Along with writing, another of my passions is photography.

I suppose I use the word “passion” rather loosely…it’s not as if I have ever taken a photography class, have a fancy camera, or even really know what things like f-stops are. But as I mentioned yesterday, I see beautiful things everywhere, and my first response is to want to preserve and share them…so, yeah. I’m that “photographer.”

Along with pages I like and groups I belong to online, I am part of a photography group that specifically focuses on monochrome images. I don’t contribute as regularly as some others; after all, most of them are “real” photographers, and I’m just a hobbyist.

But one day, I took an image that I liked, and thought they might enjoy too. It’s this one:

monochromatic monday

One of the members of the group, who seems to be an experienced and accomplished photographer, paid it high praise. In fact, what he said was: “a superb Fall image! I am deeply impressed with this photograph…this is the kind of abstract capture we all should strive for in our work!”

How awesome, right? “…the kind of abstract capture we all should strive for…” Believe me, I was puffed up with pride. It feels good to do well, and to be appreciated, and even held up as a positive example – especially among a group that consists of many professional photographers!

But then a funny thing happened…

I couldn’t post anymore. I’d have an image – a perfectly good landscape, something I would have been happy with before – and I’d think “This will never be good enough! How can I compete with that other photo? What will they say about this one? Will they think less of me as an artist if I post this picture?”

Seriously. I was as hamstrung by high praise as I have been in the past by criticism.

Once, I sent out a draft of a novel I had written, and revised, and tweaked, and edited, and revised again, and again, and again, until I could no longer see the story clearly. That’s when I asked for help from a few trusted readers.

It took a while to get feedback, but when I did, one comment derailed me – hard. I didn’t write again for…months. Months. Because someone I trusted had questioned not my ability, but an aspect of a story I had written.

I don’t think of myself as a “delicate flower,” but these were two circumstances where either praise or criticism completely stopped me in my tracks, keeping me from activities that I love, because of the pressure to perform, and not to fail.

It’s very real, that pressure, and it can surprise you when it wraps you in its grips at the unlikeliest of times.

I’d love to say I have the perfect advice for getting past this, working through it…but I don’t. Like so many other changes and improvements in life, the will to continue has to come from within you, and it can only happen when you’re good and ready.

I am pleased to say that I am still doing both things that I love: taking pictures, and writing. I am in that lovely, nebulous gray area where no one either loves (too strongly) or hates (too vociferously) my work, so I continue blithely, doing what I do.

I hope that when the day comes that I either peak the next mountain or plummet to the depths of the next valley, my skin will be a bit thicker, my spirit a bit more resilient, and I will be able to pick myself up, brush myself off, and continue on…not unchanged, but perhaps a bit wiser.