The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
I was jealous. Sally could draw a perfect circle and I couldn’t. She always created beautifully proportionate people while I sketched a blobby figure with one arm. I tried over and over, listened to instructions, but as hard as I tried I could never draw as well as Sally could. I thought that I just wasn’t creative, so I told myself I was better at other things and carried on eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
That was fifth grade. Then, when I entered my sophomore year, I picked up a digital camera and my obsession began. On the Internet, I had seen magnificent pictures of nature, cars, and even mundane things such as pens and paper. The world changed for me as everything suddenly became beautiful in its own way. I was so fixated on creating a stunning picture that I would never stop until I got just the right shot. I wanted to capture the images that were inside my head, with every detail in place; the rust on the side of the railing, the small cracks in the cement, the sun reflecting off the yellow line down the middle of the road, and the golden light that every photographer chases. It was always a challenge, something that would never stop at a single shot. It would take tens, hundreds, and sometimes more to get the picture that was worth the much-prized thousand words.
It was a Sunday morning and I had 30 pictures due the next day. I thought, “I’ll just get the pictures out of the way; it won’t take long.” Little did I know: instead I found myself completely lost in my work. I grabbed a bowl of water, a water dropper, and my camera and attempted to recreate a water drop floating in the air, as if all gravity had vanished. Between the focus of the camera, the perfect amount of water, pressing the shutter at the precise moment with the exact lighting, there were so many variables; all it took to compromise a shot was for one to go wrong. Literally 100 pictures went by in a blur and all but a few of them were out of focus. I shot 100 more, then another hundred. It was no longer about the assignment, but about proving to myself that I actually was creative. I tried changing the type of water dropper I was using and tried switching the modes in the camera countless times. Soon, I had almost three thousand pictures, a completely full memory card. I had a vision of what I wanted the entire time: a large splash of water creating a crater in the glassy and otherwise untouched water surface, launching out three perfectly-aligned drops. I ended up getting just that. Then I checked my watch. I had become so lost in my quest for the near-perfect picture that four hours of nonstop work felt like minutes.
Looking back at grade school, I realize that I wasn’t the best at drawing — yet I had a whole other type of creativity that had never been explored. I now understand that natural gifts are just the root of a talent, and that true talent only blooms with persistence and determination. I am now aware that my fifth grade classmate wasn’t just born with talent, but actually practiced drawing that circle on every worksheet she was given, until it was near-perfect. I no longer see things as black and white, but in a million tones, in all colors. This new perspective transformed a trash can in the middle of a cityscape into an interesting story: an object I had always walked past and ignored is now part of one of my best photographs. After my early artistic disappointment, I discovered an unknown world through the viewfinder of my camera and a creative side that in truth I had always possessed. I just needed to pursue it.