Stop Waiting.

In Life Is Short, Pep Talks, Rants and Sermons, VisionMongers by David69 Comments

Marshall Eagle, Kenya, 2012


Perhaps because I spend so much time with creatives I spend more time with frustrated people who feel like they were meant for something more. Perhaps if the default in this culture was to make a living in the arts, we’d be seeing plumbers that just wanted to quit their job painting so they could follow their bliss and fit pipes*. Maybe. But the fact that it’s hard to make a living in the arts, to convince the culture at large that is our creativity where true value lies and not merely our ability to use a camera and Photoshop, means we hear of more artists than accountants who are frustrated, feel they are “waiting for their real lives to begin.”

I used to tell people, along with some other sage advice, to “be patient.” Now I’m frantically trying to recall those words, silence them. If I ever said that to you, I take it back. I was wrong.

Do I think patience is a good thing? Maybe. I guess. For some things. Behind the camera it’s invaluable. But if it were just you and me having a cup of coffee by ourselves, and what we were talking about was our dreams, and not, say, whether we should be patient with our spouses, partners, or children,ย  I’d tell you I suspect it’s all bullsh*t. Patience is too passive. It waits around to see what’s going to happen.ย  It falls down and waits for someone to come by and pick it up. Poor us. It’s not zen; it’s lazy. Perseverance, on the other hand, is active. It gets knocked down and gets right back up. It doesn’t have to be brash or stupid, or even hasty, as a lack of patience often implies. But it recognizes that life doesn’t simply happen to us. We are active players.

I’m not a patient person. Few people are. That’s why we keep getting told, “be patient.” Because we aren’t. For me those words go down a little more bitterly the older I get. Perhaps because with each passing day I’ve less days to waste on waiting. I think, more often than not, you have to go out and chase down your dreams, and patience is often just laziness or procrastination disguising as virtue. Everyone I know that’s doing something amazing or living life the way they hoped to, got there by chasing it down and not taking No for an answer. They are not lucky in the conventional sense, nor am I am, strictly speaking, a lucky person. I didn’t finally get on my feet because I have a horseshoe up my arse or because I was born under a lucky sign. I am a hard-working person who, despite all my faults, kept getting up when he got knocked down, which I seem to do with alarming frequency. And eventually I must have learned something. I hope I’m still learning, because I’m certain I’ve not taken the last licking that life is going to dish out.

Why am I splitting these semantic hairs? Well, for one, it’s what I do. You should know that about me by now. For another, I think it matters, which is why I do it. At least, it matters to me. I think with words, so a change in words is also a change in thought, and that leads to a change in action. When Craft & Vision, which turns 3 next month and has now had over a quarter million downloads, began, it was accidental in the sense that I had no idea if it would work out. I’d been there before, trying ideas that seemed great at the time but which only led to disappointment, and eventually failure. To be patient would mean sitting around waiting for these things to run their course. The thing is, they would run their course with or without my patience. But whether I recovered from them and moved on would be determined only by perseverance, which was fueled mostly by this unshakable sense that doing what I love, doing what I felt I must, was a better way to spend my life than merely doing what I knew I could. Perseverance has to be chosen. I’d fall down a thousand more times for a chance at that.

So now if you asked me about “living the dream,” I’d tell you to stop being merely patient. Stop it now. These dreams don’t chase themselves, then come back and lay themselves at your feet. They come with daily put-your-ass-in-the-seat effort. They come with picking up your camera when you don’t want to, and learning your craft. They come when you shut off the TV (there he goes on about the TV again…) and read a book about business or the biography of someone that fascinates you. They come when you save your money and get thrifty to avoid debt (Oh, God, the debt sermon again!). They come when you get hungry and want it badly enough that you’ll fall down again, learn, correct course, and keep moving. They come when you’re willing to wake up early, stay up late, and, if need be, to die trying. They come when you do what you love and stop doing all the soul-killing things that suck your time and affection for life. They come when you stop waiting, and start chasing.

