This morning I caught myself thinking, "I won't try to do that because there are plenty of other people doing it better."
It's not the first time I've thought it: As I sift through ideas for what kind of material I want to put online, there have been several occasions when I've been watching red kites circling and thought about trying to get photos - even video - of them to put online, and then thought, no, there are lots of excellent photos of birds online, I'll never be that good, so I won't try. The difference this morning was that I caught myself.
I noticed the form of the thought: It's the idea that it's only worth doing something if you can do it as well as other people, the people who are best at doing that thing. I know this is rubbish - if only the very best people can do the thing, there'd be hardly anyone doing anything.
Recently a friend shared the poem, "Desiderata" on facebook, and I copied it as a reminder to myself. It includes the lines,
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;I know this; it's not a new insight to me. And yet still, the thought crept up on me that I shouldn't try wildlife photography because there are people doing it much better than I can.
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
I'm trying to understand why that thought seemed reasonable - so reasonable that I didn't even notice that it's something I know to be nonsense. I'm not usually prone to thinking that way. It's not as if it's something I have to guard against in myself, I'm just not particularly vulnerable to it. So why did that thought sneak in now?
I'm building this website and I have some ideas for directions I want to take it, but I'm still working it out. I'm in the process of deciding how I want to present myself to the world. This is a very self-conscious sort of thinking: I have the idea of an audience looking at what I produce and judging it. Do you like my work enough to want more of it? I'm not fishing for compliments here, just describing the kind of thought process I'm engaged in.
In the context of, "Will people like this?" it's very easy to think, "No, they'll prefer a better version." I know that there's better wildlife photography out there; you wouldn't want to look at mine when you could choose to look at that instead. But that's not how it works. We don't always choose to view/watch/consume "the best." We enjoy all sorts of art, and there's a great deal of disagreement over what counts as good, anyway.
Even though I'm publishing for an audience, I can't spend my life trying to second guess what you'll want to see. The only way to do this and stay sane is to do it for myself. I don't know what you'll like, so I just have to put things up that I like and see what you think, or as Tom Scott puts it, "Throw things at the internet and see what sticks."
With that in mind, I share with you a couple of not-the-best photos of birds. I enjoyed taking them and I quite like the results. That is enough.