Instant Gratification

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My dad sometimes {affectionately, I think} calls me a space cadet…because I am flighty, as flighty as a butterfly. My mind is a busy place and I can never seem to focus on one thing for very long.

One time I got sick in college and the doctor put me on a prescription for a couple of days. I remember sitting in class when I was taking that medicine and it felt like everything was moving very slowly, like my mind was so quiet and still. I could concentrate on every word the teacher was saying without getting distracted by a million other thoughts. I wanted to take those drugs all the time and always have a quiet mind like that. Isn’t that awful, wishing for drugs to quiet my mind? But it’s true.

I really drive myself crazy with all this flightiness because I never get anything substantial done. I see a pattern in myself: I get an idea about something I want to do or be good at. I buy the supplies to do that thing. I try that thing for about a week. I get busy or distracted or decide it’s too hard and move on to something else.

I do this with cameras and photography. I do it with words and blogging. I do it with art and creativity and things I want to make with my hands. Over and over and over again.

One thing I really want to be good at is photography. I have always loved cameras and taking pictures and I get completely lost in beautiful images. I was looking at a blog the other day that has gorgeous photography and I kept thinking, “I want to take pictures like that. I want to capture life and the world the way she does.” But the problem is I don’t want to take the time and develop the discipline necessary for the kind of beauty and art she creates. I just want to pick up my camera, point it at something, and bam—my pictures look like hers.

There’s this other photography blog I love too, the one that really got me interested in DSLR cameras, and people are always asking the girl how she gets such beautiful images. Over and over and over again she tells people there’s no trick or shortcut to the images she produces; it’s just a matter of time and work and of learning about photography and how to best use the instrument in your hands. She tells people to read and practice and to take tons and tons of pictures until they start to get a feel for the camera and what does and doesn’t work.

That’s it. Practice. Patience. Hard word. No tricks. No fancy equipment. No apps or instant anything. Just enough love for and dedication to a craft to really master whatever it is you want to do.

This, of course, requires a little stick-to-it-ness and a little less flightiness. This requires patience and discipline and mastery over the monster we call instant gratification.

And that right there is a big part of my problem: Instant Gratification. It’s not that I don’t already enjoy photography enough to practice and learn and slowly develop my skill. It’s not that I don’t already love words enough to carefully string them together and slowly create a body of work I’m proud of.

The problem is I look at images and read words that are so far beyond my skill right now and I let it frustrate and discourage me because I want to be that good RIGHT NOW. I want to take pictures like that right now, this instant, not after patiently learning and practicing.

I don’t want to wait for anything. I want what I want and I want it right this instant.

But you know what I think? I think we lose out when we get what we want right when we want it. Because in spite of the time and work it takes, there is something very fulfilling and inspiring about the actual learning process and not just the end result. There is something about picking up my camera and taking 57 shots of the exact same thing, changing the settings, trying again…and then finally capturing the image I see in my head. There’s this little triumph, this little moment when everything comes together and I know I’ve learned something and I’ve advanced just a little bit towards my goal. That feeling of learning and growing is almost better than acquiring whatever it was I wanted in the first place.

We live in a world of instant everything. We are told all the time that we can have what we want when we want it. And unfortunately, I think I’ve started believing and living as if all the ads that try to sell me everything right now are actually gospel truth. And in the process I’m losing the pleasure of simply learning and growing and advancing at a steady, healthy pace.

I don’t need everything right now. I don’t need to be the best at wielding a camera or writing words. I just need to be growing, learning, practicing, changing…and taking the time to actually enjoy the experience and feel the moments of triumph instead of always running, running, running towards the next best thing.

13 thoughts on “Instant Gratification

  1. Yes, I think just doing can teach us so much. Even if we aren’t the best, just doing-doing-doing..there’s a lot to learn in that. (And, when I really want to get better, I sign up for a class Monetary commits are quite motivating for me!) ~Catherine

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  2. I echo the above statements. You’re a great writer and are able to express your words as photographers do with pictures. I also appreciate the correlation between your image and your subject matter: perfect! The photographer you’re speaking of is right; I have 10 years of photography under my belt and my style is well developed: dark, noir-ish, moody- I want to tell a story with my images and make the viewer FEEL something, always- that’s what drives me in my art. I think you make a lot of good, valid points in this post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings here. :0) xo

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  3. You’ve learned a very important lesson here, instant gratification really isn’t gratifying at all. There is much to be said for the learning process, and the joy and yes, sometimes the frustration that comes with the learning. It’s that process that I enjoy when I cook from scratch instead of getting fast food, and in so many other ways as well. Thanks for the wonderful reminder to appreciate the joy of learning.

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