Mind Your Business: Recharging Your Creative Batteries

Mark Simon recalls his "fun times" while on vacation.

The Simon family driving on vacation. Clockwise from left, Mark, Reece, Luke and Jeanne expressing their feelings about driving 3,000 miles. All photos and artwork © 2010, Mark Simon.

As artists and creatives, we sometimes need to recharge our artistic batteries with a change of our daily routines. I just returned from a two-week vacation and when I got back to the office I felt…spent. Am I the only one this happens to?

As I prepared for my vacation, I did what lots of geeks do: I loaded my laptop with demo software. I had planned to spend hour after hour in the mountains learning a new animation software. Nice thought, but I never opened the program.

Our first stop (we drove) was in Pennsylvania at my family's homestead (the farm my dad was raised on). Lots of fishing and instant hay fever. The fishing would have been the high-point if I liked fishing. My kids do, but I don't. I really, really don't.

By the time we made it to our second stop, Burlington, VT, my sinuses were in an uproar. I was coughing, sniffling and sneezing all over my family. Fun times.

While my kids fished, I sat on the dock and snoozed. That joyful feeling lasted until I awoke with second-degree sunburn. "Dad. You are really red. Really, really red." Fun times.

Then we drove into the mountains. I spent the first day just sitting in the condo with my giant box of Kleenex. Ever try to blow your nose for three days straight while nursing a major sunburn on that same nose? Fun times.

I did take the opportunity to snap a few photos and do a few sketches.

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This is where my vacation truly started. Spending time to sketch what I wanted with no deadlines or approvals. Just drawing on paper again was grand. Everything I draw in production is digital these days so the feel of the pencils and pens sliding over the slight texture of the acid-free paper was a wonderful experience.

It's amazing what a little rest will do for you. My second day in the mountains was great. Between boxes of tissues, I managed to hike, play Frisbee golf, play real golf, play tennis and watch my kids fish. Of course, I overdid it and the next day I felt like shit again. Fun times.

Now I know what you're thinking: Time alone in the mountains with my wife. Clean mountain air. No work deadlines. Time for a little naughty fun.

I'm sure that would have happened…except for my wheezing, piles of used tissue and layers of necrotic sunburned skin peeling off my face. I'm sure I was anything but a sexy stud on this vacation.

One high point of my vacation was the work calls. Yes, yes, I know. It's not much of a vacation if I'm taking work calls. Except these were great calls. I was having discussions with studios about our animated properties, B.C. and Wizard of Id.

You can have your days of lounging on the beach and drinking Mai Tais. I prefer hearing executives tell me how much they like our ideas. Really fun times.

I was able to take a little time and hit the local skateboard park. Yes, I still hit the ramps. I may not be Tony Hawk, but I do alright for a dad in his 40s. I don't fly 30 feet out of a half-pipe, but carving a great turn while you're almost vertical feels f***ing great!

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Then it was time to drive to upstate NY where we spent a few days at Johnny Hart's studio (creator of B.C. and Wizard of Id) with his family. This was my favorite part. While my kids were out fishing on the Hart's private lake, I was spending time with Mason, Johnny Hart's grandson and B.C. artist. We were sketching over each other's work and talking about their great strips.

Their studio is a cartoonists' heaven: A huge private studio within walking distance of your home. Huge windows overlooking a private lake. Signed originals by the greatest of the greats like Charles Schulz and Lynn Johnston. Photos on every wall of my favorite cartoonists golfing with the pros at the B.C. Open. Surrounded by thousands of original B.C. and Wizard of Id strips. I only left after they coerced me out by giving me some original art.

Of course, the worst part of any driving vacation is the drive back home. No, it wasn't because of my kids, they complained less than I did. It's just that I have a tiny ass and it hurts when I just sit in a truck for two straight days.

While vacations are great to recharge your creative batteries, I still think the best incentive for creativity is a deadline. Never underestimate a deadline to make sure something gets done. (Whew. Got that done just in time. What? It was due last week? Oh, crap…)

Mark Simon is an award-winning animation director/producer. His animation is online at www.FunnyToons.tv. He is also the co-founder of www.SellYourTvConceptNow.com.  He has pitched and landed more than 25 deals for his own projects. He is currently turning the hit comic strips B.C. and Wizard of Id into animated properties.

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