The Discipline of Making Work

I’m finally back in the editing seat and working away on my documentary project Viento del Sur: Zen in Argentina. I must confess that this project has suffered long periods of little to no activity due to my various travels, relocations, and projects. I am renewing my commitment to the project by working every Tuesday, all day, in the editing room.


A glimpse at my documentary editing process.

This brings me to a familiar theme: the struggle and the discipline of making work. Few artists that I know actually earn money doing the projects that they love. Most of us scrap together a freelance lifestyle of some sort, or even work full-time to pay bills. I thought I had found the perfect solution to making art while living on the beach in Ecuador: the cost of living was so cheap, I could work five hours a week and have the rest of my time free to do what I wished. And yet even this bohemian paradise was not perfect; I found myself lacking the cultural and intellectual stimulation that I needed to be productive and inspired.

Although there are detours, in some way or another I always return to the discipline of making work. Life just seems empty without it. In many ways, making art is similar to the practice of Zen that I’m exploring in Viento del Sur. In the path of the artist and the Buddhist, a steadfast, unwavering devotion emerges. One simply makes work. One simply sits in zazen. For most of us, the outcome of these activities becomes less important the more we do them. It is a curious and wonderful thing.

Almost always I find that the more time I carve into my week for creative projects (the ones that really juice me up and feed my soul) the more productive I am in all aspects of life. The energy of making art is powerful.

To those of you who are artists, I’m curious: how do you organize your time to make work? To those of you who are not, I wonder: do you have a similar relationship to any activities in your life?

The scene I edited today is beautiful, moving, and simple. I was touched by the interviews of my friends in Argentina, and moved to tears a couple of times (as I often am doing this work). I’ll be back at it again next Tuesday, and riding this energy high through the week.

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