The Art of Practice
“It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.” - Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear
I stand quietly by the back door and observe the birds congregating by our feeder. They appear to be conversing with one another, easily taking turns at each perch, pausing, taking flight, returning. The rain is falling steadily the colors of earth and sky muted. Grays, browns, rust. I am thankful, for the birds, the rain, the comfort of my warm kitchen, the slow start to my day, the stillness.
“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
Once the rain ends I reach for my camera and head outside. I have set a lofty goal for myself this year, to take at least one picture a day with my Canon. For the past year I have allowed fear to keep me from doing the things I love; fear of not being good enough, fear of not becoming skilled at a craft quickly enough, fear of not being original enough. I have long thought that interests are too scattered to ever get really good at anything. Golden retrievers have nothing on me when it comes to being easily distracted by shiny things.
The skies are still overcast and I wander around the yard, looking for inspiration, finally stopping in front of the old stone wall by the side of our house. The stones are laced with climbing hydrangea vines, petals hanging on here and there in spite of winter's harsh cold. I stop and take aim with my camera.
“Anyhow, the older I get, the less impressed I become with originality. These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity. Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
Taking shot after shot I wonder why I never before noticed how beautiful our old stone wall is, the grays, greens, silvers of each stone's surface existing in harmony with the deep browns and reds of the vines clinging onto every crevice and crack. I realize as I focus that it is not so important that my work is original...a different way of looking at the world...but rather authentic and reflective of what I see when I look through the lens.
“So this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?” ~Elizabeth Gilbert
As I play, I keep returning to the 'simple and generous' rule that Elizabeth Gilbert speaks of, the rule that whatever you practice you will improve at. Many of my efforts at photographing the image my eye is seeking will fall short but every now and then a gem will appear and slowly my technique will improve. It will require dedication, courage, and a willingness to fail every now and then. It will also require me to not lose sight of the importance of finding inspiration in the ordinary. There will be many days where I won't venture further than my back door but if I take the time to look at my world through new eyes, I will find treasure there.