To be a photographer, one must photograph. No amount of book learning, no checklist of seminars attended, can substitute for the simple act of making pictures. Experience is the best teacher of all. And for that, there are no guarantees that one will become an artist. Only the journey matters.
I have a special treat for you. My friend Thom Ayres is an unusually talented singer who also has a knack for finding creative gems that most people don't know about. He really outdid himself when he suggested I check out a website called ashesandsnow.org. I strongly suggest you do the same, but only when you have a good long chunk of uninterrupted time to spend exploring a website that transcends any photography website you've ever seen. When I went there, I was so enthralled that I lost track of time.
After spending time at that website, I was completely on fire for making pictures. If you have the same response, and would like to share that fire with others, I'd like to share a great resource I recently came across. Meetup.com is a website that connects people with a wide range interests. I went to photo.meetup.com, typed in my zip code and found an active group of Chicago area photographers with whom I can pursue my passion for making pictures. Don't you just love the internet?