On The Importance of Taking Time to Find Inspiration

As of today, Mountain Craft Productions is in post-production on five different videos, we are in pre-production on four imminent projects, and we have countless proposals floating out there that could also turn into work overnight. Anyone in the production business probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear this. Where winter months can often get pretty quiet for video producers, the summer always brings a torrent of non-stop work. And non-stop work can be pretty tiring sometimes.

I know… it’s sounding a bit obvious. Of course work can be tiring. But creative work like the work that we usually find ourselves doing is really rewarding. It’s so rewarding that we often don’t notice when we’ve been sitting with our butts glued to an office chair for ten straight hours. Or that we’ve worked a twelve hour shoot day constantly on our feet. The physical pains quickly subside and we are left with that feeling of excitement as a project starts to take its final form. In spite of all this, there is also such a thing as mental fatigue that can sneak up on us and affect our work performance and our creative processes in a more lasting way. 

I’m a big believer in the idea that creativity and invention are the result of hard work and nothing else. Essentially, all humans are creative beings. It’s one of the main things that separates us from other animals. But creativity doesn’t just happen. It is always the result of constant conscious or subconscious effort. If this sounds like an interesting idea and you’d like to explore it further, I’d highly recommend a book titled ‘How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery’ by Kevin Ashton. It’s a fun book filled with many stories that reinforce this idea. 

Luckily, when your occupation requires you to be doing creative work, then you likely find yourself to often be in environments that breed creativity. This is excellent, but eventually a certain kind of creative stagnation can set in. Everyone seems to be familiar with the idea of “writer’s block,” which is a type of creative stagnation. There is a “writer’s block” equivalent for every type of creative work, because creative work, no matter how much fun, is still work. When you reach this point, it’s time to take a break to recharge so that you can get those creative juices flowing again. 

Enter California. Ben and I took our first ever business vacation last month. We flew to Los Angeles to attend the CineGear Expo on the Paramount Studios back lot in Hollywood.

We got to see a massive amount of current and upcoming gear from every facet of filmmaking, attend seminars with ASC cinematographers, and even attend a master class with the director of photography of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 at RED Studios. Wait… you might be thinking that this sounds like work. I’ll concede that, yes, this was a business trip in the sense that we were researching things that were relevant to our business, however it was more importantly a temporary escape from all of our normal day-to-day work. While in Los Angeles, we were able to put aside our deadlines and our proposals and ideas about what clients we want to reach out to and simply focus on our craft and take a step back and put our business into perspective. And to discover some amazing food, artisanal ice cream, countless Hollywood landmarks, large record shops tempting us with all the vinyl we ever wanted, and yeah... traffic.

Of course… we did all this while staying in the most “West Virginia” Airbnb location you could possibly find in Echo Park… 

Once our three and a half days of fun in Los Angeles was concluded, we rented a car and headed north up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). We had four more days left of our trip and we made it a goal to drive all the way up to Oregon since neither of us had been there before. It was… amazing. If you haven’t driven the PCH, then I’d highly recommend it. It alone almost makes the trip to California worth it. It’s an amazing long stretch of beautiful Pacific Ocean coastline on a small two lane highway that snakes through countless beautiful locations. We stayed in more Airbnb locations along the way. Our first night was in Santa Barbara, then San Francisco, then the last two nights were in Rogue River, Oregon, where stayed for two nights in an Airstream trailer on a goat farm. Yes, you read that right. We were looking for something different and we found it, okay? Don’t judge.

Crater Lake was our destination. It was awesome:

Our last day was spent driving all the way back down to LA from Rogue River to catch our flight at LAX. That’s a 700+ mile drive.

It was a long one. But it was worth it because we found something in California that we needed: a mental break from our norm. As it happens we also came back home feeling really inspired and ready to get back to our work, feeling more assured than ever that we liked the track we were on. This kind of feeling can be quite freeing in itself because once you know exactly what your path is the only thing left to do is walk down it. So we are back now, walking that path. Having spent this time away from West Virginia just enjoying life a little bit has made me more sure than ever that sometimes the best thing you can do for your productivity and your mental clarity is to change the channel and do something different for a little while. Inevitably, the mind continues working on projects subconsciously and, yes, we found our work creeping into our conversations during our trip, but with the restrictions of our normal daily routines being taken away we were able to work in a much more satisfying and organic way and it ultimately helped us. 

To our creative friends… don’t forget to hit that reset button every now and then. In our line of work, our calendars can get very full of meetings and work and although we have some time to ourselves every day, as freelancers and business owners we never really walk away from our work long enough to get a real prolonged rest from the daily grind. And, if I am being brutally honest, sometimes West Virginia has it's own way of dragging you down. We love it here, but there's no denying that sometimes a little inspirational kick in the pants is needed. Our trip was absolutely worth it. We put our work on hold for a week but came back refreshed and hit the ground running. And now we’re as motivated as ever to continue working hard so that we can make enough money to produce a couple creative personal projects we've got stuck in our brains, and of course to afford our next trip, wherever it may be. :-)