Islands of Serenity

Posted by Donna Rouviere Anderson December 02, 2014

Carve out our own islands of serenity.

— Dallin Oaks

The mission statement of this blog is  “Workflow, electronic flow, ink flow for the creative professional.”  Our technical director, Forrest Anderson, and I have worked as media professionals since we were 18 years old and have decades of experience working for some of the world’s leading media companies as well as smaller clients. This blog is a venue for us to share what we have learned along the way and what we are still learning every day that could help other creative professionals.

This blog concentrates on workflow because professional creative work is an on-going journey, not a destination.  It involves the continual progression of ideas from raw thoughts through the process of research, design, building and then publishing or releasing a product in some form, followed by iterations, upgrades and spinoff ideas that go through the same process of creation again.  Creative professionals are never really done with a project, as it always spawns offspring that send them through the creative process again.

As a result of living our lives on this moving escalator, us creative professionals are prone to constant vertigo. We have a well-deserved reputation for having messy desks, studios and computers filled with the detritus of the various projects we have done or are currently working on. 

Over the course of our careers, however, we have known and been mentored by many creative professionals that were the best in their fields. They have taught us that the very best don’t live like this. Instead, they craft their lives and environment as meticulously as their creative projects.

Those who are in it for the long haul keep their lives lightweight with an efficient workflow, simple work environment, balanced budgets that are the result of wise business choices and lives simplified around their life mission of pursuing their craft. They are not “have it all” types. Instead, they organize their lives around furthering their craft but also enjoying the companionship of friends, family, beautiful environments and serving the less fortunate.

They carve out personal islands of serenity amid the volatile ups and downs of professional media work.

Those personal islands include:

  • Daily time to ponder and plan their lives and craft.  Our workday begins with private time during which we review our work and write what author Julia Cameron has called morning pages – three handwritten pages in which we identify the challenges we are facing, our feelings about them, and solutions that come to us as we ponder and write. Finding Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way more than a decade ago and beginning her practice of writing morning pages has transformed the entire direction of our work and life. The practice of articulating in the linear format of written lines on a page our challenges and their solutions jump starts the creative process every day. It throws us head first into creativity before we have time to worry, because writing is in itself creative. Once we have written our morning pages, our daily to do list naturally follows and we can jump into the day with clarity and confidence. We know the nature of the challenges we face and can break them down into pieces that we can digest in an organized way. Morning pages take the multi-tasking muddle and chaos that hits us in the morning and sorts it so we know what to tackle, what to give a miss entirely and what to schedule for in the future.
  • Daily exercise that includes time to think. For us, that translates into an hour a day of walking, running and/or swimming.  Literally thousands of creative challenges from sorting out code that won’t cooperate to figuring out how to handle a difficult client have been solved during exercise.  Like morning pages, exercise works because it allows us to zoom out from our problems and look at them more broadly for a few moments while at the same time keeping us moving even when we are stumped. Solutions come as we walk on a nature trail or rack up running miles on a treadmill. 
  • Julia recommends a weekly Artist’s Date – a short period of getting out to a venue that replenishes the creative juices. This is a “filling the well” experience – a concert or play, hike in the mountains,  hour of browsing through a bookstore or any other environment that enables you to be strengthened and inspired by creativity. Not only are we replenished by our weekly Artist’s Dates, but many of our best ideas and resources come to us through artist’s dates.

These three practices are key “islands of serenity” for us. No matter how busy we are, we carve them out of our schedule.