2150: The virtue of sticking it out

(This is my twelfth blog entry for my fall semester J2150 class.)

When I first started J2150, or “Fundamentals of Multimedia Journalism,” I knew I was gonna be out of my league for a little while. As much experience as I have with written forms of journalism, I’d hardly ever worked with any camera other than a simple digital point-and-shoot, and I’d never even opened, much less worked with, Photoshop or iMovie in my life.

Despite knowing I had a lot of basics to learn, I still wasn’t prepared to get to lab on the first day and feel completely overwhelmed and stressed out. Maybe it was the reading of the entire syllabus by my lab professor and realizing how much I would have to work with all of this technology and software that was so new to me, learning as I went, all while being graded for it. That’s probably what freaked me out the most – that I had no I idea what I was doing, and I was going to be graded for it.

I’ve always felt this about learning – this gap between wanting to do new and different things, allowing myself to make mistakes, learn from my mistakes, and needing to get a good grade for it. Not necessarily even feeling like I did a good job – though that’s definitely become a larger part of it. But for as long as I can remember, my enthusiasm to learn has always been accompanied by that anxiety of wanting so badly to end up with a good score. To end up with enough points to get an A. Just end up with enough points to finish the semester with an A.

But guess what – when you’ve never done something before, you’re probably going to suck at it. Especially if it involves a lot of knobs and buttons and you have no idea how to use them. Especially if the coffee shop owner agrees to be photographed but then moves around the entire time, rendering every shot unusable because you don’t know how to adjust your camera. Especially if you just learned about aperture and white balance and manual focus and you’re being expected to implement all of them in a shadowy chapel while you’re nervous just to be photographing and filming a bunch of people you just met.

But it’s the first week of December, and you did all of it. You used a Nikon for the first time and acted like you knew what you were doing. You created your first (incredibly bare-bones) NPR-style audio piece. You struggled with a heavy tripod and usually won. You surprised yourself by being pretty comfortable shooting video and feeling especially in your element when editing video. You’re excited by this new way of telling stories and that you now have the skills to do it. Sure, you’re still not entirely sure how to use most of the settings on that Nikon, and just last week you knocked over your tripod in front of the entire Mizzou wheelchair basketball team, video camera still attached. But you didn’t break anything and you didn’t fail the class. You actually did pretty well.

So many times during this semester I dreaded having to go photograph and film and work with technology, worrying that it would let me down or I would make one fatal mistake that would render all the material I collected useless. But I went anyway. I didn’t always do a great job, but sometimes it felt awesome to be doing what I was doing. Sometimes I got the hang of it. And one week away from the end of the semester and the end of this class, I feel like I’ve grown more journalistically and as a student than I have in any class I’ve taken in a long time.

That’s why we do the hard stuff. Often we hate every minute of it or we make a mistake that makes us want to melt into the floor or we feel like everyone’s looking at us knowing that we’re mostly winging it. But that moment you finally figure it out – even one tiny part of it – that’s what makes it worth doing the hard stuff.

So, what do you do next? I guess you make a list of things that seem impossible to you, and then you go do them.

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