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Making Important Things Urgent. Right Now.
I’ve re-learned a few things this week.
That the most important things are rarely urgent.
That they don’t bang down your door and demand immediate attention the way bills, taxes, and errands do.
But it’s important to make important things urgent.
You have to do this yourself. No one will do it for you.
A few years ago, I was home for Christmas break, and I wanted to take some photos of my grandmother. But life happened. The holiday got busy, the photos got neglected, and truth be told she wasn’t really on board with the idea of having photos taken anyway, so there was nothing pushing me to make them happen.
But one afternoon I bit the bullet. I put my gear on my back and walked to her house, a quiet place that sits on a big piece of land just up the road from my childhood home. I’d ridden my pink bike along that stretch of sidewalk as a kid many times, usually returning home with a bag slung over my handlebars, a grocery sack full of fresh tomatoes or raspberries or whatever was in season in her garden.
I walked into her house and found her in the living room, sitting as she often did by the window. I took several photos of her, surrounded by a few beloved possessions – her spinning wheel, her books, her scriptures, a photo from her wedding. The images weren’t perfect, I didn’t have “the right gear” with me, and I was in a hurry.
But these images still brought tears to our eyes as we celebrated her life at her funeral this past weekend.
Even in their imperfection, even though she hadn’t liked the way her hair looked, even though I had been flustered and rushed when I took them, feeling guilty each time I pressed the shutter that I didn’t have the time to “do it right.” None of that mattered – I have the images now, and as far as I’m concerned, they are perfect. And I can guarantee you, whatever it was that I rushed off to after that photoshoot was not nearly as significant or memorable, no matter how urgent it seemed at the time. I couldn’t even tell you now what it was.
Most of all, I can’t describe to you how grateful I was this past weekend that I TOOK TIME to take these photos two years ago. It was like discovering a big fat savings account I forgot I had, one that had been sitting there gathering interest and gaining value the whole time. Or teetering on a tightrope and suddenly remembering – oh yeah, I took the time to set up a net beneath it, so everything’s going to be okay.
Pick your metaphor – I was just glad the photos were there when I craved these memories the most.
I blogged about this photoshoot shortly after it happened over on my photography blog. Here’s part of what I wrote:
We don’t have to pull out the camera every single day, or call long-lost friends every single day, or blog, or bake, or write postcards, or any other good thing every single day. The point is, rather, that we need to take time to do such things. “Take” implies that it’s intentional, you’re doing it on purpose, not just “waiting until you have the time” or seeing if life leads you around to doing it. The urgent will always crowd out the important, and unfortunately, urgent things aren’t usually scrapbookable….
Urgent stuff doesn’t care about what you’ll want in five years, it cares about NOW. Urgent things bully us into neglecting friendships, foregoing happy afternoons, not creating something that will be best enjoyed later. Urgent things convince us that because we didn’t have time to do that important thing yesterday, there’s no sense in bothering with it today, either. Meanwhile, important things wait, but eventually slip away. Some stories we only get one chance to write.
Today, I ask you:
If there’s someone in your life that you’ve been meaning to take photos of – a grandparent, an aging aunt, a dear friend, or even your spouse – please take time to do it this weekend. Yes, THIS weekend.
And I’ll even make it urgent for you: The first person to do this, blog about it, and post a link to their blog post in the comments on this post, will get a 30-min one-on-one Skype session with me. (I’ll want to hear all about it).
But I hope that even if someone “beats you to it,” you’ll recognize that the urgency is still there. Even if your world or calendar won’t crumble immediately if it doesn’t happen, it’s still there, and it’s still pressingly important. It’s up to you to make that important thing urgent. Some stories we only have a short window to write. If you can’t take the actual photos this weekend, sit down with them or call them and make an appointment you both know you will honor. Whatever it is, do it this weekend.
Hugs from my hometown (Boise, Idaho!!),
P.S. Please share this post with fellow photographers. Because we all need reminders to take pictures of our own family and document our own lives. We can’t expect clients to act like photos are critically important if we habitually neglect them ourselves. This week, let’s practice what we believe.