The craftsperson learns that within the work she does there is a jewel hiding below the surface. That the thrill of the craft is to discover the jewel. And that there is only one way to discover it: to practice the craft mindlessly. To become one with the work. To polish and polish, as though with one’s heart. That there is no way to know when the jewel will show itself, but to trust with all one’s heart that one day, when it is least expected, the jewel will be there!
– Author Michael E. Gerber
Though much more eloquently penned by Gerber, I wholeheartedly agree that honing one’s craft is essential.
The world will tell you it’s crucial for growth and profit and exposure, and these things are probably true. But I think there is something more important at work here.
When you practice your craft in such a way that you become one with it, there is nothing more fulfilling, satisfying, or invigorating.
How to Develop Your Craft
My first attempts at blogging were feeble. I started back in 2011 with zero experience or direction. I had a very basic website, was blogging without focus, and was using a $100 point and shoot camera that I didn’t have the skill to use.
Though my beginnings were humble, they were the ugly and difficult groundwork for my future success.
Perhaps not everyone has to travel the long, dark, often discouraging road of learning the ropes before you can achieve what actually set out to do, but that’s how it went for me. And, honestly, I kind of love it.
Sometimes you have to be in a tough spot, utterly discouraged about your work and your skills before you gain the grit and determination to make your thing – whatever it is – actually work.
With that being said, there are five essential steps I’ve continually repeated over the last few years that have helped me develop my craft.
It’s a process of deliberately getting good at the thing I want to create. It starts with studying and really trying to understand the work I’m about to tackle. From there comes the grit of hard work and honest evaluation. Then you do it all over again.
Study work you admire. Study photography. Read blogs. Read articles. Research like an apprentice.
Before I ever started blogging or taking photographs, I studied the work of people I admired. I read blogs, I carefully studied photographs and noted what I loved about them. I tried recipes and relentlessly adapted them to my taste. And before I realized it, it became my obsession. That’s when you know you’re at a good place: When the study of your craft becomes your obsession.
Don’t let your studying be in vain. Take notes, make observations, absorb tips and advice like it’s your job. If you spend hours studying but never actually absorb anything, you’re wasting your time.
For me this looked as simple as keeping a notebook with me at all times. Every time I saw or read or ate something I loved, I wrote it down. I took notes and began thinking and meditating on those ideas. It was like school all over again, but with a topic I was genuinely infatuated with.
Learn. It’s the impetus to growth.
After learning comes practice. This looks different for every person. Maybe it’s writing three blog posts a week, taking 100 photographs a day, testing five recipes a week, getting together with a friend to practice your craft together, or taking classes to force yourself to practice. Whatever it takes, do it. And do it a lot.
I firmly believe that one of the only reasons our blog ever worked is because we kept practicing and kept showing up.
Once you’ve created something, study and analyze it. Have a friend review it, critique it, test it. Have five other friends do the same. Ask people who will be honest with you. At the same time, force yourself to be honest with your work.
When evaluating my own work I like to ask myself, “Is this phenomenal? Is this irresistible? Share-worthy? Am I excited to share this with my audience?”
If not, it’s back to the drawing board.
Although all of these steps are important, evaluation may be the most crucial for growth. If you never honestly evaluate your work you won’t improve and your hobby will never become your craft.
Once you’ve evaluated, put those critiques to good use. Was there an element of the photo that you didn’t like? Pinpoint what it was and work on it during your next photo shoot.
Did your writing come across as uninviting or vague? Figure out why and rewrite it or simply learn from your error and try to improve upon it next time.
Did your recipe flop? It happens to everyone! Get back in the kitchen and try it again. If you commit to improving your work, you absolutely will.
It goes without saying, but repeat. That is the key to developing your craft. These five steps, then repeat. Again and again.
How can you develop your craft starting right now? Please share below. I’d love to hear.