Photography for me was a slow evolution. I learned a little in high school and then decided to pursue a different career path by enlisting in the US Navy. During my time in the military, I started to teach myself more about photography, and through that process, I discovered stock photography, which would ultimately (and unknowingly) launch my career as a photographer. Every step was small, leading down a path I didn’t know I was taking. Now I run my own online business and work 100% for myself.

Along with photography, I also have several creative endeavors. I knit, crochet, and I have even taken classes to learn how to code. I also really love pottery, something I learned years ago but I have never really taken it seriously. My dream has always been to have my own full-fledged backyard pottery studio, and now I’m getting closer and closer to making that dream a reality. I’m not breaking ground on it quite yet, but I’m doing what I need to go down that path. I won’t get into details, but suffice it to say I’m hoping to have something more permanent sometime within the next year.

At this point, I wouldn’t call myself much of an experienced potter, despite the fact that I first learned how to throw on the wheel nearly ten years ago. I’m still not particularly good, my work is far from being refined, and I don’t really know the direction I want to take my work. Sure, each batch I make I end up with a handful of beautiful pieces, but I’m still at the stage where much of my work is either donated, given away to friends, or (sadly) thrown into the trash. But when I’m at it, I’m always on a mission to learn, improve, and create, with the hopes of actually selling my work one day (and eventually make it a part-time venture).

I have also begun taking my knitting hobby to another level. I recently created a knitting blog where I am sharing my process on dyeing yarn (another new “hobby within a hobby” of mine), as well as some of the small patterns I’ve come up with over the years. It’s another way of fulfilling the need to create and make something, and also to document some of the processes for myself. I’m not really sure where it’s going yet, and it may only ever be a blog with no expectation of monetizing it or making it a side business, but for now I’m enjoying the ability to share what I’m doing with the world.

Both of these experiences have shown me is what it’s like to start as a beginner, with the same eagerness and excitement that I so often see in photographers that I communicate with. So I wanted to share some of the insights I had on the process of starting out with my new creative adventures with the hopes that it might be helpful to others in the same situation.

I feel a renewed eagerness to learn.

When I get into something new, I move towards it at a super-fast lightning speed. I can’t really do anything I’m excited about below a 150% effort, and go all-in when I get that itch to learn more. I soak up as much information as possible by reading articles and watching videos on YouTube, I search for both online and in-person classes and do a ton of research. I take notes and document things in an Evernote notebook and do my best to become as much of an expert at whatever it is I’m researching as possible. It’s an exciting feeling and it keeps me moving forward with life and happiness!

There will be anxiety.

It doesn’t matter how good I am at something, there will always be someone better than me. That’s not me having a defeatist attitude, but rather a realistic outlook and allowing myself to realize that I can never be perfect. It’s easy to feel intimidated by people who are much better than me, particularly at something I’m still learning, such as pottery. I may feel shy about sharing my work, thinking that it is not good enough. I may be worried that people with more experience might scoff at my process. It takes a balance of having enough confidence (but not a huge ego) and a humble nature to know that it’s okay to share and put myself out there, all without feeling the need to be apologetic in the process. I might not be good at pottery, but I can still share what I’m proud of, and it’s okay if other people do not like it or approve.

 

Experimentation = Happiness!

One of my newest hobbies, one that relates well to my knitting obsession, is dyeing my own yarn. This new hobby was spawned from living in a very small apartment and not having enough space for pretty much anything else (and at the time of writing this my entire kitchen/living space has basically been taken over by yarn and dyeing materials). But it fuels what I already love, and I’ll get to knit with the yarn that I dye. Plus, it gives me the ability to really experiment with color combinations and techniques. There is an enormous satisfaction of trying new things, even if they end in failure! Sometimes failures can be fixed, and others just have to be a sacrifice. But in both cases, they are learning experiences.

A renewed practice in patience

Most methods of photography these days provide us with instant gratification. We can instantly see if our photograph looks good, bad, or needs some work. We can edit photos on our phones and share them within minutes. The learning process can be swift and feedback is instantaneous. With other analog forms of art, however, the process takes much longer. When I’m dyeing yarn, sometimes I don’t get a full picture of how everything worked out until I start knitting it. Yarn can look good on its own, but the true test is how it looks when actually used. And with pottery, the process can take days or even weeks, as there are several steps to get through before the final product is pulled out of the kiln and inspected. Hours worth of work can be all for naught at that moment. However, I have found that there is satisfaction in having to wait and delaying that (potential) gratification is much more satisfying once everything is completed.

