Friday, August 29, 2014

Un-clutter My Heart

My home has two kinds of clutter--the large objects that we have bought or acquired that are fantastic but have no place in an NYC apartment, and the piles of paper and assorted small objects that manage to self-generate on a fairly continuous basis. I have just about given up on the big ones. My main responsibility is keeping the small ones at bay. Which, believe me, is no small task.

Each night (or every few), I tackle a pile. The items, which range from mail to old school papers to hair ties to pieces of toys or games, are redistributed--sent back to their original owners for reorganization. The problem is, while the "original owners" may be willing to claim a hair tie or some stray Legos, the majority of the items tend to remain unclaimed, so it is up to me to decide what little treasures escape the garbage.

Easy, right? If no one wants it, just toss it. This may work well for toy parts and rubber bands, but what about last year's essay that got an A+? What about the cartoon that took hours to draw, or the paper evidence of a game that occupied my son and my sitter for hours? What about the manuals to random items and the discount flyers for the ten musicals we want to see but might never get around to? Nobody wants any of this, but if I am not the guardian of our past, present, and future, who will be? And so, the piles get chipped away, or moved to other piles, but are never quite gone--the daily self-generation makes sure of that. So the clutter remains.

Many years ago, I heard a "clutter consultant" (I think they are mostly called professional organizers now) speak about how clutter in your life could really get in the way of your getting things done. I get it--there are many things I'd rather do with my time than sift through papers and piles. The question is, where do necessity and history end and a clutter-free space begin? Would I give up items that make me smile in order to have a clear dinner table? Can I remember enough of my kids' growing up not to have props to refresh the memories?

I like smiling, and I like memories. So, while I'm sure I can get a lot better at moving through the present-related clutter, I suspect I'll be holding on to some of the stuff from the past. If I have to share my space with a first grade cartoon or a fourth grade essay, so be it. I'll clear my table, and my head, some other way.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


How many hours of how many days do we spend looking for something better? Better body, better job, better wardrobe--no matter where we are now, it seems that we always feel there's something better out there.

There's nothing wrong with self-improvement. If we go to the gym or eat healthier foods to have a better body, we win. If we take a course or read a book to know or understand our field (or another field) a little more, it can't help but make us better. "Better" is a good thing, right?

Striving to BE better is a good thing. Where we get stuck, I think, is in believing that where we're not is better than where we are--in forgetting to be grateful for what we have because we're so busy looking for something better.

Am I suggesting that we settle? Absolutely not. There are always changes that can be made and improvements that will, well, improve us, and our lives. But when we focus only on the improvements and the changes, only the "better," we risk messing up the "pretty good" that we already have, and in the long run, that doesn't make ANYTHING better.

So, go ahead--work at being better. Just don't forget that you might already have it pretty good.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

As If...Suddenly

Sometimes, you can go through things feeling as if you are all alone. As if no one can feel how you feel. As if, even if you used to have a spot where you fit, the fit isn't quite right anymore. As if your work and your words don't have the same effect as they used to. As if you can never really explain why A isn't connecting to B, and why how you are beginning isn't getting you to the right ending.

And then suddenly, you talk to a friend who understands, or a co-worker who feels what you feel. Suddenly, words that it seems as though you have said a thousand times are heard, and appreciated. Suddenly, a step you've taken actually opens the door on which you knocked. Suddenly, the joke you tell makes somebody laugh, and the words of help you offer actually help someone. Suddenly, the creative juices you couldn't get to flow are there again, as if they'd never left. Suddenly, you are seen the way you'd like to be seen.

And suddenly, it's as if the feeling of alone was just a moment in time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nothing Yet

I've been working with iNews this year. This spreadsheet-ish type program coordinates the pieces of a newscast, showing editors what video clips need to be built, showing directors and producers how the show will flow and how long written pieces and videos run, and, in general, tying together the work of many people in assorted rooms and on different floors. With iNews, I can get clip numbers and notes from producers and writers that essentially give me a roadmap for how to work, even if I am sitting in an edit room alone.

Quite often, news stories connect directly to one or more videos that exist on the major news sources. Sometimes, however, if the newscast is taking a different approach, I will see the note "nothing yet," meaning there's no matching footage. So, I move on, creating other videos for stories that already have video.

The thing about the "nothing yet" note is that it rarely stays until the broadcast. Sometimes, it is replaced with the name of a video clip--many stories just need a few hours to have video released about them--so I build it. Sometimes, I am directed to use photos--a reasonable substitute if there is no moving video. Sometimes, the story is made "on-cam"--while a picture (or video) may be worth a thousand words, a story can still be worth telling, even if the anchor is just telling it. And once in a very long while, the story is simply removed from the show.

