Monday, November 27, 2006

What you can control, and what you can't


It's illuminating to consider what aspects of the artmaking process you can control directly, and which aspects you can't.

Things you can control directly:

  • when you pick up the camera (or step up to the easel, or pick up the sketchbook...)
  • how long you spend with the camera in your hands
  • what you point the camera at
  • when you let the shutter go
  • how you interpret the images (in the darkroom, or on the computer)
  • which exposures you print, and which you ignore

Things you can't control directly:

  • how your images are interpreted by others
  • whether other people like your images, or hate them, or (worst of all) are indifferent to them
  • whether your photographs are viewed as 'good' or 'bad' by others

A natural outcome of these observations is this: if the things that give you satisfaction are things in the can't control category, then how satisfying photography (or whatever art you engage in) will be for you is ultimately determined by other people. If your satisfaction comes from things in the can control category, then as an artist you're going to be pretty self sufficient. I doubt there are any artists out there who geniunely don't care about the stuff in the can't control category, although I know a few who fall close. Likewise, there are artists who fall close to the extreme of getting all their satisfaction from the can't control category.

It seems to me the important point, here, is to remember this - when dissatisfaction rears it's ugly head, you have to turn to the only things you can control. There's little point in fretting about stuff you can't control, because by definition you can't control it and thus aren't responsible for it.

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