As an editor, I spend endless hours watching the same scene over and over. Before long, it acquires a sheen of familiarity. Over the years I, like every editor I’ve ever met, have developed ways to trick myself into seeing the same material anew. While some are film-specific, others work at least for other visual projects and might be adapted for other creative disciplines. Even if you don’t consider your task “creative,” intentionally changing your point of view may prove useful for navigating complex projects. Some items here are practically self-evident, but a list can be handy when things get hectic. So here we go.
Option 1: Shift Your Physical Perspective
Get up and look from across the room. Turn it upside down, or use a mirror! If using a big canvas, can you shrink it small, or visa versa? Can you take your work elsewhere? I’ve recently adopted a sit/stand desk; one benefit is giving myself a quick “fresh start” boost by radically changing position right at my desk.
Option 2: Get Away Entirely
Of course, I can’t take a week’s vacation every time I need a fresh look! So I’ll take a walk, even literally just around the block, and focus on the new environment. In the Fort Hamilton hood, I took photos of flowers, holiday decorations (who knew anyone was that into Easter?!), and cats on my afternoon walks. In Soho, graffiti and puddles. A walk also gets your blood moving, warms you up, changes your breathing; all of that adds up to a different experience when you get back. Failing the walk, find a window and look out for at least one minute.
Option 3: Do Something Completely Different
So you’re working in a windowless closet on a deadline and can’t manage options 1 or 2. Instead, do something completely different, for two or three minutes, wholeheartedly. Set a timer so you can really let go. My personal favorite is drawing random patterns or flying cats. You could research hotels for your next vacay (even if that’s just a fantasy), work a crossword, meditate, whatever gets you in a totally different mindset.
Option 4: Wake Up Your Senses!
I keep a bottle of essential oil and smell it or dab some on a Kleenex to keep nearby. When working from home, I might light some incense. Wash your hands and face. Listen to a song, maybe even something fresh that you wouldn't normally listen to. Sing along (or dance) along.
Option 5: Breathe
No, really. Close the door, lower the lights, and sit down somewhere other than your work chair. Close your eyes. Set a timer for at least 3-5 minutes, and focus on your breath for a count of six in and six out.
Option 6: Invite Distraction In
So far, all these have been basically mini breaks: stopping one activity and doing another. Try the opposite: invite distraction in. It’s easy to take this one too far, but it can be useful. I periodically watch a cut from home with attention-seeking cats, construction noise, and laundry to fold, and always notice different things than in the edit room. Work in a busy coffee shop or a park for a while.
Option 7: Invite Others In
The instant another person enters the room, something changes. It’s a bit ineffable, but inarguable. Even if that person isn’t paying any attention, just the idea that they might be can have an effect on your understanding. You can also invite others in mentally, who may not be familiar with your project. They don't know it's yours; what do they think about it?
The last word here must be “mindfully.” If all I do is take walks, listen to songs, and sit in the dark, I won’t accomplish much. But when I see that I’m spinning my wheels, a strategic change helps me resume with vigor. By making a conscious decision about my interruptions, I’m in control of coming back to the problem at hand. And I might just find a new angle that gets me to a solution faster. Give it a go; add to this list, make it your own.
. . .
R.A. Fedde is a film editor, certified yoga instructor, competitive fencer, avid traveler, and is also putting the final touches on her directorial debut.