We just got back to New York after a month in California. We went west because November had been so awful and cold in NY and we couldn’t bear the idea of an unbroken stretch of winter reaching long over the horizon. So we borrowed a friend’s house near the beach in Venice, then moved inland to a Spanish revival house (above) on a big piece of land in Echo Park.
It was admittedly quite a luxury to flee and cross the country but it wasn’t a vacation. JJ and I spent much of each day sitting across from each other at the kitchen table, working away at our laptops, while the rain beat against the windows and the wind howled through the palm trees. It’s great to have job you can do from anywhere on earth with access to wifi!
I got a lot of fresh perspective 3,000 miles from my desk in New York. I went back to life drawing, I rebooted this blog, and we have been doing important work that promises to springboard SketchBook Skool into the future — new ideas for kourses, new people to bring aboard, and new ways of working that will make my life so much easier, more productive and pleasant. It’s so nice to be working with my love again — she’s helping us transform our processes after leaving her job in Manhattan last year.
A change of location can be a life saver. Soon after I quit my career in advertising, JJ was offered a job in LA and asked me if I would go with her for a year. I was dug deep into the granite of this island, been here since I was 12, and the idea of moving across the country to a very different, car-dependent culture was daunting. I agreed though, because I knew I’d been living in a deep rut, one that would lure me back to the advertising world in months if I didn’t do something drastic. My dreams of writing, starting a business, teaching, working for myself, would all be drowned out by one more high-paying executive job on Madison Avenue. The radical dislocation of moving West would serve to keep me focussed on my new goals.
A year later, I’d gotten a lot done. I’d written Art Before Breakfast, done a lot of public speaking, enjoyed residencies in schools around the world, launched SBS with Koosje, and gotten a decent tan. When we bade farewell to LA and drove cross-country, I’d effectively severed my ties to my old ways and was repotted back into my old soil with new vigor and vim.
This second sabbatical in LA freshened up my perspective again. LA is much more of a creative industry town than New York, what with gaggles of actresses in every restaurant, teams of screenwriters in every coffeeshop, and new museums and galleries popping up all over downtown. And my son is there, the artist I have collaborated with longest. It was great to have his perspective and share his energy close up again.
Going to any new place make you rethink every part of your day. Staying in a new house, plugging your laptop into new outlets, and eating in new restaurants (I gained 7 lbs., alas). We even went to the premiere of a Phillip Glass symphony at the Disney Hall, something we wouldn’t have dreamed of doing in NY.
We also spent time with old pals and new. Our friends in LA are pretty different from the New York ones. They invited us on morning hikes, taught us to play frisbee golf, invited us over for big dinner parties, and were generally a breath of fresh air. New Yorkers are much more intense and work focussed than people anywhere else and it’s nice for a change to talk about coyotes, camping and surfing instead of the L train, the Giants and Tr*mp Tower.
I was just reading a post called The Importance of Boring Routines to Enable Creativity which asserts that we should simplify as much of our life so we don’t get “decision fatigue”. We should eat the same things for each meal, and wear uniform clothing like schoolchildren and Steve Jobs, so we aren’t wasting time and brainpower with trivial decisions. It’s an extension of the whole Marie Kondo, Tidying Up craze, I guess.
I dunno. I think I need to have variety in my lives to feed my creativity. New problems, new stimuli spark new ideas and ways of thinking. Filling my wells and feeding my imaginations with fresh fodder is a crucial part of my jobs as a creator.
Now that I’m back in New York City, it looks different to me than it did a month ago. I compare my ‘hood with our street in Echo Park. I look at the people, the stores, the trees and the quality of the light anew for having been away from it.
When we were in LA, we decided we would try to preserve the spell of freshness once we came back East. We’d hang out with new people. We’d go to new restaurants. We’d take advantage of what New York has to offer and have new cultural experiences.
This plan is already taking effect. On Thursday we went to the Comedy Cellar to watch standup with some new pals. We just bought tickets for Gatz, the Elevator Repair Service’s word-for-wood reading and enactment of The Great Gatsby. It lasts ten hours and we’re going on Friday. On Saturday, I’m going to a portrait party with the NY chapter of the Urban Sketchers. As for the rest of the open time on my calendar, I will probably be spending it at Soul Cycle getting rid of these 7 lbs. That’s one change I can live without.