They come neither easily, nor quickly, nor without cost. A life that comes easily, quickly, and free or cheap, is not worth your soul’s attention or longing. Find the thing that you enjoy so much you can still find joy in it while you’re falling down, making sacrifices, and losing sleep. Chase down that thing that gives you energy, not saps you of it. And then when you fail, there’s still meaning and fire in your getting up and trying again.

Idealistic? Sure it is. But aren’t you tired of being pragmatic instead of free? My own soul is so sick of this culture of pragmatism that has people locked into their fears and their anxieties as though staying safe will guarantee them immortality. Live forever, but live in fear without ever reaching higher than the cookie jar; that doesn’t sound like a life to me, even if it were possible. There will always be reasons we think we can’t do what we long to do. Few of them, if any, are good. Amputees climb Everest. People with children travel the world. And talentless hacks make a decent living selling kitsch they call art. If they can do it, so can you. So can I. Not easily. Not cheaply. Not quickly. It might take a lifetime and cost us more than we imagined. But we can do it. It’ll be a little easier if we stop being so damn patient, if we stop waiting, get up and try, risk, fail, and repeat. Sometimes good things come to those who wait; more often they come to the stubborn ones that won’t take no for an answer and keep chasing. Keep at it. I don’t know what “it” is for you, but now’s probably not the time to “be realistic,” “get a real job,” or “lower your expectations.” Leave the settling for mediocrity for the ones that want it.


*I’d be willing to bet that there are people out there working as plumbers and pipe fitters who love their work. My point was not to put them down or suggest it’s a lesser calling, but to contrast those, generally, who work in the creative fields and those who work in trades. One seems easier to get into, and earn a living with, than the other. I could be wrong. Don’t hate me because I pick random metaphors.


  1. I think you need to work on de-randomising your metaphors. ๐Ÿ™‚ In essence you are right – there are clearly many more jobs for some talents and skills than for others, which means that historians, artists and musicians end up being not very good plumbers and accountants rather than excellent historians, artists and musicians. And yet, we all know that we need history, art and music as part of our lives…

    The thing that annoys me most is your use of the word “creative”. It is highly inapprorpiate. Many jobs/careers that are not part of the arts are highly creative. You are really talking about the arts.

  2. Well said David, as usual. You have such unusual eloquence for a photographer (and I mean that in a nice way as I am one myself). Most of us are very visual people, and that is of course as it should be, but you also have the gift of words, and you write beautifully, meaningfully and deeply. You are my favourite photography author, partly because of your great eloquence, but also because of your fabulous and important choice of topics. I was teaching a beginner’s photography course last week and at the end was rabitting on about how they should think about what they wanted to photograph in the world and not just how to do it. Got quite a few blank stares, but the message is deeply embedded in me now after reading all your books and following your blog for years.. This was one of those classic blog posts that has the hallmarks of wisdom. Thanks for taking the time to get it down on paper. Thanks for the kick up the proverbial ass!

  3. This is my favorite of your posts. I have long believed that you should do what you love. I am lucky to be blessed with two carreers that I love, one a trade(computer programmer) and photography. I would not give up either one for anything and both have given me lumps along the way. Enjoyed the blog.

  4. David, I had been following you and your blog for the past couple of years as there is so much sound advice you provide here and there is so much that you share that is no where else to be found, no bullshit, to the heart of matters, at least that is how I see it when you write posts like this. I am the administrator of a spanish website/blog and I wanted to ask you if it would be possible that you allowed me to translate some of your posts for the non-english speaking photographers of my country, obviously giving you due credit and linking back to your posts and blog? In Costa Rica we have a small photographers community that is beggining to build up and wanted to give them the perspective that is so difficult to find when you are starting up and got blinded by all the gear and non-sense that we see the most.
    I will understand if this is not possible but appreciate your consideration.

  5. So glad you wrote this – for me (and others it seems), it had good timing. That’s for the kick in the butt message.

  6. Pingback: Links for July 29 2012 - Eric D. Brown

  7. i got tired of waiting. and wanting something, but not doing it. “only you stopping you” my husband used to say to me… i stop myself less often now ๐Ÿ™‚

    you’re like a more verbose version of me some days i swear.