Finding joy in learning new things.

Not long ago, my sister pointed out to me that I am a person who loves to learn. I never saw it that way, and always just felt my way of doing things and being curious about life and other creative adventures. But I do find deep contentment when I am in the learning process and will probably always be expanding my hobbies and the depth I go to within those hobbies. And soon (crossing fingers) I will have a workspace to grow both my photography and other crafty skills, with no limits aside from the ones I set myself.

Do you have any insight into learning something new, whether it is photography or something else? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Photography for me was a slow evolution. I learned a little in high school and then decided to pursue a different career path by enlisting in the US Navy. During my time in the military, I started to teach myself more about photography, and through that process, I discovered stock photography, which would ultimately (and unknowingly) launch my career as a photographer. Every step was small, leading down a path I didn’t know I was taking. Now I run my own online business and work 100% for myself.

Along with photography, I also have several creative endeavors. I knit, crochet, and I have even taken classes to learn how to code. I also really love pottery, something I learned years ago but I have never really taken it seriously. My dream has always been to have my own full-fledged backyard pottery studio, and now I’m getting closer and closer to making that dream a reality. I’m not breaking ground on it quite yet, but I’m doing what I need to go down that path. I won’t get into details, but suffice it to say I’m hoping to have something more permanent sometime within the next year.

At this point, I wouldn’t call myself much of an experienced potter, despite the fact that I first learned how to throw on the wheel nearly ten years ago. I’m still not particularly good, my work is far from being refined, and I don’t really know the direction I want to take my work. Sure, each batch I make I end up with a handful of beautiful pieces, but I’m still at the stage where much of my work is either donated, given away to friends, or (sadly) thrown into the trash. But when I’m at it, I’m always on a mission to learn, improve, and create, with the hopes of actually selling my work one day (and eventually make it a part-time venture).

I have also begun taking my knitting hobby to another level. I recently created a knitting blog where I am sharing my process on dyeing yarn (another new “hobby within a hobby” of mine), as well as some of the small patterns I’ve come up with over the years. It’s another way of fulfilling the need to create and make something, and also to document some of the processes for myself. I’m not really sure where it’s going yet, and it may only ever be a blog with no expectation of monetizing it or making it a side business, but for now I’m enjoying the ability to share what I’m doing with the world.

Both of these experiences have shown me is what it’s like to start as a beginner, with the same eagerness and excitement that I so often see in photographers that I communicate with. So I wanted to share some of the insights I had on the process of starting out with my new creative adventures with the hopes that it might be helpful to others in the same situation.

I feel a renewed eagerness to learn.

When I get into something new, I move towards it at a super-fast lightning speed. I can’t really do anything I’m excited about below a 150% effort, and go all-in when I get that itch to learn more. I soak up as much information as possible by reading articles and watching videos on YouTube, I search for both online and in-person classes and do a ton of research. I take notes and document things in an Evernote notebook and do my best to become as much of an expert at whatever it is I’m researching as possible. It’s an exciting feeling and it keeps me moving forward with life and happiness!

There will be anxiety.

It doesn’t matter how good I am at something, there will always be someone better than me. That’s not me having a defeatist attitude, but rather a realistic outlook and allowing myself to realize that I can never be perfect. It’s easy to feel intimidated by people who are much better than me, particularly at something I’m still learning, such as pottery. I may feel shy about sharing my work, thinking that it is not good enough. I may be worried that people with more experience might scoff at my process. It takes a balance of having enough confidence (but not a huge ego) and a humble nature to know that it’s okay to share and put myself out there, all without feeling the need to be apologetic in the process. I might not be good at pottery, but I can still share what I’m proud of, and it’s okay if other people do not like it or approve.

 

Experimentation = Happiness!

One of my newest hobbies, one that relates well to my knitting obsession, is dyeing my own yarn. This new hobby was spawned from living in a very small apartment and not having enough space for pretty much anything else (and at the time of writing this my entire kitchen/living space has basically been taken over by yarn and dyeing materials). But it fuels what I already love, and I’ll get to knit with the yarn that I dye. Plus, it gives me the ability to really experiment with color combinations and techniques. There is an enormous satisfaction of trying new things, even if they end in failure! Sometimes failures can be fixed, and others just have to be a sacrifice. But in both cases, they are learning experiences.

