A Space of One’s Own, Part 1

After the Binger Lab, I felt drained. Tired of working on the same project, in the same way, with the incessant opinions of others. I needed a break and a chance to listen to my own wisdom. I needed not only private time, but more importantly private space.

So when I came back to the States I decided to rent a studio for a short creative sabbatical. I found an amazing space that used to be the basement of an old YMCA in downtown Lexington. Despite the cost, I decided to rent it, turning this obscenely large room into my own writer’s office and painting studio.

As a filmmaker, I was able to rationalize the expense and rekindled interest in art making as a skill that would prove useful in pre-visualization and preparing a lookbook for “Shelter“.

It was kind of like an office where I could pace, think, and stretch out my other projects. Where I could leave my tools out in the open, sprawled out all over the tables and floors for the next day’s work. And create an ‘assembly-line’ like atmosphere for the stuff I needed to get done and a laboratory for my curiosities.

It was a place where I could be reckless and fail.

I’ve spoken before about the importance of prototyping and quickly making our ideas into something physical, something we can touch and see. Because of this experience, I’m even more adamant that all creative types need such nooks to tinker in.

This nook is ideally a space of any size where you can turn your creative brain inside out and jot down your raw ideas and ambitions into something physical.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting you have to go rent out some grand space for your own creative endeavors. In fact, in Part 2 of this post I’ll propose how we can carve out our own creative nooks in our homes to fulfill a similar purpose. My point here is I believe we need something, anything, even a corner of a room, that takes a physical footprint in our lives if we’re serious about our ambitions.

A place that can evolve organically as a project grows and matures. Where you can plop your butt down for a little bit everyday, have your tools nearby and push your projects forward bit by bit.

If you haven’t already, I’d like you to give some serious thought about how to give your ambitions a physical space. It can be something as simple as a dedicated corkboard over your computer. Ask yourself how you can use atmospheric elements like playlists, framed art, lighting, to get yourself in the mood immediately when you sit down to work.

Ideally, this space will not only remind you of your ambitions, but also act as a ballast in those moments when you doubt yourself and your genius.

We’ll explore all of this further in Part 2. In the meantime, here are some examples of private spaces to inspire you writers and artists out there.

2011 in Review

2012 getting closer. Before I make any resolutions, let me first reminisce on this year’s accomplishments and what I’m most proud of:

  • Completed my ‘100 poems in a 100 days‘ project. This was a great teacher of the value of ‘just doing it’ and how our potential creative output is actually a lot greater than we think. And of course there were other insights along the way.
  • Blogged about my Binger Lab experience with Shelter. Those posts became a separate kind of laboratory where I could tinker with ideas I had for the script and how to direct the film.
  • Helped out as a Kickstarter Consultant with funding campaigns for two short films (‘Lunch Date‘, ‘Plato’s Reality Machine‘).  This taught me a great deal about how one can raise funds and might be useful for 2012 if I decide to kickstarter a project of my own.
  • Got back into taking pictures and drawing on a more regular basis. Even rented a studio for a few weeks to paint.
  • Abandoned Facebook and shifted over to Tumblr as my main social media site. A few months ago I found Facebook to be a distracting burden instead of a creative tool, so now I’m using Tumblr as a scrapyard of ideas, both taken from others and original ones, to use later. This shift has forced me to stay in touch with friends more directly, by email and phone.
  • Used MyLanguageExchange.com to start chatting with natives in Egyptian Arabic. This has been quite a workout, as we’re not speaking within the confines of a lesson or class, but rather talking freeform about anything and everything. But I’ve made more progress in the last three months than I have in the last five years; and I’ve reached a higher fluency than ever before. With all the recent events in Egypt we’ve had plenty to talk about.
  • Started treating regular fitness like an adventure, experimented with working outdoors and different tools like iPhone apps, running, kettlebells, etc. For the past few months I’ve been using a great little app called BodyFate. It lets you train with the equipment you have handy, and the workout comes at you in an unpredictable manner as if you’re working with a shuffled deck of exercises. My training now is goalless, it’s just about putting in the time on a regular basis and eating sensibly. Ironically, because I’ve ditched the ‘workout plans’ and fitness gurus, I’m in better shape now than ever before.
  • Bought a Kindle and started reading more often and everywhere. While a digital book can never replace a physical one, the pros do outweigh the cons. I’m able to travel with my entire library and revisit my books and highlights very quickly. It’s also easier for me to draw connections between the different books I’ve read on a particular subject or across disciplines.
  • Last but not least, I got to witness my younger brother get married. It was a beautiful, humbling experience and reminded me of what truly is important in this life.

The irony is that none of these accomplishments came out of a set of resolutions I wrote for myself at the beginning of 2011 – they were simply the result of me following my curiosity and needs as the year went by. Maybe ‘going with the flow’, and simply embracing your questions and interests, pursuing the things you want to be doing more of, is a more useful tool for realizing a resolution than the resolution itself?

I’m excited to see what I achieve with this same, goalless approach for 2012, as I get closer to my 35th birthday.

SHELTER Update – Cannes ’11

Well I’m packing for the Cannes Film Festival – very exciting.

These past few weeks I’ve been diligent about sending my script out and thankfully I’ve been able to schedule some meetings with potential producers during the festival. The Binger has also organized some masterclasses for us.

The film lineup is pretty insane this year and I’m crossing my fingers that I can get into a screening of Malick’s ‘Tree of Life‘.

I’ll also have to make time for the beach 🙂

I’ll try to give an update or two while I’m there next week – wish me luck –

Binger . . . again

I’ve been reluctant to blog about my ‘Shelter’ journey only because I didn’t think it would be useful to anyone out there. But I’ve decided in these next four months in Amsterdam to share my experience, trials and tribulations as I participate at the Binger again for their Directors Lab. I think blogging will be a great way to organize my thoughts and journey as I get closer to the production of this film.

Stay tuned!