  8. I got up this morning, got ready and left for work, stopped for a V8 and a 5hour at the store. While sitting in traffic I got my phone and checked my email. While driving I let it download, and at the next light I began flipping through all the junk when I came across one from a stock agency I had submitted to recently. The email was a rejection letter. I thought WTF, those were some great images. When I got to work I opened up the email and read it fully, the reasoning for the rejection made it clear to me. This particular stock agency didn’t want art they want benign drivel. Not to say that my photography is all that but I have some good stuff. Anyways, after that I went to your blog and guess what, I read “Stop Waiting” and thank you for that. So I am getting up and doing my thing, and I’ll still give the stock agency images that they want, because thats the game right? So “keep on keepin’ on” David and thanks agin for your images and words they often inspire and motivate those of us that need it.

  9. Pingback: Stop Waiting. | fozbaca’s WordPress

  10. I am a daughter of 2 Alzheimer’s disease parents. I have learned this lesson all too well. My daughter who is a photographer told me I should read your post. Thank you!!!

  11. Thank you, David, for another well-timed post. How is it that you are able to anticipate the exact words I need to hear? Thanks for the inspiration and another kick in the ass!

  12. I am a professional photographer with a reasonable percentage of my work focused on humanitarian work. However, I want humanitarian photography to become 80% of my work and for that I need to knock, and keep knocking at the RIGHT doors and also knock until it opens!
    This knocking, and knowing WHICH doors to knock ON, has me knocked DOWN and on my knees, many times in one week.
    So, David, REALLY, I read this a few minutes ago, and I am more determined to persevere, than I have been in a long time! Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  13. David,

    Just got laid off (2nd time in two years) at the “day job” so many of us photographers have. I didn’t like the day job. It just provided steady income that paid the bills an allowed me to procrastinate and display my ‘patience’. Think it might be time to stop waiting, eh?

  14. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
    I am the least patient person I know, and yet in starting my photography business I have become very “patient” and much more afraid to make mistakes than ever. You’re right, it is too passive. Time to stop waiting.
    Thanks again!

  15. Well, now you’ve gone and done it Mr d!

    I’ve had a latent aspiration for many years but, other than dabbling as a teenager (I’m now several decades older), I’ve never pursued it. Recently I’ve been pondering whether to take the plunge but only a few days ago came to the conclusions that; I’m too old; I don’t have the time; I’ll never be as good as I would like, and other similar ‘reasons’.

    Your verbal ‘kick up theโ€ฆ’ has made me reconsider. I’m not too old, I can find the time and so what if I don’t reach my goal. As I’ve found with my photography, the journey alone is worthwhile.

    So, thanks David. Another soul saved ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Love your rants and this is no exception…..

    Someone gotta’ do it and you do it well and back it up with great work….

  17. Well put David! thanks for sharing!
    I believe it is quite common to have the mind trick us into thinking lethargy, or avoidance is actually patience…our resistances can be so perfectly tailored to us it is scary! (Pressfield reference…war of art). However, I also believe it is important to realize that vision always comes before technique, or before the tools are even available to create ones vision… fyi – thought always comes before form as well ๐Ÿ˜‰

    look at James Cameron and the movie Avatar, he said he envisioned the movie 15 years before he actually had the tools to create it. He could have filmed the movie in super 8… but would it have been the same? I’m not sure, but I do know that is a good example of “healthy” patience in the creative realm.

    I think “healthy” patience can be a powerful tool to the creative process. I see so many budding photographers “beat themselves up” because they cant make the type of images they want to, and I quickly tell them to be patient, but continue to photograph (in some manner) daily. I have been shooting for 15 years or so now, and I am just beginning to create the type of images I have always wanted to, as well as I feel I am just beginning to “understand photography”.

    I am very patient with myself for what I produce. Sometime a good image can take me 2 or 3 years and 9 trips to the same location to create, and I’m ok with that. Every day I am working…shooting, framing, manning the gallery, discussing art, scouting, reading painting books etc….

