Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where I Look Like I'm Doing Nothing...

Probably the only good thing that came from today was this post. Some days are like that I suppose. This one happened to occur at time when I'm waiting on several different people regarding several different projects and found myself with very little that I could take action on. It was an extremely passive day.

Which doesn't necessarily mean I was doing nothing, it's just that what I was doing isn't measurable, I can't cross it off a list. That's often a byproduct of being a writer or director. The majority of our work doesn't involve anything measurable. Yes, you have pages you can write, or storyboards you can draw and prep, but for the most part, it's an intellectual game until you actually start writing or enter into production. While the producer on my new music video has a lot to do, much of my work can't start until he starts crossing things off his list. So what do I do?

Well, to someone like my wife, or (as in the past) my parents, or anyone who doesn't understand what it is creative people do, it looks like I spend a lot of time doing nothing, or "playing" when I should be working.

They don't realize that unlike a lot of corporate, retail, restaurant jobs out there, sitting at ones desk forcing it can often backfire and get you no where. Rarely have I had an amazing idea come to me while I'm sitting at my desk trying to come up with an amazing idea. It'll come to me when I'm on my motorcycle, not trying to think about it; it comes while I'm calm and relaxed with a good cigar; it comes to me right before I fall asleep, as my mind wanders, working itself to a solution, or building a good idea into a great one.

That's hard to explain to someone who sits at a desk all day, making phones calls, checking things of a "Action-Item List" or what have you and it's an unfortunate side-effect of the job. That we, as creative types, will spend massive amounts of time looking like we're doing nothing and getting blamed for it.

And while my wife would probably say, "Got nothing to do? I've got a list of things for you," that's not how it works either. I need to carve out that time to let my mind wander, absorb, cultivate, and solve. To not let it, is, effectively, to not be working, as strange as that may sound.

And due to that, I often feel guilty about putting myself in a position to let my mind wander, for fear that I will be blamed for doing nothing. The best thing I could have done today was to grab a cigar, or go for a ride, or a walk, and just let my mind day dream. I didn't, which arguably, is why I feel like I haven't accomplished much today.

I remember I once had an argument with my parents, one I've repeated with my wife, where I tried to explain this to them. One summer, during college, I spent a couple days a week that I wasn't working, writing and producing my new screenplay. My mom would often call me and ask me to do things, which would end up interrupting my sitting at my desk, staring out the window, day dreaming and trying to solve a narrative problem with the script.

I had to tell my mom, as I later told my wife, that it may not look like I'm doing anything, but I am. And they need to treat the time that I'm writing, or working on a project, or whatever I'm doing up in that room from 9-5 as work and pretend that I am unavailable (as I would be as an normal job), that I am not even there. Because, to take that away from me, to interrupt me, or give me a list of other things to do, is only delaying that which I'm trying to do, get paid.

Sometimes days like this happen, no matter what job you have. You're in a funk and very little gets done. You gotta ride it out and find a way to enjoy it. There's no sense in destroying yourself for it. If you're having an off day, can't get it done, and are in a position to do so, leave, take a walk, call it a half day, go do something that you know you'll enjoy. Life is too short for the bullshit of not being happy in your every day life. What is the point otherwise? Nothing is a waste if you're happy doing it, no matter how trivial it may seem. So, go have that cigar, ride your bike, go swimming. As a creator (writer, director, painter, singer, musician, etc) you need these other things. You need a life to fuel your day dreams.

And sometimes, you just need a break.

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