I love my children, but I don’t always want them around. When I'm trying to get something done—something creative—my kids are rarely part of my solution. Every parent I know has these feelings and it has nothing to do with negative feelings towards their children.
I love my wife. After 20 years I can say this with confidence. But if I'm deep into a piece of writing, or working on a complicated photograph, or reviewing a tricky script, or blocking a complex camera shot on location, I don't necessarily want to have to have my attention fragmented. Is she smart? Does she care? Absolutely. Do I want to include her in my creative life? Very much. Does that have a practical solution? Not very frequently.
Creative work isn’t the same for everyone. It’s not even the same for each of us individually, measured day to day. Sometimes I love being right in the middle of a chaotic swirl on set, with camera crews and lighting grips and clients and talent all mixing and moving toward a common goal. I love the feeling of prepping people for a live performance, from corporate clients readying a public presentation to a cast of actors preparing for a show. But most substantial creative work happens in our heads, no matter who you are or what you do. I know that no amount of collaboration will happen if I haven’t put in the advance prep time.
Here's what I want. I want a small two-story cabin in the woods, about 100 meters behind my house. The top floor would be my writing area. It would be spare, outfitted with an ergonomic chair, well lit desk, and my computer gear. Downstairs would be a photographic studio. This would be mostly for portraits, figure studies, tabletop work, and macro-space video set-ups.
This cabin would not have a kitchen. Some might think a kitchen would be a natural addition to a dream space—how about a little microwave, at least?— but no. This would not be a place where I’d retreat like aguy looking for a man-cave to watch the game and drink beer. This would not be a place I would come to watch movies, either. I’d absolutely use the space to review my own movie work currently in production, but it wouldn’t be for relaxing after hours. This would not be a place to entertain; this would not be a place to hang out. I would have a table on the main floor so my team and I could meet in the brick-and-mortar world— not the virtual world—and discuss works in progress. In short, the cabin would be a place to work.
Oh, a person can dream! There are challenges here. There are no woods behind my house; I live in suburbia. Behind my house I find my neighbor's house, and I don't think he would like me removing his house and replacing it with a cabin, to say nothing of the woods that would need to suddenly materialize.
But here's my point. In my current reality I’m often in my wooded cabin anyway. When things are clicking, it’s usually when things are quiet, with few distractions. My family and friends know how to reach me, but when I’m hunkered down and in my most productive zone I'm separated enough from daily life so that I can get something done. I'm not separate from the lives of those whom I love most, but I'm sequestered.
My cabin in the woods may not be realistic anytime soon, but I seek it out every chance I get. And may I suggest that if you’re trying to create something substantial in your life, try to find your own cabin in the woods. Spend some time there, even if it looks like the same four walls you’re used to seeing in your office. Declare your space, define your terms, and create something real.
One more thing for the record. I love my mom and my sister, too.