Hello! Corey's wife here, just wanting to drop by and discuss the obvious requirement for anyone with any type of passion for photography: commitment.
Yes, I realize this is obvious, but I'm speaking from an outsider's perspective here. I've watched my boyfriend/turned fiancee/turned husband casually pick up a camera and start taking some pictures. They were pretty good- certainly solid efforts. But then he started taking more pictures, reading more books and web articles, spending a bit more money on equipment. He went from taking good pictures to taking really good pictures. I remember our first real vacation together to New York City, and I swear I started to get a little jealous of that sexy little Canon 40D. He seemed to enjoy carrying her around, where I hadn't had so much as a piggy back ride since the infancy of our relationship.
It hit a point where he started to doubt his ability, despite the reassurance of everyone around him. He was unsure of his next steps and didn't know if investing any more effort or money was something he could do with a clear conscience. (Protip: non-photography folk often have a mild heart attack when they intend to go and buy a lens for a birthday present."He let slip he wanted a Zeiss lens for his camera.. what a xperfect gift, I ran out of ideas! Let me just use Google and order it today.. *keyboard clicks**heart attack**stunned silence* Welp! How about a nice Fossil watch? He'd love that! Yeah... let's go with the watch...")
Thankfully, he made the decision to keep going with his craft. He's now gone to more places, gotten more exposure (pun alert), and taken more AMAZING pictures than I could have imagined. I'm not saying it's easy for him to manage everything, but the important part is that he makes the time. Because of that commitment, I have seen him grow and develop and flourish in ways I never thought possible. Not just as a photographer, but as a person.
Lately, we have implemented a routine to ensure he is able to stay commited. It took some work, I won't romanticize things. We have to communicate with each other, and trust that the communication is accurate. When I say "no, really, I'm ok with you heading out to the beach for a few hours tonight. I'll manage the kiddo", I have to mean it. If he says to me "Hey, I'm really stressed about the number of photos I have to process", I have to know that he's only saying that as a last resort and has tried his hardest to keep things from getting backlogged.
For anyone wondering just how much of a balancing act we perform at Chez Thompson, I'll clue you in: We have a spirited 2 year old who is Daddy's Number One Fan, a little guy on the way, and I'm always eager to talk his ear off after MY 40 hours in the office about all the new recipes I want to try, breweries I think we should visit, or a vacation spot that we have to go to. On top of this, he works over 40 hours a week, commutes 50 miles each way to work, likes to wrench on Mustangs with his brother, still manages to help with the housework, and is able to keep his wife madly in love with him. Add in an intense photography passion? You've got yourself a full calendar, and a very busy Corey Thompson.
Your situation probably isn't much different. You have other commitments. (Unless, of course, you're one of those people that don't have to play into the any one of the games of 'work', 'familial obligation' or'having to pay for things'. In which case, go away.) I've watched Corey agonize over his choice to invest so much of his passion in his photography- feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and good old fashioned 'not-enough-hours-in-the-day-syndrome'. But he's stuck to it and has captured some amazing pieces and dragged me along on some amazing adventures. I wouldn't have his journey any other way.
So I guess the Big, Fat, Moral Of The Story (something so important it deserves capitalization) is just to keep at it. Those around you will help you make it a priority if you explain to them how imporant it is. You'll stumble and get overwhelmed at times, but eventually you'll hit your stride and finally get the benefits. You will find an immense sense of pride and satisfaction (sometimes bordering on sublime transcendence, other times pure frustration) in what you've created. Don't be afraid to mark your calendar for processing days and shooting days; bring your camera everywhere you can, everyone else will get used to it; go a little nuts learning, and subsequently animatedly discussing, the latest LightRoom or Photoshop techniques.
Do it because you owe it to yourself. Do it because anyone around you that really cares WANTS to see that fire burning in your eyes. Do it to create something beautiful- both within yourself and within the frame of your lens.