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The Perfect Workweek

My Dear Driven Artist and Compulsive Overworker,

I've always known that working 40 hours per week was not for me. It was always either 70 or 80, or 10/20 ish. I believe I'm really only productive when I'm working flat-out, obsessively, enjoying the rush and stimulus of expediting food for a conference of 1000s of attendees for example, or fitting in a leisurely 2 hour work period as I do in my late 30s, between caring for horses, large dogs, gardens, and packing or unpacking my things from whatever housing arrangement I have at the time. 

Now I have scientific proof that working less is better for me, and is more productive in the end. I hereby present: The Ideal Workweek, According to Science, by Simon Parkin.

ideal workweek poster.jpg

Basically, he explains that just because "we live in a culture that venerates overwork", doesn't make us more productive. In fact, a lot of the research shows that four hour stints of work is about as much as anyone, from artists to philosophers to athletes, can handle. And even that might be best broken up into one hour work segments, with 15-20 minute breaks. 

My challenge, and perhaps yours too, is that my brain has been transformed by the ADD-inducing nature of social media culture, to the point that I can't seem to concentrate on a single task for more than 20 minutes before I'm actively looking for a distraction.

Ironically, when I'm "working" on social media content and surfing the web and Facebook for marketing opportunities, I can sit there, zoned out like a zombie, for hours. But when I'm standing in front of the computer doing some actual creative work to do with one of my documentaries, it takes about 20 minutes before my brain starts to drift, and if I can harness it at that point and wrestle it back to attention, I'm still only good til around the 40 minute mark before I have to do something else. 

Why is that? Why can't I focus on the work that is most meaningful and will produce the most long-lasting feeling of satisfaction for me? At the end of a workweek, I don't look back on my social media posts and go, "wow, those were some creative pieces of work there, Tobi, well done!" OK, so I do pat myself on the back a little bit for the bloggy bits that actually take some storytelling skill. But when I think about what I've done that week in terms of "real work", it's only the time I've put in to actually putting bits of video on a timeline, or words on a page, or ideas and research in a publishable format, that I really feel a sense of accomplishment about. 

The problem perhaps is, that the sense of accomplishment comes long after I've actually done the work, not while I'm creating. I usually have a sense of un-accomplishment while I'm creating something. It feels always rough, unpleasant, not enough, not polished, unhappily unfinished. So I go away from it with the nagging sense that I have to come back, and it bugs me. Whereas social media publishing work has an immediate sense of accomplishment, a reward right at the time of posting, and I feel a little rush and sense of satisfaction that makes me want to do more. 

So instead of limiting myself to a single post, like an addict, I have to replicate that post's success, doing it in multiple groups and trying to get even more traction, chasing the dragon of more reach and interaction. But it's a high that never lasts, and I don't think about it beyond that limited period. The gain is instant, and instantly over. 

But real work... the hard, uncomfortable stuff that I have to do daily if I'm ever going to finish one of my documentaries... the grinding, hair-pulling, sweat-inducing valleys and troughs I have to push myself through to actually lay track... this kind of work can only be done in short bursts.

I take hope in the evidence that far greater artists and thinkers than I am have traditionally worked in short bursts and then taken their leisurely time to do the rest of life, and let their mighty creative minds and juices slowly recover. Here's to a better workweek, and to working with less pressure and compulsion, for all of us. 

Hang in there,

love, Me.

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Welcome

Journal: Letters to the Artist is a collection of personal writings from my journey to becoming an artist and independent female filmmaker. It's a raw, honest account of the internal and external resistance and obstacles I encounter, the heartaches and setbacks, the lessons I'm learning and the anticipated, dreamed of achievement of actually, this year, maybe getting some work done. That's my only goal. Just get the work done and let the cards fall where they may. 

So this blog is not a promotional vehicle. I'm not going to sell you my stories or ideas. Just sharing as I work to become a healthy artist with a vibrant, balanced life, one who is not martyred or obsessed with the work, but who produces art in harmony with my life.

The threads of my art and life are inextricably entwined. I've found as a documentary filmmaker that I become so caught up in my subject and what I'm learning, I become either part of the story, or the story becomes part of my life, or both. In "Between Wood and Water", I document the restoration of the oldest functioning wooden sailboat in Canada, Dorothy. I also fell in love with her shipwright, had a tumultuous relationship with him over 3 years, and am emerging on the other side with some more wisdom, a 15-foot wooden sailboat of my own called Golden Eye, and some emotional bruises I'm still healing from. In "Wild Horses" I document the journey of one of Europe's premiere natural horsewomen as she leaves her professional career to teach a bunch of orphaned and neglected boys in Brazil the secrets of the horse. Over the 7 years I've been documenting the story, I've become wedded to the family and stayed on the fazenda not just as a filmmaker, but as house momma and friend. And I've acquired two horses of my own by rescuing them from neglect and potentially death in winter 2016. 

So this Journal is not just the story of my Stories, but the Story of us as we all weave a tapestry of beauty from the many colourful threads of our lives. 

It's going to be personal, raw, unfiltered and unprofessional. You will not find tips and tricks for shooting in certain kinds of light, because honestly I have no idea how to get the sometimes magical images I come away with. Almost nothing in my shooting career is pre-planned and thought out, I just launch the boat from whatever shore I'm standing on, and we go from there. Sometimes I have partners, mostly I work alone. Most of the people I've partnered with along the way have gone their own ways for various reasons - the one main reason being is that I can be demanding, exhausting and challenging to deal with. I keep my own pace, and race against my own clock. It's part of the magic parcel. But I'm hoping one day I'll find a tribe I can work with so I don't die alone. Ha! The existential fear that I'll no doubt keep coming back to explore. 

So I don't know what this will be like. Sometimes I will write to myself, letters to my own artist. Sometimes I'll write to someone else, as if I know you and what you're going through. Sometimes I'll have advice, mostly I'll have questions. I make no promises. I simply want to make art with integrity, and to live life in a way that supports my body, mind and heart. And maybe you want to do that too so perhaps this series of letters will be a medium of communication. Feel free to comment, post your own stories and share your journey. 

My one rule is that I be real, not fake/professional/cutesy or overly smartass. Though I will allow myself to cop an attitude on occasion. I will endeavour not to use exclamation points as I feel I used up my quota in my twenties. 

This is just me. Period.

Welcome. 

 

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