Friday, May 6, 2011

Vapor Lock


You used the term "vapor lock" the other day. What exactly does that mean?

Well, it's actually a term that applies to gasoline engines. I'm not a mechanic so I can't really explain the principles behind it, but it makes your car stall and hard to start.

As far as creativity goes, same deal. It makes you stall and hard to get started.

In a perfect world with a nice News Director, a great photog and time to do your story, your muse should be happily skipping through a flowery field while the sun shines brightly. When you have no outside stress, you do your best work as you are totally focused on the task at hand.

But when your mind is occupied with something else, your muse checks out of the hotel and leaves you to your own designs, which generally results in a "by the book" story that doesn't include your "voice." You revert back to the basic principles you learned in school; correct grammar without conversational language, uninspired editing, and ordinary package construction. Half the time when you're in vapor lock you can't even think of a standup.

Your mind might be distracted by tension in the newsroom, a ND on your back, problems at home, a bad relationship, the fact that you haven't had a date in months, money problems, etc. Hard to keep the personal stuff out of your head, especially if you get into those "life discussions" with a photog, as so often happens in a news car. (I guess you one-man-bands simply talk to yourselves.)

The biggest cause of vapor lock really has nothing to do with you. I've seen in happen a dozen times. Another person gets a great job and the rest of the staff panics, wondering, "Will I ever get out of here?" The anxiety sends the muse packing for a two week vacation, and ironically you find yourself farther away from your goal.

Dealing with vapor lock is like golf. Swing too hard and you'll hit a bad shot. Relax and stay fluid, and the ball will usually do what you want it to.

Tough to do, I know, but you have to shove everything to the back burner when you're on the clock or you'll never reach your full potential.


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