What You Can Learn About Freelancing from a 3-Year-Old with a Camera
Last week I had a brilliant idea: I would teach my 3-year-old son to use the digital camera! Then he would learn a valuable skill! And become a famous photographer!
As you can tell, I was pretty excited.
So I showed T-Rex how to hold the camera, and look through the viewfinder at what he wanted to take a picture of, and press the button. I wrapped the carry cord around his wrist so he wouldn’t drop the camera and let him loose, first inside and then outside.
T-Rex’s first photos came out looking something like this:
Yes, that is an extreme close-up of Lightning McQueen.
Many people, people who are not 3-year-olds, would immediately give up and never touch the camera again. But I told T-Rex how he needed not put the camera one millimeter away from the subject.
The next photos looked something like this:
T-Rex looked a bit nonplussed, but was willing to keep going. I explained that he needed to make sure his thumb wasn’t in the way.
The next round:
Whoops! Mom’s head is cut off. But T-Rex was a trouper. I helped him understand how to make sure the person’s whole face was in the shot.
This went on for a while, and over time T-Rex’s photos got better and better. We wandered around outside and he snapped flowers, and grass, and houses, and flags.
And look at this — it looks like he’s developing a niche!
Now, my son is not even close to turning out professional-looking photos. (Heck, neither am I.) But he didn’t give up, and he didn’t get upset. He just kept trying. And he improved with every shot.
I teach an e-course on breaking into magazines and mentor writers by phone, and one key factor I see stopping most writers from succeeding is that they have such a terrible fear of failure and of looking stupid that they either never get their work out there — or they give up at the first sign of rejection.
Persistence is even more important for new writers (or people who are new at anything) than skill. After all, even the most brilliant writer won’t succeed if she gives up too soon — and even a mediocre writer can have great success if he keeps trying and learns as he goes along.
The only way to learn to be a great writer is to jump in, learn from your mistakes, put aside the fear of failure, and be persistent. Like T-Rex and his camera, we all start at Level 0. We all make mistakes. But if we keep trying, we get better and better.
As Danish physicist Niels Bohr said, “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.” The mistakes are key, and I say if you’re not making mistakes — you’re not trying hard enough.
Take it from a 3-year-old with a camera: Your first few — or first hundred — tries may be off the mark, but eventually you’ll become a pro.