A renewed practice in patience

Most methods of photography these days provide us with instant gratification. We can instantly see if our photograph looks good, bad, or needs some work. We can edit photos on our phones and share them within minutes. The learning process can be swift and feedback is instantaneous. With other analog forms of art, however, the process takes much longer. When I’m dyeing yarn, sometimes I don’t get a full picture of how everything worked out until I start knitting it. Yarn can look good on its own, but the true test is how it looks when actually used. And with pottery, the process can take days or even weeks, as there are several steps to get through before the final product is pulled out of the kiln and inspected. Hours worth of work can be all for naught at that moment. However, I have found that there is satisfaction in having to wait and delaying that (potential) gratification is much more satisfying once everything is completed.

Finding joy in learning new things.

Not long ago, my sister pointed out to me that I am a person who loves to learn. I never saw it that way, and always just felt my way of doing things and being curious about life and other creative adventures. But I do find deep contentment when I am in the learning process and will probably always be expanding my hobbies and the depth I go to within those hobbies. And soon (crossing fingers) I will have a workspace to grow both my photography and other crafty skills, with no limits aside from the ones I set myself.

Do you have any insight into learning something new, whether it is photography or something else? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Nicole S. Young is a photographer, published author, and educator specializing in Lightroom, Photoshop, and photography. She is best known for her books on food photography but is widely versed in various photographic genres, including landscape, nature, stock, travel, and lifestyle.

8 Comments

  1. Jon O. Clarke August 28, 2020 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Hello Nicole:

    It is wonderful to see your zest for craft and learning. Today is my 76th birthday, and I too have gone through multiple careers: college, USMC, college again, health department, grad school, environmental engineer, MBA, financial valuation consultant, life time photographer.

    My younger brother went from teaching high school to being a full-time potter in Seattle, where he had the shop, kiln, the works. A word of caution for you. He soon contracted a fatal case of leukemia, wherein I was his bone marrow donor. The major risk factor for him was the dust and chemicals associated with pottery. He took few precautions, and it probably cost him his life. So, please be careful and take steps and practices to mitigate the occupational risks.

    In my environmental engineering work I consulted with large fabric mills (before they all went overseas). Dyes can be very toxic chemicals and one seldom knows what’s in them. Be careful and employ good ventilation, even for “natural” dyes.

    Your knitting is very pretty. Wonderful photography too!!!

    Sincerely,

    Jon Clarke
    Reston, VA

    • Nicole S. Young August 31, 2020 at 11:00 am - Reply

      Hi Jon, I am very cautious with both pottery and dyeing, and wear a mask or ventilator when working with dry materials. I hope to have a new workshop to do many of my hobbies in and should have plenty of space and fresh air to also help mitigate exposure. I don’t take any chances with my lungs! So sorry to hear about your brother, too.

  2. Wally Polischuk August 28, 2020 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Nicole, I read about your health issues and I am amazed at your resiliency! I find your enthusiasm and energy for life very inspiring. I am certain your focus on your new projects will lead to a satisfying success!

    • Nicole S. Young August 31, 2020 at 10:57 am - Reply

      Hi Wally, I have not really had any health issues (maybe you are thinking of someone else?) but I appreciate your kind words :)

  3. Gene Rottinghaus August 31, 2020 at 7:29 am - Reply

    I really enjoyed reading your article in this post. As usual, you provide great inspiration to keep trying new things and improving on old skills. Thanks !

  4. Wally Polischuk August 31, 2020 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Well, I am glad I was wrong! May you remain in good health. I do admire your work, especially the presets.

  5. Jon Clarke August 31, 2020 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Wonderful to hear about the precautions you take for pottery and dyeing, and from another post that you do not have “health issues.”. I hope you’s post photos of some of your creations . . . Jon Clarke

  6. Reno Davenport October 15, 2020 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    As former Navy, I salute you. USN just celebrated 245 years of “Non sibi sed patriae”. I think that the military plus some of the things I did as a civilian have kept me enthused and learning all my life. Olympus Passion magazine had a complimentary article on me in their January issue #32 titled “Life Gives You So Many Opportunities to Learn” that enlarges on my photography journey. I have a quote from Marcus Aurelius over my monitor that I see every day, “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” It sounds like you take that to heart. Now in my 75th year, I make myself go out and take at least a photo a day. . . shelter in place has made that a little harder. My local birds now know to pose when I go out to walk. As soon as we can travel safely, my wife and I have plans to hit several countries that we haven’t been in yet. Keep up the good work, I read and learn from you every time you publish something new.

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