    I ask myself daily if I am “in the stands spectating, or in the field playing”…and if I find myself on the stands, I give myself a gentle kick in the ass and get my butt back on the field.

  18. Author

    Melissa, thanks for the kind words, but lets be careful with that word “prophet”: prophets always seem to come to an untimely, and often gruesome, demise. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Author

    qiv – No toes stepped on. I’m in total agreement with you.

  20. wow! a prophet and damn fine preacher you are, as well as an incredible artist. I’ve never posted on a blog before, but have to for this one- deep appreciation for all that you are, and how you inspire others-thank you!

  21. I did not mean to step on your toes David, just wanted to let you know that your audience is wider than those considering themselves “creatives” ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Hi David,

    Good reading. This is a subject that I’ve been debating with myself for some time. I set 2015 as the year in which I should change careers, but I believe it doesn’t depend only on hard work.

    I’ve a full time job and do my photographic work during free time. Luckily I have a few friends in the business, and one of them you know well enough. He was telling me the other day how important you were for his career to jump. Building a personal brand is not easy, even more in a world like today, where the competition is more fierce than ever. I’m not willing to give up on my dream of working full time doing what I love the most. Even if I cannot turn this passion into profession, I will die trying. Maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough, who knows…

    Thx for the words, always good to get the message from someone you admire.

  23. I started following my passion, photography, after I retired from two other professions at 65. I feel happier and younger than ever before. Thank you for invaluable inspiration.

  24. Author

    Thanks qiv,but I have this weird thing where someone tells me to stop using a word and I just use it more. I use the word “creatives” to reference the so-called Creative class. I didn’t make up the term. I know it’s flawed. But people know what I mean when I use it. And while the post is, as you pointed out, about pursuing dreams and not “becoming creative” it is to the frustrated so-called “Creatives” that I address my post.

  25. I guess I completely agree with you, but please stop using the word “creatives” — even your plumber runs into problems on a daily basis and needs to solve them creatively ๐Ÿ™‚ What you say is much more general, it is about geting self-employed, pursuing your dreams and not about “becoming creative” …

  26. a nice re-framing of your December blog on resolution vs resolve …
    and at a good time to re-inforce my personal resolve… to publish my first book… so far I have done 2 this year… but they aren’t “The Book” that I really wanted… they were the practice I needed to get the process in order, and I am now pursuing the real one…

  27. Thanks David, for the inspiring and motivating message. As I sit here at my desk job, it’s hard to imagine being brave enough to do what I really enjoy. Sometimes we all need a push :-).

  28. As always David, you have the gift of words to express what so many of us feel or are going through. Thanks for your post, have a great day, Cheers.

  29. As always, very inspiring David.
    Since leaving the corporate world last year to pursue my passion in photography, I have found myself waiting more and doing less. This is swift kick in the pants that I needed.
    Thank you for your timely post.

  30. David. Love this post so much passion in it – and it is true you can’t wait around for success to happen.

  31. As Miles Monroe said
    ‘The graveyard is the richest place on the surface of the earth because there you will see the books that were not published, ideas that were not harnessed, songs that were not sung, and drama pieces that were never acted’

    These were all brought to the graveyard by people that waited…. don’t bring any more wealth to the grave.

  32. I decided, finally, to leave my day job, but have been waffling over the timing of the departure. The indecision is rooted in fear, of course, and in loyalty (to others, not to myself – an important point). Last evening my husband said, “Don’t wait.” My best friend said, “Don’t wait.” Opportunities are beckoning all around me and I still lost a night’s sleep over whether or not to wait.

    The first thing my bleary eyes saw in my Inbox this morning? STOP WAITING.

    Okay, okay – I get it! I’m in. A decision is still just a dream until you act on it.

    Thanks, David, for the constant inspiration and this perfectly timed kick in the ass. It knocked me right off the fence.

  33. Yes. Excellent. Here you go though: I used to work as a carpenters assistant and I know that they love there work and also as I understand tend to look down on artists (artists they say is french for “@&$! sucker”) so there seems to be a misunderstanding all the way around! Words of wisdom as usual David.

