By Trent Rentsch
Note: Trent is taking a summer break from his synthesizer series this month. Meanwhile, enjoy this “palate cleanser.”
If you’ve even only glimpsed this column over the years, you couldn’t escape the fact that there are some drums I’ve beaten skinless, some banners forever flying, blowing ragged in the wind, some soapboxes I’ll continue to mount even when forced to add a wheelchair ramp. Some are standards of common Creative sense (“It all begins with great words” comes to mind), some are pet peeves (don’t play Russian roulette with your music choices), and some are simply pleas for workplace peace (Production and Sales… can’t we all just get along?). Of all of my continuing diatribes, one stands out. It has nothing to do with production orders, voice-overs, or over-compression… in fact, all of those things seem small and meaningless by comparison. It affects everything we do, not just in our daily Creative job, but in our life. It’s the care and feeding of the Creative mind.
I keep going back to the subject because I continue to see a lot of neglect, and in these stressful, multi-tasking days we’re living in, we must take care of ourselves. Just last week I got a reminder, up-close and personal.
Someone very close to me has been struggling with depression issues for some time now, and decided that it wasn’t worth the struggle any more. The pills, which were supposed to be a treatment, became weapons of mass ingestion (if you think I’m taking this too lightly, understand that this is all still fairly fresh and I’m trying to keep it together). Had it not been for a friend who happened by her apartment, well, I try not to think about that. There was a hospital stay, including a stomach pumping, some hours on a respirator, talk of dialysis, and a genuine fear of seizure and heart damage. It was only dumb luck that kept her from the doctor’s grave predictions, and while the recovery has been amazingly quick, there are scars that will take a long time to heal, if they ever do. There is guilt all around her circle, and the lingering question of why someone so smart, beautiful and talented would decide to give up.
There are no easy answers. Cemeteries around the world are littered with the remains of gifted and Creative people who, tortured by their own demons, took the only way out they could see. It’s sad… it’s also a tremendous waste.
Am I saying that all Creatives are crazy, self-destructive types? Absolutely not… but their lifestyle can drive them to it. Long hours, inner-office battles, constant rejection of work you put a lot of yourself into… who wouldn’t go a little mad at some point?
I’m not a professional, but common sense says that if you need help, you should get it. After all, you wouldn’t walk around with a broken arm for days, months, even years at a time, would you? So how do you know if you need help? Again, I’m no expert, but if you find yourself screaming at even the smallest problems at work, if you spend your nights escaping the stress of the day in a bottle of booze and/or pills, if you cry yourself to sleep every night, or lay awake wondering how you’re going to do yourself in to end the pain, it’s a good bet that it’s time to talk to someone.
Who do you talk to? That depends. Many insurance companies have help lines that can get you in touch with the right people; some broadcast companies even offer special assistance programs to their employees. If these things aren’t available to you, there are always private counseling services — the yellow pages are full of them. There are also some public programs, through the county or state you live in, who provide services, often on a sliding scale. If you belong to a church, a member of the clergy would certainly be helpful. And probably most important of all, don’t forget the power of friends and family members. You might think that it’s too “embarrassing” to discuss with those closest to you, but that’s silly… what are friends and family for?
Of course, not everyone is in crisis mode, but that doesn’t mean we all don’t need a little brain boost from time to time. I personally find that taking a little time away from the studio and computer can make a big difference. Exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood for 20 minutes, is not only healthy, but can bring you back to the job at hand with a fresh perspective. I’m the worst person to preach about this, but it is true that eating better can be a big help too. Less junk, less caffeine, less diet soda… more fruits and veggies, more “good fats” and more water will make your body AND your mind feel better. Recreation and hobbies that have nothing to do with writing and audio production not only give your brain a chance to rest and regroup, but often refill the Creative well.
There are enough pressures in a working Creative’s life without having internal pressures building at the same time. Whether you’re barely hanging on, or just sick of those stress headaches every day, find some help. There’s plenty out there, and you’d be surprised how little work it takes to feel better. And if you’re reading this thinking I’m full of it and you don’t have a problem, that’s okay. Odds are I’ll be pounding and flag waving on this soapbox again in another 6 months or so.