Living With the Work
Growing up, I was only semi-cognizant of how unusual a household environment my parents had created in our home truly was. I knew that my parents were a lot funner than other parents, and that meant friends loved visiting, and staying over. I knew my parents treated my sister and I like peers, which made for a hard lesson time after time when I encountered adults in the world who treated me, bafflingly, like a child.
My parents are creative people, and they ran a production company for 20 years. My mom wrote and produced and my father was a videographer. They might get the call for a gig at 6 pm and dad would be out of state for the night by 8 pm. When a frantic call came in, or a deadline was coming up, it was all hands on deck. Brainstorming questions and slogans, carrying cords and spare tapes around the house or to the van and helping pack them, and eventually following dad around on the job, taking down the time code of good takes, asking questions, pointing out something in the frame that was missed were fairly typical moments in my childhood. It was a rush, but mostly because as a person you want to feel useful and kids are people. I never fully noticed how much of the "craft" of making I was picking up, the real skills my parents were imbuing out of necessity (I really never got the sense that they were humoring my sister and me in including us in this process, to the contrary, our turns of phrases would be rewarded by "That's perfect!" and appear in the final product), as well as the genuine joy they found in what they did.
We also held crits in our living room every time the TV was on. Action scenes, dolly shots, lighting and cinematic moments are my dad's favorite. He'd insist on rewinding a scene, sometimes 3 or 4 times, to watch a shot again and speculate on how it was created. My mom loves to critique advertising. We watched the Super Bowl every year, but talked through the football but sat in reverent silence through the ads and halftime show. Then we'd discuss what worked and what didn't, and cheer when the ad would come on again, or unfold in pieces.
So when I first heard about artist colonies, and read accounts about what life is like in them, it was a light bulb moment. My parents are artists! I grew up in an endlessly creative environment, focused far more on ideas and conversation than habits and what time it is.
As an adult I've tried (and failed) to find a way to make creation a routine, to make a habit of spontaneity. I tend to find myself falling into the familiar patterns of doing everything for weeks and then doing nothing for as many weeks, creating by the guidelines of an invisible cycle more than by some even scheme or machine-like schedule of making. I crave discipline, control, the ability to funnel my ocean of artistic thought through a singular small faucet. I'm always attempting to tame the lion, break the wild horse, portion out and sequester the chaos into daily vitamins I can use to build a practice slowly, with total control, to ward off the frustration of too much or not enough. The closest I can get to a straight line is the subtle stepping of a line drawn on an Etch-a-Sketch, or the micro rising and falling of a jetpack propelled character in a phone game. Tap, tap, tap, tap, fall, tap, tap, fall.
How do you keep up momentum without picking up too much speed and snowballing out of control? It's something I'm still getting the hang of.