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Starting Small

Starting Small

Big dreams are a wonderful thing—but they risk leaving you feeling overwhelmed, too. Approach big projects carefully to avoid burning yourself out.

Have you ever had one of those moments—maybe over morning coffee, or maybe while you’re in the shower—where an idea pops into your head? It’s like a sudden overwhelming surge of inspiration. Like a dog with a bone, you keep gnawing at this idea, and it starts to balloon, growing into something bigger and bigger as you keep pursuing these thoughts. Eventually, you end up with this massive idea for a creative project, something so big that it feels earth shattering.

These moments can be so incredibly exciting. But, it’s important to recognize that big projects can be scary, too. Sometimes, no matter how much the itch to create is bugging us, we’re just not ready to launch ourselves into some enormous grand scheme.

Often, we don’t even realize how scary these huge projects are until after we’ve gotten ourselves thoroughly mired in them. Soon, you find yourself overwhelmed, drowning in details and a mountain of work that you’ve created for yourself. In some instances, this is where the project just sort of dies. There comes a time that you realize you’ve created a figurative project, the whole thing seems much too hard to manage, so you shelve it.


That’s why there is so much value in starting small. Even if you have big ideas for something major, it can be wise to approach it like a small project. Choose a chunk of this big idea and work your way through that. See where it goes, see how you feel—proceed with caution. Only allow yourself to progress to bigger and bigger things as you have the capacity to do. If, at the outset, you plot out pages upon pages of plans for a massive body of photography, you may find somewhere along the path that the work you’ve set before you ends up being more of a burden than you initially planned.

This is a tough thing to tell photographers, and it’s a tough thing to tell ourselves. Most of us have ambitions to constantly improve, to do more, to create bigger and better things if nothing else simply to further develop ourselves as well-rounded people. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this, either. We should have ambitions, the desire to improve, and to always seek to be creating something better than the things we’ve created before.

But if you tell a photographer—or any creative type—to rein it in a bit as they set out on an enormous project? Oftentimes, you’ll be met with an arched eyebrow. Start small? No, that’s not for us! Not when we’re chasing self improvement and creative development!

That’s a good attitude to have. We should be able to dream big. But again, it pays to be careful to not let the scope of the project get too big too quickly—otherwise, you may end up feeling smothered by your own creativity. There are few things worse for creatives than sitting in a mess of our own making, wondering which of the dozens of threads we’ve created to pick up and tie off.

Dream big, but start small and unfurl those big dreams in manageable chunks. Mountains aren’t moved all in one day, but one shovelful at a time.

Now go and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through your lens.

About the author

Will Moneymaker

I love making photographs and exploring my surroundings through my lens. Follow along as I share my thoughts and adventures in the art of photography.