I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the things that I do in my free time and why I do them. Over the last year, the course I have been studying has taken up a lot of evenings and weekends, as well as nibbling away at a few days of annual leave. Despite this I’ve kept up my work on the Ubuntu Podcast and contributed to the organisation of two OggCamp events. However, other activities have been less lucky: I’ve hardly seen some good friends and my two godchildren recently and there were a few months when I hadn’t picked up my camera at all.
One of the problems I’ve been mulling over is that of originality. Our Ubuntu Podcast is a successful show by most metrics, but we’re not the only Ubuntu/Linux/FLOSS podcast, not by a long stretch. Some are very different, stylistically, from our own. Others are more similar and I have found myself wondering if there’s any point in having several shows that share similarities. If podcasting really is radio that anyone can do, then what is the point of you doing it? If you’re not doing anything original, anything different, if other people can do it, why continue? Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
The same thing applies to photography. I’m not a professional photographer, but I’ve enjoyed developing my skills over the last few years. I went on my first photo walk at the weekend, and couldn’t help feeling that twenty photographers walking them same route would come out with pretty much the same photos. Similarly, taking photos of well-known views or places seems pointless when you can find high quality images of the same thing on Flickr. There seems little point or challenge in taking photos which others can easily take too. If there are people making better photos of the same subject than you, why carry on making them?
Is this just trying to avoid being judged and found a failure? To compare your photographic efforts with those of someone who had access to the same scene and come out second best can’t be a nice feeling. If someone starts an Ubuntu or Linux-related podcast, rather than seeing them as a kindred spirit, I can’t help but feel it is a threat or increased competition; that they might do what we do better than us, that our listeners prefer the newcomer.
All this leads me towards the question of motivation. Why do I continue to work on the podcast and spend my time trying to take better photographs? If one can’t make something original, why make anything at all? A lot of my interest in learning how to do something new. The idea of doing a live podcast appeals because it’s a new experience. I’d like to photograph more and varied subjects; to feel I have acquired some new skills. If one finds the process rewarding or fun, or it serves a bigger, grander purpose then that on its own should be enough. Like anything worth doing, it’s difficult to be good at it. If you happen to strike on an original idea on the way, you’re very lucky.
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