Monday, February 21, 2011

7 Things I Learned About Photography and Writing by Creating Last Week's Blog Posts

{In which I actually write a scannable, informative post with a number in the title}

Happy Presidents' day to all of you in the States! Unfortunately for me, I had to go to work today, but I hope you enjoy your day off.

Processing and posting all those photos last week was great, but so exhausting! I didn't even finish and I already have another mountain of photographs to go through. I was pretty sleep-deprived last week on account of those posts (though I admit that laundry and cleaning were the culprits for one of those nights).

Still, I had fun and it was quite educational. I'm new to blogging, after all, and there's nothing like hands-on experience for learning new things. Plus they turned out pretty ok, right?

I thought I'd share a few thoughts on what I can do to improve in the future. Although it started out as a list for photography, I realized the points can apply to creative writing as well. (Even though I haven't started officially writing fiction, I read a ton of writing blogs.) I guess I always knew about these, but experiencing them for myself really drove them home. They probably work for any creative pursuit — so hopefully you find them helpful!

1. Generate More Material.
Take more photos. Write more words. Even if you suspect it might be garbage.

It's frustrating when I realize that the only shot I took of an awesome scene was actually out-of-focus. Always take extra photos! It sucks not to have a good photo of a particular object or location. Occasionally, I can remedy it by editing a mediocre photo in some way, but I could have saved myself a lot of work if I'd just taken more photos.

Maybe, by some happy accident, a couple of my photos will be great. Maybe they will all suck, but that's more photos to learn from. And if they all turn out wonderfully, well, that's awesome — options make my life a lot easier. And sometimes, it takes a lot of bad photos before I get that favorite shot.

It's like that for writing, too — the brainstorm/free-write phase is when you create as much quantity as possible and hope that there are some gems in there. When trying to create a thesis for English papers, I always wrote down every quote or observation related to the topic. It won't all be brilliant, but that's ok; the important thing is getting it on paper. At this stage, making junk is better than making nothing.

Because that's how you get enough material to...

2. Edit Ruthlessly.
Generating garbage is good for the learning process, but I don't want to look at thirty blurry, badly-composed photos, even if I took them myself. Only display the gems!

When it comes to showing your stuff to other people, publishing nothing becomes a much better option than publishing something sub-par. I was sorely tempted to post something — anything — just so I wouldn't miss my posting schedule last Wednesday. But I chose not to put out a post in my sleep-deprived state, since it would probably be really lame. Committing to quality is more important to me than meeting my self-imposed deadline (although I'm planning on making sure that I have plenty of back-up posts so it won't be an issue next time).

This is true for writing as well, although I'm a lot lazier when it comes to editing my words. It's a bad habit from those nights of writing English papers only hours before they're due; I've become used to leaving my writing as-is. But when planning the outline of an English paper, I always made sure I only chose points that strongly supported my thesis.

I think I still have a lot of room to improve in this area, both in writing and in photography. When I look at all those photos together in one post, it's clear that some are not as great as the others. Although I should have eliminated those, I was hoping to have a more complete representation of  my adventures, so I left them there because otherwise I'd feel as if part of my experience was missing (well, unless they were really terrible. It's the on-the-fence ones that give me trouble).

Of course, that'd be a lot easier if I took time to...

3. Practice.
If you want to be able to visualize your artwork beforehand and execute it as desired, experience is the best teacher!

The reason I have to take so many photos is because I'm not a very experienced photographer. I wish I always got the shot I wanted, but the truth is I'm pretty terrible at getting it right the first time.

I did consider trying street photography because a friend wanted photos of "hot guys" and "fashion," but I discovered that I suck at those shots. Most of the time, I need to take quite a few warm-up shots before I end up with a decent photo, and by then I've missed the moment.

I am in awe of wedding photographers — they have to take great shots all day long, with only a split-second to nail those really important scenes. With my photography skills, I would be terrified of missing the first kiss, or having only out-of-focus shots of the flower girl walking down the aisle. (Crossing my fingers for Brandon and Phoebe's wedding this weekend!)

I think I'm slightly easier on my writing because I've had so much practice cranking out 5-7 page papers with only hours to go. I'm able to manage it because I always make sure I know how the finished paper should be structured before I type the first sentence. The actual writing is easy because I already have a clear thesis, supporting points, concrete details, and transitions in place - the skeleton is there, I just have to flesh it out. It helps to be able to form coherent sentences, too.

So I'm hoping that, as I become more familiar with the principles of composition and lighting and the settings on my camera, it'll become easier for me to consistently find great photos to share without forcing myself to wade through a ton of terrible shots. And that I would eventually be able to grasp the essentials of fiction writing as well.

And it would be really helpful if I can...

4. Set a Doable Deadline.
Not so tight that you become stressed out, but so you feel pressure to actually do something. Make sure you factor in enough time to put it away for a bit and look at it again with fresh eyes.

