Being good at something is not the same as being great. Perhaps that's the last great struggle in life. Malcolm Gladwell has talked about how you can get good at almost anything with a few years of intense study. Other will say that might be true, but it takes the rest of your life to become great at it.
The quote above is by Philip Seymore Hoffman from a long, and in my opinion, fascinating article in this week's New York Times Magazine. Most of his insights are spot on. If you haven't read the whole thing yet, you should. Here's a link, so go do that and come back. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/magazine/21hoffman-t.html?pagewanted=1
Even just striving for greatness, whether or not you ever get there, takes a lot of work. Sure there are the usual crop of phenoms and just plain lucky bastards, but in the end it involves hard work and a lot of hitting your head against a wall until you find where the doors are. And there will always be others that are better or more successful than you. I'm fine with that (most of the time), as long as I still enjoy the work I do and make progress.
As a photographer, I'm Good, but I'm not Great. There may be those among you who plainly disagree with me on this on both sides, but that's ok. I've come to the realization that there will always be a chunk of people who don't like my work no matter how good I do or don't get. That's part of being alive I guess. But I've spent a lot of time lately looking at where I am and in what direction I'm going. I know I don't want to just work for the paycheck, and I know I don't want to do the same thing over and over again. I do want to make work that lasts, and I want to feel like I've used my life well in the end.
I got a larger wide-gamut monitor last week and have been digging back through my portfolio while getting used to it. And I've found my work to be crude and painfully lacking refinement. That's ok though, I'm not flagellating myself for the fun of it, I'm just being self constructively critical. I go through cycles as my pendulum swings between "Hey, that's not half bad, I'm actually getting a hang of this" and "My God, I actually sent that image to a magazine!?" Right now, I'm on the later, but as my friend Tom said last week, it's those times when you usually have a burst of creativity. Let it come.