Don’t Quit

I’ve quit a lot of things. Some people seem to equate quitting to failure, and maybe they’re right, but I’ve never had a problem with failing either. In 80 years, I expect myself to fail often and at varying severity levels.

Five years ago, I quit photography. It was a combination of reasons all culminating to the sale of my camera and all my studio equipment. It was a melodramatic goodbye, a giant tantrum, a final fuck you, to the many hours I spent working at studios carrying around heavy equipment and worrying about how I retouched some girl’s strand of hair.



Creative people fantastize about when your taste finally matches your skill level[1] and I never felt like I entirely got there. And, they tell you, still–keep going. Don’t quit. The rainbow is over the horizon.

One of the many reasons[2] of my ‘quit’ was to focus on my Design career. My name was becoming muddled in the Google search results and I was becoming known as a photographer instead of a Designer. When people saw me, they would ask about my photography and not my career. It was important for me to tell the right story and ‘photographer’ wasn’t the story I wanted to tell.



In retrospect, I made the right choice. The time freed up was immense and I funnelled it into my full-time job. This has paid out in dividends I probably won’t fully even realize until a few years from now. And now, I can afford to spend more time on the creative pursuits–I mostly write but I also pepper the time with an instrument, taking conventional travel photos, and designing. All that, in exchange for one sacrifice.



I think we forget to say this to creative people: hey, it’s okay to quit. If you don’t love it as much as you did before, you can quit and come back later. The thing about quitting is people often think it’s the end of the line. Most things in life, like quitting a hobby, are reversible.

Yesterday I rented a camera and did my first shoot in five years. The thing about picking up hobbies is that most things don't really change. The fundamentals of lighting are unchanged. Folding out tripods and setting up C-stands are second nature to me. I can still put together makeshift foamcore studios in less than twenty minutes. Directives to my model are as deliberate as they always were. The shutter was depressed and it felt like five years never passed.



I shot these yesterday and I think I did alright. Photography never changed, but I have, and I’d like to think that my work is stronger for it. Art is forgiving of a pursuit–it moves with you so don’t be afraid to say, "Not right now."


↩︎ [1] The oh-so-famous Ira Glass essay↗︎ talks about this.

↩︎ [2] Ask me sometime. There’s seriously many. At least a couple of them will be true.

latest in design

November 8, 2017

Follow Your Own Advice

Out of all the advice I give I tend to give this one the most often. It’s old-school advice drilled...

April 9, 2017

Two Habits that Changed my Career

It’s the small things that make big waves. I have two habits I’ve picked up over the years which I...

April 2, 2017

On Commitment

The biggest lessons I’ve ever learned were from periods of extended commitment. Our available choices now send us into paralysis...

March 26, 2017

Retrospectives: Bring Me Only Problems

Asking for solutions first is bad management advice. ‘Don’t bring me problems—bring me solutions!’ teaches your team not to speak...

by category

View all about one topic: Design, Leadership, Tech, Life, Creative, Website

Or visit the complete archives