Now, I'd be the first to admit that I do not have the key to success dangling from my keyring, unless it's that funny little padlock key I seem to have been carrying around most of my adult life. (Anyone know where the door to success is? We should talk). But blogging is about opinions, not expertise, so here is that response again, slightly updated:
It's the same as writing. A lot of people want reassurance that they are "really" writers before they commit, but in the end "a writer is a person who writes". Whether someone is a good or a bad writer is a different matter.
So, "a photographer is a person who photographs" -- that is, someone who uses a camera every day or most days, simply because they have a hunger to see what the world looks like when it has been photographed by them.
By that definition I have been a photographer since about 1985, though I've used a camera since I was about seven. It's only in the past few years, however, that anyone has paid any attention to what I do, although I did put on some solo exhibitions and showed work in open submission shows before that.
If my work is of any interest, that is not because I am an intrinsically interesting person, or a "natural" artist, but primarily because I have taken the trouble to acquaint myself with what has already been made and has been highly-rated in my chosen medium, and -- above all -- have a high level of "reflexive self-criticism". Truly creative people will have those last two traits dialled up to 11. I'm a 7, I'd guess.
That "reflexive self criticism" is the key. You have to have (or learn to have) that restless urge to improve, coupled with a truly ruthless eye for why your work is not as good as it could be.
Sustaining a high level of commitment over decades is what, eventually, makes the difference. It's like writing those first three novels that never get published. It's that famous, all-important "10,000 hours".
Not much to argue with there. Basic common sense. The only things I'd add now are these:
You have to be your own severest critic, and you have to be prepared to fail. Face it: you may be the only serious critic you ever have. It takes courage (and, dare I say, a special kind of love) to tell another person their work isn't as good as they hoped it was. It really isn't wise or fair to trust anyone's judgement other than your own. If you're running the risk of failure, let it be on your own terms.
People talk up self-belief as the key to achievement ("follow your dream!"), but self-belief is merely the ticket-price of creativity. Clearly, if you lack belief in your own ability you're wasting everyone's time. Consider the thousands of people out there craving approval, all of whom seem to be waiting for permission just to start something (in extreme cases, it seems, even starting their own life).
In the end, the only advice worth having that I've ever heard goes like this:
"Get over yourself, and get on with it! Don't let yourself off the hook -- you know you can do better than that! Otherwise, please just shut up about it. Nobody cares whether or not you make anything. Really. We don't care. David Bowie (David Bowie!) was silent for a decade and we barely noticed. But if and when you do make something, we'll make up our own minds whether we like it or not. So it had better be good. Have you seen how much good stuff there is out there? So get to work, and when you're ready get in the queue!"
Harsh advice, but solid gold. That'll be £500, please. The queue's over there. Good luck!