After hours of fiddling on a mix, and in this particular case I was tweaking the equalization of a fiddle (solo violins are the worst, no offense), I finally printed it and said I'll come back to it tomorrow. My ears were tired and I could no longer judge the quality of my work. One thing I'm grateful for in technology is working "in the box." Say what you want but computers sound pretty damn good and I can press save and come back another time with no audible difference.
The point is, sometimes you just need to shut it down and come back tomorrow. People like to clock in hours but it makes creative work very difficult. How do we get inspired? How do we refresh our ears? Finding balance in this career as an audio professional has really been one of the most difficult tasks I've ever been faced with. I'm not just talking about balancing the tracks, which is of course also very important, I'm talking about the whole thing. Work-life balance meets creative energies (high and low) meets the struggle to get people through the door.
My wife and I were away for a month. She had quit her job and I desperately needed a break. Being away was nice, it was good for us and good for me. Not only did I feel refreshed emotionally, but I had successfully removed myself (if only for a short while) from the rat-race that is the music business (and I guess professional life). When you're away from it you have the perspective to stop caring who likes you or admires your work; even how much money you make. The rat-race goes on as usual, you're just not in it. You start to realize what matters and what doesn't matter. However, coming back has been a bit jarring. I'm trying to implement the things I learned while I was away but it gets tough when you're deep in it. The perspective I had in Japan (where we went) just isn't as clear. I'm trying to write things down to stay focused. Here's some of the things I'm trying to apply to my day-to-day life:
- A little bit at a time adds up
- It's OK to say no to some clients
- Give yourself a break
Point number one might be the hardest of these for me to personally implement but I think it could also be the most valuable. As a creative minded person I tend to get caught up in the work I'm doing and once my juices actually get flowing I can work for hours and not realize that time is zipping by. In order for me to accomplish the multiple goals I've set for myself (January 1st just happens to be when so many of us do this), it's probably best if I work smarter and not harder. I don't have as much time as I used to - in fact it's my most precious commodity. Therefore, setting aside more strict time guidelines is good. Instead of banging out one goal to completion, I can work on several projects over a slightly longer stretch of time and actually complete more important tasks. This is all dependent on focus and understanding that most worthwhile projects are long term anyways. There's less of a rush to the finish line than we think.
I've already found myself failing at point number two since we've returned home. Even though I know it's sometimes better for me to just say no, I find it hard to turn people down. I want people to like me and I want to please them, too. Sue me. Whatever. I'm working on it! Which brings me to point number three: I'm too hard on myself. You are, too. It's time to lighten up. If my clients were nearly as critical of me as I am nobody would hire me. People are hiring me (sometimes).
Maybe it's a bit cheesy but I'm hoping that applying these principles will help me get more done in a more meaningful way with less burnout. Wish me luck!