  34. Also reminded of a Jack London quote “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club”. Inspiration, your dreams, anything – only we can make it happen, it’s very unlikely it’s going to land fully formed on our plate.

    Another one I love is the famous Paulo Coelho quote from the Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”. If you get started things will start to fall into place.

  35. Love this post! I was very aware (and still am) of talking the talk rather than walking the walk. Waiting absolutely felt like procrastination rather than the prudence I thought it was and as you say we don’t want patience to turn into waiting. So I think we need to stop thinking about “biding our time” and make sure we’re doing everything we can to move our plans forward each day.

    To try and stop procrastinating I’ve started using a method from Getting Results the Agile Way ( which involves identifying what your 3 key outcomes for each day (week, month, year) are. That then helps you focus your mind on what is needed to move the ball forward each day. This has really helped me to stop letting another day go-by without progress.

    So ye, stop being patient, but don’t feel you have to jump in the deep end, just make sure you’re working towards your goal a little bit each day.

    Here’s to living your dreams and not wasting another day.

  36. Great words! Very similar to my rules 1. Improvise, adapt and overcome. 2. constant push for contact.
    Never give up, always push forward to achieve your goal!

  37. Hi David,

    in my opinion two things are necessary:
    1st to be realistic and 2nd to have dreams, but I mean really true dreams. And it is important to connect these two things in a balanced way.

    In my youth I learned the bank business instead of photography, because my father said, there is no chance to get money with photography and art.
    I believed him and I launched a career as a banker with specialization in information technology and organization.
    But I always have been very unhappy.

    But now I will change my life. In the bank I learned a lot about to manage a business, financial things and generally the life. I think this will help me.
    With these skills (and also my art-skills) I’m sure to get successful. I read your book (German title is “Biete Visionen …”, translation: “offer visions …”) and you are right, not to describe living in arts as a perfect and idyllic world. To realize this is very important in the first step.

    Thank you very much for your book and your articles, which help me to have a reasonable chance of a fulfilled life.


  38. Pingback: Stop Waiting. « National-Express2011

  39. You’re right, David, it’s about time we take the bull by the horns.
    Let’s do it, guys!

  40. (Those dreams) “They come when you do what you love and stop doing all the soul-killing things that suck your time and affection for life”… This is sooo true… because by the time I finish doing those soul-killing things, I have no more energy left for the creative stuff. I’m starting to think I have to do the creative work in order to have the energy and motivation to do the “have to’s” – and then they aren’t quite so onerous. But the other way around, doing the have to’s first, is the the kiss of death. They exhaust me and steal all my energy.

    The other comment I have is that I think that people in the “trades”, who work with their hands are often quite satisfied. There’s a lot of creativity in some of those fields… Not that I know much about pipe-fitting or plumbing, but certainly, I’ve known many an artist/musician/carpenter/contractor who are doing both their kinds of work creatively and with great enthusiasm and energy.

  41. Good one, David! Ross has a Baci chocolate every evening after supper with a little homily wrapped around inside the wrapper. Last night’s was “if you haven’t found Fortune, Fortune will find you”. “Piffle!” I think he needs to find some different chocolates!

  42. I think I should get my Mother to read this… whenever I say that’s it, I have enough money now to head out and travel for 6 months she rolls her eyes at the notion that travel for the sake of it is enough. For me it is not just enough, it is everything, and I have so many friends that sit and wish their lives away in mundane jobs and look at mine and say that I am so “lucky”. Yes, I am lucky, but I also work damn hard to get closer to that airplane/boat/bus so that my dreams are always in sight. Thank you for your words of inspiration and confirmation. Without drive our dreams will remain just that – dreams!!!!!

  43. I have found that the universe just keeps making life harder and harder when you are NOT on the ‘right’ path. If you don’t listen when the tiny gentle tap on the shoulder comes, then it just keeps upping the ante until it’s a choice between your health and sanity, or changing paths. I found once I stopped doing the ‘normal/expected’ thing (ie good job etc) and dramatically changed paths, life became incredibly easy, good stuff happened and keeps on happening. My writing and photography grew, my experiences broadened and my understanding deepened, and I’ve had great adventures.

