Most of you know me as the perky, happy-go-lucky, eternally inspired asian kid on youtube that never sleeps. I post about the crazy places I get to visit, the ridiculously talented people I have the honour to collaborate with and the epic ideas I have running amok in my mind.

And that is real, but beneath each visit I make, each collaboration that is carefully pieced together and each video that I present to you guys are hours and hours of hard work, not just in time but in emotion… and most of the time, the payoff is small and almost intangible.

Earlier this month, I received this message from a fan I found quite interesting and is one of the reasons I thought of writing this post.

Von Wong

While I can’t answer for Joe McNally, there are a couple reasons why I try not to talk about the negative things that happen.

The first is that we are professionals, and the internet is… well, the internet. There is not a single client out there that wants to read how you completely botched a job, or how you’re emotionally strained, or that you’re been running on 12 minutes of sleep this entire week.

The second is that it’s just not fun to hear someone mope about how miserable they are. Think about that annoying friend of yours that posts a status update every 3 hours on how they’re bored, uninspired, wish they could be anywhere but where they are… you know who they are.

Finally, it is because I have chosen to be that inspiring ever-happy person. That is the persona I sell to you guys, because I am trying to sell you a dream. When you’re looking for inspiration, you want to hear the glorious, the awesome, the “it’s possible”.

But every so often, I think that Dan is right, and it’s good to talk about the hardships and challenges one goes through as a creative.

If I had to graph it out, this is what my life kinda looks like:

Lifeasacreative

These highs and lows normally can last months on end (and if I were to be perfectly honest the lows are a more consistent factor than the highs) but through it all I continuously create and share the positives, the epic, the amazing.

It’s hard to be a creative, especially one such as myself who has decided to completely break from the mould. I have no existing market to tap into, I have no clear revenue stream, I refuse to let photography become a job and I have set myself up as somewhat of an icon of inspiration to many aspiring photographers out there. This means I can’t fail! On top of that, I give myself intangible deadlines (such as coming out with a blog post and video once a week) that add onto the workload. Add onto that expectations, requests, clients… and you’ve got a pretty massive workload on your shoulders that can completely beat you down.

But truly, the hardest part about it all… is to work so hard and have people pass a judgement on you without even taking the time to know who you are. For example: http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=z1Yz2UV-yPA

I think The Oatmeal summed it up best in his “Making Things for the Web” comic. Here’s a piece of it:

Some thoughts and musings about making things for the web  The Oatmeal 2

Despite all the complexities and challenges that comes from taking the decision to pursue my passion there is a sense of purpose that cannot be felt any other way. There are those odd moments when you look back at yourself in the mirror and feel down to the core: This was what I was meant to do. There is no other way to feel that but by truly pursuing something you love.

Once you find it, I believe that you should never give it up no matter what happens. Follow your heart and you can’t go wrong. Don’t believe me? Check out this second opinion from Renee Robyn Photography.

Anyways! With all that being said, I will actually be going to VEGAS to participate in the [FRAMED] Awards as well as hope for the chance to speak at WPPI for 10 minutes about the REASON we all do photography. Dates are set for the 11th to the 17th or so at the moment right before my Workshop and Conference in London.

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  • Amazing piece. Hits spot on for me! Cannot wait to meet you at the [Framed] Awards good sir!

  • This is an awesome blog post! I totally agree with you. I love the graph– i totally relate!

  • Martin Allaire

    Amazing!

  • Dan

    I’m the Dan in the Facebook comments. Gotta hand it to Von Wong. You came up with a very eloquent response to my original post. I think as a photographer trying to make it, I understand that extreme up and down feeling that Ben describes here. What I was basically saying is, sometimes misery loves company. I have a few friends who are also trying to make it as photogs, and we share both our successes and failures with each other. In other words, it’s good to have a community. I think that was my point, though I didn’t say it too eloquently.

    What I like about Von Wong Photography is the image he sells. Yes, he’s a pro and he goes through all the same steps we go through, but he stresses a very important point: if you’re not enjoying what you do, why do it? That goes for any aspect of life, I suppose, not just photography. I’m under no illusions that every pro, as successful and happy as they may seem outwardly, have their bad days, weeks, months…

    My other life is spent as a writer, and I’m fascinated with plot. Plot means you have a hero or heroine who is presented with a challenge, and they attempt to overcome that challenge. That was my point: it seems as pros we’re expected to always be marketing, always be putting only our shiniest, happiest smiles forward to the world. It’s Facebook syndrome. I think sometimes it helps to know that there is real struggle going on, that there is real plot, and that our hero or heroine is not simply enjoying the good life, but rather overcoming the struggles.

    Anyway, great post. I hope to meet Ben Von Wong in person sometime. If you’re ever in Denver, beer’s on me.

  • Hehehe there is something like paradox in this post. You’re saying you are not always the happy smiley person you try hard to present us on the internet. And the reason is clear: negativity is bad for business and number of hits on your website. However, by “admitting” it is al just for show…doesn’t that make you future happy smiley blogposts somewhat “questionable”?. No critique, just meaning be who you are (for god sake you quite a well paid, future secure, day job in order to be what you really want to be) so why not relax make your blogpost and if you’re feeling shitty that particular moment, don’t put on an act. Would almost make you human and that counts as well 🙂

    cheers,

    Marc

    PS still regret missing your workshop in Amsterdam

  • Months of preparation are starting to pay off: This morning I mapped out the gameplan for pursuing my passion. I flicked back through the pages, postits and napkin revelations that had driven my pen to paper and reread this blog post.

    Your excellent graph now sits on my pinboard accompanied by some short-hand conviction from a fellow creative – Together they help keep me on track.

    Thanks for sharing – Nate

    • Hey Nate!! haha that’s awesome to know that you printed out my infographic!!
      Keep charging forward, and don’t forget that the journey and struggle is part of the fun !

  • Inspiring article (y)

  • Kasia Rolak

    thank you. That’s exactly how I feel about my photography work. 😉

  • Jan Eijk

    Spot on. Mr. von Wong….spot on.
    If you start thinking about photography as means of a medium to become famous or make money, youre dead in the water from the start.
    Do it because you love it with a passion and want to learn on the way.
    And if someone loves your work, its an added bonus and extra drive to continue what you love.

  • Awie Spengler

    If you got a job quit today and go to the same place tomorrow and have the most fun you can, then the money come’s easy.