older child has some natural talent, and has been able to coast through her life to date. This is part natural inclination, and part not having anyone to compete with in her early years.

    My other child is 2 full years younger, and despite her personal talents has always had to work to keep up with her older sis. This made her a practicer. She puts in the hours of work that enabled her to start surpassing her sister’s skills starting at age 4, when she did a perfect cartwheel. (It took my older daughter until age 9 to finally meet this milestone, because she didn’t practice.)

  • Siobhan
    January 14, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Thanks so much for posting this! I love how he describes the frustration of learning a new creative skill as the difference between the quality of your output versus your taste. I’ve given up on photography so many times because my results were “crappy” but your post has reinspired me to keep going. Best of luck with your own photography project – you already have a great foundation to start from!

  • Heather
    January 14, 2011 at 11:27 am

    I LOVE Ira Glass and could listen to him all day long!
    For about 10 years I have been an aspiring quilter and am still working on closing the gap. Last month I jumped into making an art collage for the first time. After trying to work AROUND using paint of any kind, I found myself at an amazing art supply store buying acrylic glazes and mediums that I’d never heard of. When I expressed my paint anxiety to the person there who was helping me, he validated my ability, saying that creativity crosses over, that my quilting “eye” would help make a smooth transition to a new medium of creativity. While my first project turned out the way I’d hoped, I feel stagnant right now, so hearing Ira’s advice, and reading the 10,000 hours bit, makes me feel more at ease just to keep plugging away. Your persistence, and all of ours, will certainly pay off!

  • Dana @ House*Tweaking
    January 14, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Just what I needed today! Thanks for the inspiration to keep going at it and good luck with your photography. I think you are already amazing so anything more you accomplish is just going to be wowsers.

  • Shelley
    January 14, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Thank you for sharing that. I adore Ira Glass, and this speaks directly to my biggest goal for 2011–put some time into pursuing my creative interests (particularly writing and painting) instead of talking about it. I am a pro at giving up before I ever get started because I’m not getting the results I envisioned.

  • Jeran
    January 14, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I so so so relate. I want so badly to have a blog that is beautiful and inspiring, but it’s just not there yet. I know it’s not great, I just can’t seem to give the blog what it needs to be fantastic (like yours). I guess I keep going and just don’t give up.

  • Miss B
    January 14, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Loved this! Try using the AV mode, it’s great for getting comfortable with getting off of the auto mode. You set the aperture and the camera suggests a shutter speed. I always say just shooting will be of such great assistance in anyone’s goal to become a better photographer, your project will be fabulous.

    I am going to be teaching a Miss B. style Photo 101 with a pro photographer and hope you will join (don’t worry self-paced) I am hoping to do some major demystifying with a ton of ‘aha’ moments thrown in. With a new baby, you may be tired but there will be so many incredible photo op’s! I am very excited, it seems to me you really do accomplish what you set out to do:)

  • Ashlea Walter
    January 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I was JUST telling a friend about Ira’s thoughts on creativity yesterday. I was sharing how I want to start painting again, but I’m discouraged by the idea that I have to produce a lot of junk in order to get to a point where I’m creating the stuff I like and feel good about. Sigh. Keep on, keepin’ on. Kudos to you!

  • Emily
    January 14, 2011 at 2:18 pm


  • Sarah @ Comfort and Joy
    January 14, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Thanks for posting this. It definitely resonated with me. :) I do feel that sometimes my taste exceeds my ability to express it. I think the solution for me is to slow down and truly get in ‘the inspiration zone’ and work from that inspired standpoint when doing my creative projects.

    Like you, I’m going to be working at photography this year. Manual mode, here I come. :)

  • Brigitte
    January 14, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    This video makes me crush on Ira Glass even harder.

  • Diane V
    January 14, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Did you see the WTTW video on Vivian Maier? Amazing street photography – I wish they were selling prints of some of the photos – I’m thinking about going to see the exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center.

    wttw video –

  • Corrin
    January 14, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    I had my first photography class last night at the local art school. I know the basics of how my camera works, but learning exactly how f-stops, shutter speed, and ISO work together and how they can be manipulated pretty much blew my mind. I can’t wait to work on this week’s “homework.”

  • Emily
    January 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Writing fiction. And taking photos in manual mode ;-)

  • Erin
    January 14, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Ira Glass is wonderful. I’ve always felt like my entire life was a work in progress, but I focus specifically on mothering, being a good partner to my husband, writing my blog, knitting, and photography. I’m always trying to be better at all of these. And persistence does pay off; I would never have gotten my degree without it.

    xo Erin

  • erin
    January 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    i’ve recently realized that i want to be really good at just a few things rather than being able to do multiple things just okay…

    i’ve had “learn to knit” and “learn to sew” and “learn to weld” on the list forever. i decided to scratch those off and focus on the things that i already do.

    the things on my list that i am going to focus much of my free time in 2011 on: become a better bass guitarist and focus more time on paddling (solo canoe and possibly whitewater kayak).

  • Colleen
    January 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    I’m with you. I do manual, but I still feel it doesn’t have that professional look. I would like to have more patience to do my projects really well instead of with a “good enough” attitude. I love your idea of the 4-6 week project. Now that I’m done with having babies I wish I had thought of that. Also, I found the song you used on Eleanor’s first year video. I’m thinking of doing something for my hubby for father’s day. That song just MIGHT bring him to tears attatched to pictures of our kids, at least a lump in the throat!

  • Juliet | Urban Nest
    January 14, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Brilliant. I love Ira Glass and I am so encouraged by this particular insight. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  • Hally
    January 15, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I am a photographer. I think passion makes you desire to be better at it (or anything) no matter what level you’ve achieved. I cant ever see myself just being content, I want to learn everything!

  • Victoria
    January 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    What an inspiring statement. It is so true, I find myself often in that gap between what my vision of style is an my actual life ability to pull it off! Great inspiration to keep trying:)

  • Wilma
    January 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Thanks for that post! I needed to hear/watch something like that today.

  • Cat@BudgetBlonde
    January 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Love this. It’s hard to ignore that there are people who are naturally gifted that are good at things right off the bat! So, I always remind myself to go at my own pace.

    love it

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  • Starlet Starlet
    January 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    First of all, I LOVE, LOVE Ira Glass!

    So for you to feature it here, talking about this topic, it literally gave me goosebumps and I have to say:

    Thank you so much, so very inspiring, and it means to me like a whole lot!

  • Fleababe
    January 19, 2011 at 12:17 am

    I try to think of the process itself as the actual piece of art. If one doesn’t enjoy the hard work, the learning process and the mistakes and the struggles, then it’s gonna be really hard to live a creative life. If you see someone who makes it look easy to be an artist or writer, they’ve just mastered the ability to hide the effort. Thanks for this great post.

  • Rebecca
    January 22, 2011 at 1:00 am

    I really can identify! There’s so much I want to be better at… photography is one, especially taking outfit photos of myself (I write a fashion blog) and pics for my etsy shop.

  • Merissa
    March 31, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Wow! I’ve had this bookmarked since you posted it and I am only today, the day after I wrote on my mirror in big letters with bright red lipstick “consistency is key,” did I make my way back and finally read/watch it. Thanks!! :)

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