Here's a secret about photography that a lot of photographers do not discuss,the secret is; it is not always about photography. What I mean about this is that the best lessons are learned when you can go outside the box / realm of photographs. Such as looking to other forms of art for inspiration, thoughts, and ideas. Additionally you might want to visit museums, attend art shows, read books and magazines, be constantly curious about the world around you.
It's true you should understand how a photograph is made but you should also understand and know other forms of creative arts in addition to photography. Doing this will make you a better photographer and in general a more well rounded person. Over time you will find that your style of photography will change for the better as you dig deeper into other topics.
I have found that by studying things like botany has help me craft a better photograph and better story. By studying botany I gained a different perspective to plant life. Plants are no longer just plants. I now know where, when, and what kind of plants grow, flower, and change color depending on the conditions. Which in term has helped me know when it is perfect to shoot a photograph in a particular place.
nother great benefit to looking on the outside of photography is that you can gain a different perspective on various subjects. Being around other photographers is good but you tend to get the same opinion on various topics. But surround yourself and hang out with other artists / creatives they may share a differing opinion on a topic that you may have only seen in one way. Also when you discuss with them about your work, they will see your work in another way that you did see or that your photographer cohorts did't see. Having these types of discussions will help set you apart from others because you will be expanding your horizons. For example a lot of landscape photographers will cite Ansel Adams but not many will cite inspiration from Claude Monet, known for he's paintings of water lilies.
One thing to note is you may experience people questioning and looking you wierd. But that is perfectly okay. Remember you want to stand out among others and not just comform to what is the standard.