About a year ago I was thinking about getting out of the creative world all together. I’ve worked as a creative all of my adult life. After graduating from college in 1986 with a B.A. in Psychology, I became a production potter for the next 13 years (yeah, I know, go figure). I got my first taste of the digital world towards the end of that career by designing the first web site for the company I worked for. That lead to freelance work and later, two different corporate web designer positions. After I, and about 4 others were “restructured” out of a job, I became unemployed for about 6 months until I got my first job in video production. All of that was fine and dandy and filled with life’s trials and tribulations that I handled pretty well. Then I went through a divorce.
Divorce sucks no matter what, but I felt that the up and down, in and out, back and forth on the roads I had traveled in life prepared me for dealing with it. It did…except for one area…creativity.
I held it together at my job. I made it to work without fail. I didn’t let life’s unpleasantries stop me from getting the job done. I put my emotional SUV in 4 wheel drive and plowed on through the snow storms of life. Heck, for over a year during that time I even had a second job. What I didn’t see slipping away while I was being the manly strong man that I am, was my creative energy. It was being sucked out slowly but surely. It was like a slow leak in one of the tires of my emotional SUV that went unnoticed until I found myself stuck in a snowbank, face to face with the part of me that to tells me I suck at anything I ever try. The nasty part of it was how it manifested itself. I found myself in an argument yelling at my boss that “THIS JOB IS JUST A JOB! I COME IN EVERY DAY, PUT MY TIME IN, AND THEN IM DONE!”
As I was yelling, time and space slowed down. I felt I could actually see the words coming out of my mouth…things got quiet even though I was yelling…I wanted to grab those words as they were coming out, and pulling them back in. I wanted to hit command Z, command Z, command Z, over and over to undo the dialogue I had just uttered. I knew what I was saying was not true. I loved my job, I loved what I do for a living, how could these words be coming out of my mouth?!!!
I should have been fired. In all honesty, I think I was hoping I would be. But through God’s grace and my employer’s tolerance, I wasn’t.
I later spoke with a friend of mine who is a film producer and media wrangler in the library/media department at William and Mary. He told me that “creativity takes energy and if your energy is being drained emotionally, there’s none left for creativity.” He’s right.
Nothing changed dramatically after that until a year later, in 2012 when the Salem Fair opened up as it does every year during the first two weeks of July. I love fairs, always have ever since I was a kid. I become a kid again when I go there to this day. I usually take a camera and shoot. I’ll go by myself after I’ve taken my kids and just enjoy the sights and sounds. It’s a universal crossroads where people of all types, ages, ethnicities, creeds, and religions converge to be thrilled, get away from the mundane, eat stuff that you wouldn’t eat any other time. It’s magical.
This time when I went I truly felt mesmerized, almost stoned, and I shot more footage of my own that day than I had in a long time. I felt connected. I was there, I was in the moment, spontaneously shooting stuff as it happened in front of me. I was oblivious to all the pressures from the outside world. I was in my own little world of the viewfinder of a camera.
I left that night and eagerly ingested the footage into my edit suite and looked at it looking for the stuff I though was so cool while I was shooting it. It was there! I liked what I saw! I wanted to make it even better, the thing an editor does when he sees footage that looks good and needs no correction, just some massaging of chroma and luma to bring out emotion. I was motivated and excited to make something out of this random footage. That was a turning point.
Soon after that a friend approached me about making a video for his new business he was launching. It turned out pretty good. I started this blog. Things got better at my job and I was given full creative reign over some projects. A “perfect storm” of events and awakenings happened that resulted in my decision to start my own business.
During that time I vowed that I would never go back to that place of creative death. I will do whatever it takes to keep moving forward, learning new stuff, being inspired, meeting new people, leaving my comfort zone and taking risks. Lost dreams do awaken and new possibilities do arise. Life isn’t always fair, but there is beauty, grace, goodwill, and love all around us…I rediscovered it at the 2012 Salem Fair.
Dave Perry is an award winning Roanoke Virginia digital film producer.