Photo Tip: Give Yourself Permission to Wander

start here.

You know what’s funny about me and starting new things? It’s funny that when I start things, or most things, I always have in mind that I will eventually quit them.

“There will be an end to this,” I often tell myself when I commence upon dietary restrictions, writing projects, and anything else that I feel uncertain about the meaning or worth of my efforts. This is why I can’t finish a novel or James Frey’s “a million little pieces” for the life of me.

I  usually can’t just flow in murky waters. So what I usually do, when I can, is not commit to treading in these waters at all.

Or, usually, I’ll start with an exit plan in mind. So, for instance, when I said last month that I would be giving up chocolate. With that pronouncement, I already decided in my mind that I would only stay true to this commitment so long as a) I was not given free chocolate cake, b) I got eight hours of sleep, c) I didn’t stumble upon an “easy” chocolate recipe that contained ingredients I actually had in my pantry.


I never did get eight hours of sleep, so that commitment went out the window. Of course.

It is in my nature, I realize, to give myself leeway out of open-ended commitments that I think I can’t, or, rather, don’t want, to live up to. I do this because I take my commitments and life very seriously. I do this because I’ve been conditioned to think in absolutes and certainties. Everything means something.  Every hobby must lead to a profession. Every good conversation must lead to a friendship. Every start must have a end, a good one, for me to stay motivated. This is my personality by nature. And it’s why when I don’t live up to my commitments, I feel bad and make excuses to explain, to myself, why I didn’t.

I am saying this now because it’s something that I now recognize as a problem. If you’re always looking for destinations, meaning, stated goals, and certainty, you lose sight of what it means to be alive.

wander today.

You miss the unexpected joy and sense of relief that comes when you decide in the midst of new and unfamiliar territory that you are not lost, just wandering. And usually in wandering, you’ll find a new way back to where you wanted to go anyway, or you’ll find someplace better than you thought. That’s the joy of wandering.

This year, I’ve willingly wandered, drifted into new things– new fitness classes at the gym, auditions, new writing opportunities– without an exit plan or clear exit sign in sight.

And in doing more of this, old things in my life are beginning to make more sense. Like photography.

People often ask why I “do photography.” And when I buy new camera equipment, I ask myself the same.

I want to say because one day I’ll make money from this hobby, but that’s really a lie.

I think the joy of photography has always been, without me knowing it, the wandering part. Yes, I enjoy taking pictures of my children. But more than that, it’s one of the few things in my adult life that I’ve allowed myself to grow in without a clear goal in mind for the end. The journey itself is my “why.”


This is my life tip that can be applied to new photographers or anyone else listening. Wander in the craft and good things will come.

IMG_7721Yes, knowing how to shoot in Manual matters.

Knowing what good light looks like matters. But more important than that, especially when you’re starting out and none of that stuff makes sense anyway, is this: To get better at taking pictures, you must be willing to continue on when you aren’t yet taking better pictures.


I never had a plan to continue with photography when I started out four years ago. But I kept with it, through bad pictures and a lack of motivation, because I enjoyed the process. My pictures weren’t great, but I kept going because for once, with photography, this new thing I didn’t understand, my desire to tell my story was greater than my desire to give up.

Ah, the beauty of wandering.

Have you ever started something without a clear goal in mind? What was it and how did “it” end up?

Tags: , , ,

16 Responses to “Photo Tip: Give Yourself Permission to Wander”

  1. jennifer says:

    thank you for this perfectly timed post! beautifully written.

  2. KalleyC says:

    I think I am like that and blogging. I do it without a clear goal in mind. I just like getting the words out. I have a desire to be more focused online, but that will be with a second blog. My current blog is my official online safe haven.

    • Jessica says:

      Yes! I feel the same way about my blog! I enjoy doing it just because. I have no expectations for it and, thus, feel very un-guilty when I can’t spend as much time with it. When I started, blogging was so stressful. It was stressful because I desperately wanted it to “mean” something. I wanted measure my “success” by followers or opportunities or anything really just so I could feel like I wasn’t wasting my time. There’s no joy in that, however. There’s no joy in expectations and desperation for instant meaning. This blog evolves with me now. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  3. LaShawn says:

    My blogging is like that too. I always have big dreams aspirations blah blah blha. But I just want to write, and show off my pictures. The End.

  4. Cecilia says:

    I can relate a lot to your post here. I have a habit of not following through on anything I start, like writing. I’m still blogging and actually in that regard I’ve become more disciplined and consistent, but it’s been a few years since I’ve really worked on it and tried to send pieces out for publication. I took a photography class last year and was so inspired! I bought a new lens and was passionate for a little while and then that died down…until recently. I really feel different when I am taking photos; I’m more patient and more observant…it’s like time slows down for me. It’s a good thing and I think it’s worth continuing. I’ll definitely be checking out your photography posts! I’m glad you’ve continued too – 4 years is quite dedicated!

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you, Cecilia. I think it’s awesome that you’ve taken a photography class! How exciting! I think I have, for much of my life, been very inpatient in my desires for instant gratification, instant meaning, instant success. It’s sad, really, but I am glad I am learning to be different now. As I said in my comment to Kalley, I feel more joy now. When you can just let go and wait and allow yourself to discover, to wander, then there’s so much more magic and fullness to life. I look forward to hearing more or seeing more of your photography!!!

  5. LindySez says:

    Yes, taking better pictures 🙂

  6. LindySez says:

    Actually, I understand what you are saying about the “final” game of anything. People ask me all the time why I write my blog, how do I make money from my blog. I write it because I enjoy cooking and sharing my “unique” recipes with others, and to help me remember what I made once that we really really liked. I write my blog to help me improve my photography skills, photography is a subject that has always fascinated me. I don’t ever expect to make a bunch of money or become rich and famous with it. If that happens, I’ll be blown away LOL…I do it just to do it.

    • Jessica says:

      Yes! It’s so much more fun that way. Just do what you love because you love it, and people will feel your passion and naturally things will happen for you! I feel your passion for cooking and that’s why I enjoy reading your blog! xo.

  7. Cher says:

    Honestly, I think about things the same way except that I know eventually I will come around and do it again almost as if it is some sort of cycle! (Loved the part about the chocolate! You are definitely not alone in that!!)

  8. Elle says:

    Love this Jessica. There are certain things in life that we do because we love them. When I got my cannon a few years ago as a gift at christmas I fell in love with it but it wasn’t until I ‘got’ the idea that if I only get one really good photo out of however many I shoot that’s a good thing. I used to have expectations that every time I clicked the shutter something wonderful would appear. Maybe one day it will, but for now, I totally am happy to be out there with my camera in tow clicking away.

    Now I have you in my life to read and take notes from, no doubt I’ll be doing better in certain situations that I’ve avoided cos I suck! Like taking photos of the moon, or christmas lights at night.

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you, Elle! Yes, getting over that desire for the perfect shot is really when one’s photography journey can begin. Just keep shooting. Keep paying attention to your shots and good things will come!! It will take time, but, I promise, those “good” things really will come!

  9. Hmm… I really need to think about that. I am TOTALLY a “what’s the point of this” girl. I always want to know where something is going. I suppose I need to allow myself to wander a bit…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge