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Knowing when to walk away

As painful as they may be, false starts happen from time to time. In fact, I just went through one with my one-day photo story, Channeling Chocolate. I spent two days photographing a story that wasn’t a story. No matter how confident you are going in having done all the research you can do, sometimes what you think is there just isn’t.

And that’s okay.

Readjust. Refocus. Keep shooting.

You have to spend the time getting to know your subjects—working with them, talking to them, interviewing them—to really hone in on the story. “If you want to get to know your characters, you have to hang out with them long enough to see beyond all the things they aren’t” (Lamott, p. 83).

Sometimes that become clear early on. Other times it’s impossible to see the picture from inside the frame. At which point it’s beneficial to enlist a disinterested third party to point out plot holes, kill the puppies, or report then news that there simply is no story.

“I looked at my manuscript in my suitcase, thought about all those beautiful, hilarious, poignant people I had been working with for almost three years, and all of a sudden I was in a rage.” But, as Rita Reed would say, when your hair is on fire and you’re looking for any drop of water to put it out, you’ll run the distance to find it.

And the passion drives to find a way to tell the story until it tells you it’s time to move on.

That’s how I felt at the end of Channeling Chocolate. After two days photographing a story that wasn’t, I shifted gears and photographed a story that was. Sure, my first days take wasn’t perfect—there was a glaring hole. It wasn’t for lack of trying; the moment simply wasn’t there. So I went back focused on that piece of the puzzle. With that moment captured (coincidentally, the final image), I knew the story was complete, to the best of my storytelling abilities.

“Of course, there will always be more you could do, but you have to remind yourself that perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor” (Lamott, p. 93).

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