The point is, "nothing yet" rarely means that the producer has given up on the story. It simply means that there is not a simple solution. Throughout the day, a new search or a new way of thinking usually produces results. "Nothing yet" is not an answer--it's just a temporary placeholder.

If we were to give up looking every time we couldn't easily find the "pictures" we wanted, we wouldn't have much of a story to tell most days. The best stories happen when we hang in, look at things from a different angle, and apply what we know to finding what we know might be out there. Stopping at "nothing yet" leaves us with, well, nothing. Going beyond "nothing yet" gives us the chance of creating endless new stories, often complete with pictures AND video.

It's not about living by spreadsheet, or coming up with the flashiest "pictures." It's about remembering that, in news and in life, "nothing yet" is far more than "nothing."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Re: Summer Sundays

All over the country, kids have already gone back to school. Not so here, and yet, Summer Sundays are leading us there. I can just feel it.

What distinguishes a Summer Sunday?

1. Re-turn. As I traveled home, I needed only look around a little to see that what people do on a Summer Sunday is return from where they've been. And get ready to return to their normal weekday routine.

2. Re-store. I am not so good at this one. In an ideal world, part of a Summer Sunday is restoring order in your surroundings so that you start the week with the home organization to back you up. The frequent delays in return can easily make this a challenge.

3. Re-fresh. The changing of your brain to ready it for your weekday challenges. Whether you're working or unemployed, there will DEFINITELY be weekday challenges.

4. Re-new. Hopefully, the weekend leading up to that Summer Sunday will have made you feel like a new person. Unfortunately, sometimes that means a new person who has to go back to an old life.

5. Re-peat. Perhaps your Summer Sunday is one in a whole season of Summer Sundays. Perhaps it is something you repeat just once a year. Either way, it feels as though you've been there before, but are still perfecting all your "re's."

6. Rest, relaxation, and respect. Hopefully you come out of your Summer Sunday having gotten a little of the break you've needed, and a healthy respect for both the rest and for the weekday life to which you're coming back. After all, there aren't many Summer Sundays left. You may as well make the most of them.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Making Air--And Decisions

On any given work day, I must make hundreds of choices--how to start a video, how long to make it, what parts are important, whether I will answer a phone or leave it for someone else. Some of these are important choices, some are trivial, but either way, most of them are made quickly, with not a lot of looking back involved.

You would think that with so much experience in split-second, "make air" decisions, I would have no problem making decisions in the rest of my life. The problem is, while work may involve "making air," life involves a lot of other "making"--making kids happy, but also making them good people, making things work, but also making sure I can pay the bills for the making, making the most of our days, but also making sure to leave energy for the next days, making fun foods, but making sure to eat healthy ones as well. The list could go on. The point is that while hundreds of our daily decisions can be quick and clear-cut (particularly if our jobs demand that), we are constantly called upon to make decisions that are not so clear-cut, especially in that deciding moment. "Making air" is one thing. Making the most--and best--of life is something entirely different.

Just as I like to think I learn something new on every job, I guess I learn a little more about making decisions each day. I may never have learned enough to make it easy, but I'm trying. And I'm grateful for the ones that, like a decision made to "make air," leave me able just to move on to the next.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

On Location

I used to wonder why the soaps felt it was so important to do location shoots. I mean, there were times when something in a script called for a place that simply couldn't be built in the studio, but there were also times when it seemed as though the idea of travel came first and the scripts to be shot in the faraway place came after. Either way, I always wondered if the audience really cared where it was shot, as long as it was a good story.

Today was a day when I realized the joy of locations. As I traveled out of town (not even that far), it felt as though a weight was lifted, a door was opened. Could driving happen in the city? Sure, but the scenery and the fellow drivers would be different. Could shopping happen in the city? Of course. But it wouldn't have the same rhythm or vibe. Would we eat out in the city? Maybe--just not in the same way.

Sometimes it just takes stepping out of your door or your four walls or your comfort zone to tell a different story--a more exciting story. On the soaps, I saw us create forests and beaches in the studio (I loved those "magic of television" moments). I also saw how going to a real beach or forest somehow upped the excitement for cast and crew alike.

We can't always "go on location." As in television, neither time nor budget allow for it. But taking that step out when we can afford to is worth every minute and every penny--and it keeps us, and our "audience," going once we're back inside our "studio."