I admit that I was rather stressed by my self-imposed deadlines last week. It's usually not a problem since I try to write up posts in advance, but last weekend I was too busy hanging out with friends to write up posts. But at least I actually got those photos up! There are other photos that I should have uploaded long ago, but since I never attached any sort of timeline to those projects, I just kept putting it off.

Giving myself a deadline was a good idea, but I think I'll give myself more time in the future. The thing about being too rushed is the pressure to publish before you can take another look at it. As it is, I'm not afraid to do minor edits on past posts, but it's not quite the same as getting it right the first time.

I'm even worse with deadlines on the writing front. I mean, hello, I always started my papers at the last possible moment. And although I've told myself that I'm going to start writing fiction regularly, I still haven't made much progress because I never committed to a timeline. Probably because I still feel like I haven't really decided to do it.

But one thing that would convince my brain that I really want to do it would be to...

5. Tell Others.
It's a good way to find accountability and to give you extra incentive to do your best.

That's why I'm really glad I started this blog. Without it, I wouldn't be nearly as motivated to take the effort to cull and process the photos or write down my experiences and memories. And since I don't want you to read terrible posts (it's a reflection of me, after all), I spend more effort on editing photos and organizing my stories than if it's just going to be saved on my laptop.

I think I need something like this for my writing, which I have yet to seriously start. I've considered starting a writing blog just to keep track of the (thus-far-nonexistent) progress of my fiction writing, but I'm not really sure yet. Maybe it's good enough that I mention it here, so I can trick my brain into thinking that I have to do this now that I've said I will. (Still thinking about what to do about this! Let me know if you have any ideas.)

Getting feedback and affirmation will keep you from getting discouraged and may even provide inspiration and perspective. And creating that dialogue with other is only possible if you share your work. I've been really blessed by everyone who reads my blog (especially those who shower me with compliments and encouragement :P).

Which is why I want to...

.6. Say Thank You.
You guys rock. I am so lucky to have you! <3

I just want to say how grateful I am for all of you, for making this blog possible and for making me want to continue. For my parents, who gave me my DSLR so I can take all those pictures. For my sister, who inspires me with her blog and begged me to start this one. For my friends, who let me take pictures of them. For everyone who reads this blog. For people who comment, whether here or elsewhere, and let me know that I'm not blogging into a void. I can't tell you enough how much it means to me that you're willing to take time out of your day to visit my blog. And all your encouragement and compliments? Wow. Thank you. You guys are amazing.

It's thanks to you guys that I'm able to...

7. Have a Blast!
Enjoy the process. Have fun. Be happy.

Yes, those posts took a lot of work. But it's so much fun tweaking each photo and admiring the final results. And getting your feedback always brightens up my day. I think that's the most important part of creating art - that you enjoy it and have fun. And I am, so much. Of course, I plan on doing more of it, and I'll be sure to put these lessons I've learned into practice so I can improve and be more effective with the effort I'm putting in.

And... that's a wrap! Whew, this post is kind of long. Enough about me — I want to hear about you! What are your artistic pursuits? I'd love to know about it and support you as well. I hope you found these points helpful, and be sure to share if you have any tips for me!

with love,


  1. Hooray, Linda! It definitely looks like you're having a great time in Taiwan. I love reading about what's going on and the love and care you put into your art. I'm looking forward to the upcoming pictures from B+P!

    Also, speaking about writing, have you seen the TED lecture by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love)? It is an interesting and helpful approach to the creative process.

  2. AWWWWWWWWWWWWWW what a great post! i honestly think it's so good that you have a lot of discipline and set high standards for yourself in terms of blogging - it seriously comes out in the quality of your posts. i feel inspired! i just want a dslr to take pictures with... a;lsdjgklarjhklaehjkaljkljlk and thanks for mentioning me <3

  3. joel!! you are soooo amazing for reading my posts and leaving such thoughtful comments. you're my hero! <3

    ooh, i'll have to check out the link when i get home. thanks for sharing it!

  4. haha wow i'm glad you like it! i was kind of thinking that people would see "WALL OF TEXT" and decide to skip it. thanks for reading it :)

    i'm so glad i can inspire you too! especially since this blog is here mainly because of you. don't you feel so special? :D

    <3 you too!

  5. aahah, Joe is such a common name. (: I took it in college for a reason, and thought I was losing it when I thought I the first comment by "myself".

    Wait, that's Joel with an exclamation mark.... Oops. :x

    But yeah! Thank you for this awesome post! I will try to post more often as well! Thank you for your incredible and kind of super human diligence.

  6. ahh i wish!! i'm starting to feel so lazy about organizing my posts already,
    although i have sooo many ideas for both text and photo posts XP

    but i'm glad you feel inspire to write more! (and try to activate rss on
    your blog ok? i'm super good at keeping up with blog feeds but not so great
    - terrible, in fact - at visiting sites individually...)

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