I felt the need to write this article after what can only be described as a single perfect day. The recent long weekend for the Queen’s Birthday public holiday in Victoria, Australia, was a great chance to get out of the studio and spend a few days away from email, computers and sound recording in the Victorian Alpine region. Any time spent away from work has its benefits, but when you get three days of perfect weather, in a beautiful environment, with your favourite person in the world (my wife), a simple break from work can become so much more, and I think it is something that we as creative people should allow ourselves to experience for both the benefit of our health and the benefit of our work.
There was a blog entry recently by an Australian Indy game developer; Andrew Goulding of Brawsome games.
Andrew’s point was that an essential part of being a good developer is to maintain your physical and mental health and this is very true. I think as people who generally work in a creative industry, we need to go further than that and it took a wonderful day out in the country for me to realise the value of such an experience.
Many are used to slogging away in our studios or offices, rushing around to meetings and generally working hard to meet deadlines and improve our skills. These are all necessary parts of a creative industry, but I think too many of us are guilty of using our busy lives as excuses to forget what makes us creative in the first place. Creativity is a resource, and like many resources it needs to be replenished or we risk running on habit rather than being inspired to create at our fullest potential.
Years ago my French horn teacher told me that you had to live life, experience as much as possible simply to allow yourself those experiences. Go out, he said; get drunk, fall in love, fall out of love, enjoy the sun, dance badly, dress worse. He believed that if you had never experienced heart break how could you ever convey it to others? His words stuck with me and I was fortunate enough to understand his words and place significant value on them. What I realised this past weekend while I was away in the beautiful sunshine was that I had allowed real life and work to prevent me from experiencing as much as I could.
We did a variety of things over the course of the long weekend, and it seems strange to analyse a holiday, but some of it is worth discussing. On the Saturday we had a magnificent breakfast, sitting outside in cold crisp 4 degrees Celsius. The food was great, the sun on our backs kept the chill of the air at bay and the view of the mountain from our table was fantastic. We then drove up to the mountain and went for a short hike to a lookout.
My wife and I spent three years living in Japan, we hiked up mountains almost every week in all kinds of weather and yet standing at the lookout last weekend, looking at the snow on distant peaks it was like those memories belonged to someone else. The reality of looking with my own eyes at such a wonderful view was not only inspiring in itself but it brought back fully all the inspiration of the mountains of Japan. This was much like tasting a favourite food after many years and remembering why you liked it so much and wondering why you had waited such a long time to experience it again.
The next significant activity was a decision to hire a couple of bikes and ride to the next town. Victoria has created some fantastic bike tracks along old disused rail lines. This means the tracks generally follow a fairly flat path and are away from the busy roads. The track between the two towns we were taking was just over thirty kilometres each way and wound along through a valley between mountains following a river. Yes it was as gorgeous as it sounds, even more so actually. The bike I had chosen was different to my usual bike and took a bit more effort to ride. This meant that by the time we had returned and done over sixty kilometres my legs were getting really sore, in fact my thigh muscles were in agony, but even this felt like an appropriate part of the journey. The ride itself was nice; the speed of cycling allowed us to really absorb all the surrounding countryside, but more than that we had the time to feel the temperature shift as the day progressed, we could smell the fallen autumn leaves as we rode over sections of track blanketed with their colour and the water in the river was crisp and clean, straight off the surrounding mountains.
I have purposefully tried to use colourful and evocative language in describing these events. This is how we often see experiences portrayed in the projects we might be working on, but when was the last time you allowed yourself to really experience things in such a way. The histories of many writers, poets and artists speak of their times spent in remote locations, or far away countries where they have time and solitude to write, but also where they can immerse themselves in experiences worth writing about.
I won’t go into details of the final day of our break; in some ways I may be worried that committing it to paper may lessen it, and in all honesty there was not that much that was really significant. It was, however a day so full of the simple pleasures of good food, good environment and great company that I felt myself practically delirious in my state of contentment. It left me feeling so refreshed and revitalised that not only did returning to work not bother me, but that I felt I was ready and well prepared to conquer the remainder of the year and here I think is an important detail. My time in Japan was so full of inspirational experiences that I think it was an essential part of me starting my own company. I was filled with such amazing creative thoughts that I was driven to make as many of them happen as I could. This recent weekend has refired that motivation within me.
The thing that drives us to create, that motivates us to work hard and to keep working comes from within, but I think it draws its energy from the real world. I have seen great artworks and read amazing stories and played awesome games and all these things have encouraged me, but getting out and listening to live music, climbing a real mountain, or sitting in a theatre listening to live actors has something that we can’t package on the internet and that sometimes we just need to get out and away from our work and allow the real world to reinspire us.
Stephan Schütze has been recording sounds for over twenty years. This journal logs his thoughts and experiences