    If you are on the ‘wrong’ path, even if it is the normal expected path for adults, waiting for the right time will only make it worse!!

  44. Thanks David! I love your inspired sermons. “Sometimes good things come to those who wait; more often they come to the stubborn ones that wonโ€™t take no for an answer and keep chasing.” love it!!!

  45. Hi David,

    I also needed to hear this. Every time I read your posts/books, I get all creatively fired up. Thank you!

  46. Well, this just resonates with me because these are the words I wrote today :

    I have good intentions, really. But good intentions don’t produce results. I have gathered bundles of sticks to build a bridge that I had every intention of crossing yet still remain on the other side? I have several bridges, that I seem to never cross. It seems I know how to build them, just not how to cross them. I think sometimes the fear of not being prepared enough keeps me from crossing. But…my goals, dreams and desires are on that other side. It seems that the biggest effort isn’t in the building the bridge, but in the journey over it.

    You are so right when you say you have to chase it. I waiver in the dream state of my passions and I realize I am using the bridge as a crutch instead of a portal and that instead of flip flops what I really need are running shoes.

    I enjoy your thoughts and writing so very much as well as your books. Thanks for sharing all that you do. Kim

  47. “Sometimes good things come to those who wait; more often they come to the stubborn ones that wonโ€™t take no for an answer and keep chasing.” — Love this! I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve always believed you make your own luck. Through hard work and perseverance you create opportunities that would never come to you otherwise.

  48. Author

    Brian – First, thanks for the reply. I really wasn’t suggesting that simply by being an artist is one entitled to anything. I’m also not saying the grass is greener anywhere else. But it is what we think it is. Some are happy doing what they do on the side, some are not. Neither is better, but if we’re not happy doing anything but something else, like photography, we’re likely to have to make it happen, not wait for it.

    And I’ve nothing but appreciation for accountants. Lord knows my ability with numbers is close to delinquent… ๐Ÿ™‚

  49. I picked up a camera 4 years ago and have had a drive which will not permit ‘patience’. It’s a drive to create. To express beauty to others in the way in which I see it. To the best of my current ability. A drive to better my abilities. A drive which causes me to chase the image which will ultimately satisfy, as if that were possible ! The ‘drive’ is then in turn, fueled by the fact I no longer have a lifetime to achieve what I long to do. But I sure am going to try with all my might with the time I have !
    Thank you David for being a part of my process !

  50. Thanks David. You always write a post like this when I need to hear it most… which is actually kind of strange, but hey, whatever works. A little more fuel for the tank.

  51. Thank you so much for this. It’s a timely advice for me who has this desire to become a photographer that is started to consume me because I was ‘just being patient’.

  52. I am an accountant, rather successful as one might say, and a photographer, rather happy. Over the years I have had several artists as clients, but only one who expressed her frustration at her inability to “make a living”. She felt the world and the IRS owed her a “break” because being an artist was harder than being anything else and that art just wasn’t appreciated the way it should be.
    I own and have truly enjoyed Within The Frame and Vision & Voice. They have given me the inspiration to take my camera in hand and get out into the world, without worrying about whether my pictures are outstanding or not.
    I don’t believe the grass is greener somewhere else. I make my own happiness much more often than I cause my own discomfort.
    Thanks for your thoughts and the opportunity to respond.

  53. Pingback: Stop Waiting « Books I Read

  54. Author

    Thanks Drake. I’m a big fan of Pressfield’s War of Art. Thanks for the kind words. Don’t forget to set your alarm tonight. ๐Ÿ™‚

  55. David,

    Great words, and well timed! I was just trying to decide whether or not to get up early tomorrow to photograph my town – a project I’ve been wanting to start on for a while.

    I just read Within the Frame, and extend my respect and appreciation. It was a very motivating and thought-provoking book, and I’ll be checking out your others in the future.

    This blog post is a nice compliment to The War of Art by Pressfield, which I also read recently. You should have written his afterword…

    Cheers, and keep up the great work – and I mean the great work.

    – Drake

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