It seems like a perfect counterpoint to last month’s topic of burnout that we switch to the opposite: fun. How many times have you taken a step back to think about how much you love your job? How often do find yourself grinning uncontrollably at the absurdity of your daily work life? Hopefully it’s a frequent occurrence to be in the midst of your job and think with glee, “I can’t believe I get paid for this!” Hopefully no one takes for granted how lucky we are to do what we do for a living, to follow a passion and exude creativity at every corner.
But rather than wax poetically about the fun we have day-to-day in our work doing goofy things for the sake of sound, I decided to canvass the Twittersphere and see what people did outside of their work lives for fun and how they felt it affected their work. Interestingly most people who replied had answers heavily tied to both burnout and fun. They mentioned a diverse range of hobbies and activities which they found enjoyable but also had the healing effect of diversion from hectic work cycles.
I guess it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that people found solace and fun in audio recording/listening scenarios. Jef Aerts, sound designer, mentioned “field recording and working on [my] ever growing library of personal sounds.” And even non-audio fun took a turn to the audio in, “spending a lot of time with family and visiting places, and keeping track of those places, where, what and when to record if I visit those place[s again].”
His is a common thread for many audio people. We’re generally very passionate about our career choice and it expands into our private lives, so of course we’re going to find fun in recording and discovering new places and sounds to capture. Perhaps more surprising were the people who found physical exertion to be their primary source of extracurricular fun.
Alexandre Saba, Senior Sound Designer at Hangar 13, mentioned he found fun “in long distance running and road cycling [which] eventually led to triathlon.” Joe Marchuk, sound designer, tries “to get at least a few days a week to put in some cardio exercise of any kind. . . It keeps me energized, keeps my mood up, and helps motivate me. It’s also an amazing way to start the day. Nothing feels better than getting the day going with some fresh oxygenated blood to the body and brain!” Robbie Elias, Senior Sound Designer at 343 Industries, also found respite in exercise. “Going to the gym helps me relax for a work day, stress becomes less of an issue and the little things seem to bother me less. Especially when I exercise before work.”
Not everyone finds enjoyment in physical exertion, but beyond the workout and enjoyment, Saba pulled analogies between running and game development. He noted that a “marathon is similar to AAA development, in that you need to pace yourself for the long haul. The final stretch is often the most brutal and if you don’t have gas left in the tank you’re likely to burn out (or cramp up). That usually leads to feeling shitty about your performance/product.”
Another source of fun for people outside of audio lie in hobbies completely disassociated from sound, but even in these activities, people were able to find elements which played back into their work. Jim Fowler, Principal Composer at Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe, noted, “gardening for me, particularly growing fruit and vegetables. It’s good to do something outside after a week in a dark room and I find digging/weeding/what-have-you a great brain-switcher-offer. Direct help for work: it helps me process behind the scenes– solving problems, coming up with musical ideas etc. Also I get to eat the produce which I guess keeps me alive or at least vaguely healthy?”
What we perceive as fun can have a multitude of benefits beyond enjoyment. It can act not only as stress relief, but also as time to think about pressing issues in a more relaxed environment.
Ben Crossbones, sound designer at Gl33k’s, favorite hobby/release acts not only as a source of fun, but also a way to wind down, process the day, and leave work behind. “I have a really hard time letting the work day go. My mind usually keeps reviewing the day over and over. ‘Did I do my best creative work? Is my technical work the most efficient? Why didn’t X work as planned? etc.’ That stress needs to get out of my system if I’m going to have a good week or even a normal evening. Exorcise the demons! For me, cooking provides enough of a focus on something else that I can leave my day behind to return refreshed the next day.
“If I’m interested in being creative in the evening with sound or music and I’m still stress blocked, it makes fun, personal art time a fucking drag. By preparing a meal, I’m also accomplishing something. If I had a rotten day, I still have to complete dinner. I can’t mark crawfish etouffee as WNF or re-assign, blocked by lack of green onion garnish. It’s kind of like the idea behind making your bed first thing in the morning…but I don’t do that.”
Crossbones even notes how perfecting the art of smoking meat led him to better work practices, “The major advantage of this is checking on my heat and smoke every 30 to 45 minutes. I can get a great burst of work then take a short break and have some water (cause it’s hot, y’all). Side note: gotta remember to take breaks and drink water if you’re sitting all day. If I need to talk with a colleague, I can schedule that time when I’m outside adding small logs or soaked wood chips. Low and slow. Loooow and sloooow.”
Besides working out, Robbie Elias, also finds fun in another art form: photography. Similar to the others, he easily draws analogies between this hobby and his work. “Photography and timelapses help me adjust my mindset when Field Recording. By using different gear and adjusting to their limitations I start to feel more confident in the field when stuff goes wrong gear wise. It also allows me to see that it is not uncommon for folks to travel to extreme places at extreme times to capture a photo or timelapse. It is inspirational in a way and makes it easier for me to justify getting out more to record sounds.”
A final benefit Elias notes from these hobbies is that they, “help me relate better to non audio folks at the studio I work at. We share common interests so it is easier to approach people and discuss issues that might be affecting my ability to put a sound on something.”
People in the audio industry are a diverse lot, with a diverse set of hobbies, diversions and tricks to keep themselves entertained outside of work, refresh themselves from the stresses of their jobs, and also find new techniques for improvement at work via their quest for fun. And how about you? What do you do for fun and how do you find it helps you both in life and in work?