Another year is coming to an end, and we as artists reflect on the year we’ve had in the industry and plan for what we hope to achieve in the new one. It’s arguable that as a creator, you never really take a vacation. For me, this is mostly true. Even on holidays, if not at work or writing something on my laptop, there’s still a part in the back of my mine that’s actively working on some creative project. It’s just who we are. We’ll sleep when we’re dead?
What’s good about that is that it means we’re using our life experiences to aid the creativity we put into our projects. For example; any time I meet someone new, especially when it’s someone outside of the arts community, I store them in my “character bank”. I ask questions and I listen to what they have to say, and especially how they say it. I observe their mannerisms because when I write a character who is similar, I use what I’ve obsevered to bring someone to life and not just present a three-dimensional human on a white page.
So in a way, do we really ever take breaks? Yes and no. As creative types, we strive to do just that; create. It can be very difficult to shut off the part of your brain that says “We should be writing this down” or “I wonder if that would be a good scene for me”. Even going to the movies can sometimes be less of a chance to take yourself away from your work and more of a reminder of what you’re trying to do with it through inspiration from the film you’re watching. I recently went to go see the new Seth Rogan comedy “The Night Before” with a friend over the Thanksgiving break, and although I had fun, at moments my filmmaking brain kept wandering to things like “I wonder where they shot that” or “How many hours did they spend on that take?” It’s crazy. I should just be able to watch a movie right? Well, it’s ok. Because it just means my brain is actively working even when I’m not supposed to be working.
If you take away anything from this article, let it be this: Take a break! Sometimes we feel guilty for stepping away from our projects for too long. But if we’re not out there doing new and different things, we will wear ourselves down, and our work will suffer for it. So think of anything you can that isn’t related to your work, and go out and just do it (did anyone else hear Shia Labeouf’s voice in their head just now? Ack!) But seriously, allow yourself to not feel guilty, eat a bunch of cookies, and sing some holiday songs while replacing key lyrics with dirty words. Do what reminds you of the best part of the life we’ve chosen: That we are the ones living it.
Here are some ideas for things you can do that combine taking a break over the holidays and still maintaining that creative fire:
*With family? Don’t just sit back and wait for food; create an activity. Prepare a game to play. If it’s a classic game such as Trivial Pursuit or Cards Against Humanity, add a creative edge to it such as new rules or inside family jokes included along the way.
*Learn a new skill. While a week or two may not be enough time to learn an entire new language or knit an entire outfit, you’ll start to develop new habits that will carry on into the new year and keep you wanting to learn. And this new skill can either be another skill to add to your “Special Skills” section of your resume, or just be a hobby that keeps you busy during the slow times in your career.
*Watch stupid things on the internet. Sometimes you just need to see little children being knocked down by cats to appreciate that you are not a little child being knocked down by a cat. Also, hilarious.
*Go to the movies. Like I said earlier, going to the movies can directly be related to our work, however, challenge yourself by seeing something different. There are so many classic films playing in theatres. Pick one you’ve never seen and let it blow your mind. Or go see a film that is the complete opposite of something you’d normally go see and have fun with it. If it’s absolutely terrible, you can joke about the experience. Or perhaps it’s incredible and now you have a new type or film or actor that you’re into, thus you’ve expanded your horizons as a human. Congrats.
*Give back. This one is most important. As artists of all kind, sometimes money is tight. So it’s understandable if you can’t donate a large sum or money or give to every homeless person you see on the street. But the gift of kindness is one that will always come back to you tenfold. And it’s free. Step back when you’re on the subway to let passengers off the train, hold doors open for people who could use it, donate old clothes and canned food to places holding drives, compliment someone on something; anything. Just be kind. It’s a tough world out there, but small acts of kindness make a big difference. And a kind artist, is an incredible one. Many people succeed by being mean, but like I’ve written before, that kind of success doesn’t last. (Also it creates ugly wrinkles, so karma).
So when all is said and done, another year is ending and so is another chapter in each of our journeys. Let it inspire you. Let it relax you. Enjoy the holidays, and appreciate the creative being that you are. And hopefully, you don’t still have Shia Labeouf’s voice in your head. Ho Ho here we go 2016!