by Andy Capp
When the answer came to me, I had to laugh. Nobody really knows how these things happen. A series of events, unrelated but for the fact that they all effect the life of one person, slowly begin to wash away that persons emotions, leaving that person empty, unable to cope with much of every day life. Worse, if that person is in a position where they're obligated to be creative (the most emotionally charged activity a human being can engage in), its impossible, like digging the Grand Canyon with a plastic spork--the tools just aren't there.
I was there, and the situation was getting desperate. I suppose it started when I left Seattle and KidStar, the job of my dreams, and returned to Sioux Falls and KELO and family. Now there's nothing wrong with Sioux Falls and KELO and family, it's just that in the eight months I had been gone, all three had changed, I had changed...and the changes were far from over.
Just as I was trying to get my Sioux Falls/KELO/family legs back, it began. Midcontinent, KELO's parent company, bought two other stations in the market and began to make plans to move them into our building. As I mentioned here last month, part of the plan was letting go two old friends of mine, one in Continuity and one in Traffic, and moving me into the Continuity Department, along with Production and some on-air duties. I wanted to grieve over the job loss of my friends. I had to scramble to learn new skills, for as anyone in Continuity knows, it's a little writing and lots of paper pushing! Thank God we've got computers to deal with that side, but of course that meant I needed to learn the software. Add to that the fact that I've always been one of those disorganized creative types.... That wasn't going to cut it any more. Welcome to another new batch of skills. Then there was the fact that I've been pretty comfortable, in control, as a producer for some time. Now I was the dolt that knew nothing, that kept making mistakes, that was making mistakes that were impacting other peoples days. I was a wet-behind-the-ears-rookie again, and I didn't like the feeling.
In the midst of it all, the unthinkable happened. KidStar died, falling victim to the money problems that take out many promising young companies. The amazing dream, the single greatest creative experience of my life, of many lives, gone. The emails began pouring in from Seattle, many more friends suddenly without jobs. Sad doesn't begin to describe it. It also meant that the voice-over work and writing I was still doing across the miles for KidStar was gone, too.
The lost revenue added stress to the other issue that had popped up. My wife and I separated and are in the process of getting a divorce.
Here's the funny part: I thought I was fine. I had left Seattle before the death. I still had a job. I was still seeing my kids almost every day, and my wife and I were trying hard to keep things civil. I even found a part-time job with a sister company of KELO's to make up the lost free-lance dollars. Yep, I was doing just fine...even though I froze every time I had to write or produce anything beyond a rip and read. I did my best to look busy in my cube and the prod room so I didn't have to talk to anyone, and old side crampers like Monty Python failed to make me even smile.
Still, I didn't notice any of this until this guy with a light bulb in his mouth and a Ben Franklin obsession gave me a wake up call. I got Doug Hall's book Jump Start Your Brain for Christmas but didn't start reading it until my first week in the new part-time gig (I answer phones and take orders--often there's time to read between calls). It's a book on increasing your creativity, but it has also become a guide to dig my way out from under that house of cards life has demolished for me the last few months.
The methods are sound. To learn them, read Doug's book. I can tell you that Doug believes in fun, being silly, playing, laughing, and that it all has a direct impact on how creative you can be. Doug has proved this by using his techniques to help companies like Disney, Pepsi, Nike, and countless others find new, innovative, successful ways of building and marketing their businesses. I'm finding that it also impacts how happy and fulfilled a person is in life. Thanks to Doug, I'm finding ways to smile again, even laugh at times, and my work shows it, so does my outlook on life in general.
I know I'm not alone here. Many stations are being bought and sold, people are losing jobs or having additional responsibilities thrown at them and have personal problems of every sort happening at the same time. Pressures are insane. There's no way a person couldn't be affected. The emotional energy that makes a person creative can be the first casualty unless those batteries are recharged with play and fun.
No matter how bad things are, life really IS funny, isn't it?