LLC004: Working on New Skills? Look for Signs of Progress

  • How did your first accomplishments in your creative field encourage you to keep going?
  • You can take that feeling and use it now to break out of your creative rut

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Think back to some of your first accomplishments when you started your creative venture, and how that felt. How did that encourage you and propel you forward to keep learning more and doing more? For me and photography, all it took was a piece of paper and a little ink.

A Big First Accomlishment (Sort Of)

After just a few months of having fun learning photography, I became a published photographer! *ahem* First of all, I’d like to thank the little people…just kidding.

But I discovered that one of my photos was published in a professional magazine. National Geographic, perhaps? Or Photography Monthly, you ask? No, a journal much more highly esteemed than those: the fall activity guide of the East Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department! Yes, I know, it’s quite exciting.

Late in 2016 I took a photography 101 class through the Parks & Rec department, taught by Josh Weiland, a local photographer. On the last day of class, the half dozen of us went outside to practice what we learned, while the pro directed us to try a few different things.

Everyone else was walking around taking pictures, so just to be atypical, I dropped myself right to the ground and found the bug’s eye view and took a picture of this sort of little weedy thing.

It wasn’t really a very interesting subject in hindsight, but it was an unusual angle and it had a nicely blurry background, so I thought it was pretty good at the time:

A thin weed popping up from a bed of red growth against a blue sky background
Art, amirite?

For another photo I had taken that night, I shot the sun just when it was shining through the top of a lamp post, along with some trees and the scoreboard of the football field. Again, not an earth-shattering photo, but one that I felt proud enough of, especially at the time:

This one is more legitimately interesting.

Josh, the photographer teaching the class, asked each of us to send him a few of the photos we had taken, so I had sent along a few, including the weedy one and the lamp post. Then in the middle of summer 2017, I get the new activity guide in the mail, browse through it, and BAM! there it is. The weedy picture was printed as an example of what students can learn through the class!

And hey, you can learn to eat healthy and your dog to sit at the same time!

Obviously this is not a huge award or anything, but it’s about the coolest thing for me to get a picture out there where other people have (probably) seen it, even just in a local paper.

A while later, I was browsing Josh Weiland’s website, and saw he had a link to the classes that he teaches. I checked it out, and not only was he using my weedy picture, but he was also using the lamp post picture!

A screenshot of
Hmm, I may have to check out that editing class…

I thought that was pretty darn good and I like that pretty well. Something I’ve done was considered good enough to encourage other people to learn more about photography!

What does this mean for you in your creative journey?

When you’re working on new skills professionally or just picking up a hobby, take each of those little landmarks as a badge of accomplishment! You’re moving forward, you’re making progress. Let it encourage you to keep going toward even bigger goals.

You can use these memories as encouragement even longer by keeping a record of them. It can be as simple as a folder on your computer with a picture of what you’ve done and a few lines about what it means to you.

Make it real

Or you could get together with your artsy-craftsy grandma and put together a scrapbook. Don’t underestimate the power of having something physically in front of you, especially in fields where your craft is usually electronic, like graphic design for websites or writing a blog.

When you’re feeling discouraged about your work and you’ve lost the spark and the feeling of fun, pull out that folder or that scrapbook and let it remind of you what it was like when you were first starting out. You had fun! Everything felt new! You walked around and thought all the time how you would design this or photograph that or constantly be writing down prompts to work from later.

You can recapture some of that feeling when you remember how far you’ve come and all the milestones you hit along the way. Sure, probably looking at the old stuff you made makes you cringe now, but hopefully you made it without judging it. You felt free to create, and when you’re stuck in a creative block, that feeling of freedom is exactly what you need again.

Keep going!

Don’t stop looking for those accomplishments. If you’re stuck in a rut and you’re feeling down about yourself, take a look back at the last couple things you’ve made, and think about what’s cool or new about one of them. Take that as a milestone and encourage yourself that you’re still doing good work. How you talk to yourself and how you think about your work is at least half the battle towards unlocking your creativity again.


  • I’d love to hear from you, what was something you created when you first got started that you were really proud of?
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I’m Dylan, helping you break down your creative barriers, so you can Live Life Creative.

The Pinterest image for episode 4 of the Live Life Creative podcast

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