There is a tree outside the shuttle entrance at Franklin Avenue and Eastern Parkway, about a half mile from my house. Even though the whole parkway is lined in hundreds of trees, you really can’t miss this one. It’s propped up by a grossly outsized concrete pillar – easily ten feet high – as a kind of crude stake. I have no idea what its story is, but it’s mesmerizing to behold. I don’t think it’s physically possible for me to walk past it and not stop to gape. It’s so ridiculous.
Every time I walk by I wonder whose idea it was to install a concrete mold around this tree, bring in a concrete truck, strap it in with a steel belt, and call it a day. Surely there was a team of people assigned to the installation – it’s far too big for one arborist to accomplish alone. Were they from the Parks Department? A local neighborhood group? Maybe the MTA. It is right outside a subway station, after all. All the pastoral beauty of Eastern Parkway, the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden… and yet.
Welcome to the neverending Seinfeld monologue inside my head.
I think I might know a thing or two about how this tree feels, at least if it believes in awkward literary devices. Lately I’ve felt restrained by the mountains of work that come across my desk every week. I’ve accomplished loads and loads in the last few months, but it’s been all work and no play. Most every day I’ve woken up thinking about deadlines and gone to sleep dreaming about emails I just couldn’t get to that day. All my other goals and creative hopes have been (temporarily) laid aside. This has to change. I need more.
At the beginning of this year, I put together some lofty New Year’s resolutions – or I should say ‘just lofty enough to be remotely achievable if I can stop binge-watching television.’ I’ve felt a little superstitious in sharing them, but let’s just say I’m very happy with progress so far. Insanely happy. Of course ‘taking more photographs’ is up there towards the top, but so are some long-postponed goals of collaboration and creation. Things are happening, and it feels so good.
But rewind a month and a half ago to the turn of the year. I was in a dark place, a serious downswing. It took a few weeks of being creatively miserable to realize that I had the power to change. Circumstances can’t always change, but my attitude sure can. And it needed to — FAST. So I dug into my bag of tricks for some pretty simple home remedies. When I’m feeling down and in a creative slump, these two things are simple and really help elevate me:
1) Spend time with people who creatively inspire you. TALK. Talk about your dreams and frustrations. Vent, if you have to (but not too much — no one likes a perennial whiner). Ask for advice. Like-minded creative people are your spirit animals. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. Ask them about their projects. Listen to them talk about their successes or failures. Communication puts everything in perspective. And then once you’ve done all that fancy communication: MAKE CRAZY PLANS TO COLLABORATE. It’s amazing what impact a little accountability has.
2) Get off your butt and DO something. This is the simplest, but it’s often the one I struggle with the most. (see above: binge-watching television shows) For me, GOING and DOING is usually most effective when it’s done within the framework of what I know best — my neighborhood. If I’m feeling particularly angsty, taking my camera for a walk around the neighborhood where everything is familiar is medicine. I force a new perspective, I see things in a completely different way. It’s restorative. Corollaries: Crown Heights is beautiful and wandering aimlessly is totally underrated.
These two tips never fail me. I may have to repeat them a few times – as my neighbors will attest to after seeing me wander around in the cold this weekend – but eventually I find my way back to center. And now with six weeks of 2013 behind me, I can really say it and mean it: HAPPY NEW YEAR! Good things are coming. I can’t wait to share.