Monday Must: How to find happiness in your work and within yourself at the same time
I’m Leah – a video editor based in Toronto, specializing in music videos, editorial, and branded content (which I like to call art docs). I’m starting to break into narrative, currently editing my first long-form web series. I’m a founding member of COVEN, a group of women editors striving to amplify the feminine gaze through our work.
We’re part post house, part artist network – launched Halloween 2020 on the blue moon (obviously). I’m COVEN’s resident journalist (a title I did not give myself), because I’m always on the lookout for the perfect reference for a concept we’re working on, or to save in the Rolodex for later.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to learn from and work alongside incredible artists, whether it’s on set or in session. But I found the more I worked, the more I was losing who I was outside of my work. I realized a crucial part of what makes my art me, is me.That’s when I started making these lists. For the last couple of years, I’ve shared them on my Instagram story on the last day of the year. I view them as more reflections than resolutions, being able to see what I learned throughout the year and what lessons I’ll continue learning. Most are super personal (like how to push through self-doubt or how to compartmentalize feelings about people no longer in your life) while others are more basic (like being on time, which somehow is always on there every year…).
I try to jot down these thoughts as soon as I can in the notes app of my phone and come back to them when I have the time to process them fully or when I need to read them again. Here are a few I’ve gone back to a few (read: many) times.
“Don’t give up before it’s even happened”
Ideas don’t always translate to real life and it can be frustrating. This year especially, I’ve discovered there are limits to even the best ideas (and I hated that). I remember telling someone about how I was discouraged about a concept I was working on, and they texted me this and it stuck with me. It doesn’t matter what the task or the challenge is; no matter how daunting or impossible it may seem, the best thing to do is keep moving and keep pushing to make something the best it can be with what you have. If you give up, you’ll never see what it could be even if it’s not exactly how you pictured it. Sometimes when you make something you didn’t set out to in the first place, it ends up better. Or you pivot completely and that’s cool too. Either way, giving up is for nerds and you automatically lose that way.
Take a deep breath before saying something
These days, everyone is so accessible. We’re all waiting by our phones ready to respond, especially me. Because I’m very…prompt, it gets me in trouble because I a) maybe don’t fully process the information and answer/react in a way that would’ve been better if I took a second, or b) there’s an expectation from others that if I don’t respond in my usual 2-second response rate, it can be read as disinterest which then makes me feel guilty and anxious. Taking that extra second also allows me to either ask for clarity or process the information at face value. It seems basic, but taking that pressure off myself helps me be a better communicator.
Use the block function
As an artist, I’m a feeler. I can’t help it, but more often than I’d like, my feelings affect my motivation for the task at hand and it can feel all-consuming when my head is somewhere else. Blocking someone is a controversial but brave approach, but we’re all just living our own lives and we don’t need to check up on each other all the time. You can’t help how someone feels or sees you, and how they’ll affect you. It’s okay to take a break. so if I'm annoying you, block me. It’ll help (please don’t).
Even if you don’t think you’re ready, do it
There have been a few moments this year where I’ve been asked to do projects I neverrrrr would’ve imagined I would have the opportunity to be a part of. If you told me 4 years ago that I would be editing music videos for a living, I never would’ve believed you. But I spend a lot of time telling myself I’m not capable of doing something. And it’s like, don’t just admit defeat. If you don’t know how to do something, learn. Ask questions. Figure it out. Make it happen. What does it even mean to be *ready* anyway?
To combat this, I have a folder on my desktop called “you’re doing a good job” (I can’t take credit for this, I’m pretty sure I saw it in a tweet or something and thought it was silly, but now I swear by it). Every time someone gives me positive feedback about my work, I get a particularly nice email, someone I don’t know reaches out to me to ask a question or tell me they liked something I did, or an artist thanks me personally, I take a screenshot and throw it in that folder. Similar to this list I’m making of lessons, I’ll go back to the folder when I need to remind myself that I truly am doing a good job, even if I don’t believe it. I sometimes forget about it and it’s a nice surprise when I can go in there — almost like a treasure chest but for compliments.
COVEN is always an amazing resource because I always have a sounding board for when I need to talk things through or ask for advice or for someone to look at my cut and give me feedback. We do it for each other and it always makes my cuts better.
This list showed me that when I’m being vulnerable and honest is when I’m making the best art.
A little extra something something for you:
COVEN CAST (COVEN’s podcast, where we talk to our friends in the film world)
I’m currently working out of SORRY STUDIOS, a space run by my friends, and you should check them out too.
One of my favourite people to follow on instagram (and who I never block) is Tess Bjiere – she always posts feel-good stuff and art.
I like to listen to this playlist I made when I’m working, it’s called “working but not editing because can’t do both at the same time”.