Number 34 – Keeping Logs
A habit I have developed over the past couple of years is that of keeping logs of various activities. I think this started because I have a pretty awful memory! Literally, if you ask me what I did yesterday I would genuinely struggle to tell you. I’m normally so focussed on what’s coming up, I don’t appreciate what’s gone before. Something that is useful as a theatre director, is being able to recall productions, books, films or exhibitions that have creatively influenced you. These experiences give you a rich bank of resources with which to develop your own style and also a means of communicating your ideas to other members of your team.
So, a couple of years ago I started keeping a ‘Culture Log’. This is a very simple spreadsheet with a few different tabs: books, films, theatre and exhibitions. Every time I see or read one of these things, I input the date and various other facts about it – author, director, year it was released – as well as a few notes on what I thought about it. Sometimes, these thoughts are just a line and sometimes they become a full paragraph. Just the act of doing this helps me to absorb the experience and process it. It also gives me a valuable document to look back on to trigger visual and experiential memories.
As we draw towards the close of this bizarre year, I have naturally started to look back at how much culture I have experienced. This year obviously hasn’t been the easiest for live performance, but it has been the easiest ever for digital performance – NT at Home and various streamings of plays have made theatre more accessible than ever. In fact, at times I found it quite overwhelming and had to consciously stop watching plays online. Instead, I have embraced the other narrative artforms of literature and film. At the time of writing, I have watched 70 films and read 30 books this year – and I anticipate these figures going up a bit more over the Christmas period. By way of comparison, I managed 24 films and 23 books in 2019.
The main reason for the spike in film viewing is that my fiancée and I have watched a film almost every Friday evening this year. Add to that a burst around January and the odd extra film over the weekend and you’re easily up over a film a week. I will hasten to add that most of these films would not constitute high culture! The range is quite wide, from classics like Brief Encounter and The 39 Steps, through modern foreign language films like Roma and The Cold War, all the way to Johnny English and Naked Gun. There are also quite a few 90s Disney classics (Mulan, Aladdin, Tarzan), as well as various modern superhero films (mostly Disney now too). But throughout this whole crazy year, there has been something hugely comforting in marking the end of the working week with a drink (beer in my case, gin and tonic in my fiancée’s) and a film.
There’s also been a spike in my non-fiction reading this year - 40% was non-fiction, up from 17% the previous year. I don’t have a clear explanation for this, aside from the fact that I got on a roll with them and started really enjoying reading them. I enjoy the way they make me consider human relationships, my place in the world and how I think. Possibly this has been in some way a reaction to the uncertainty of these times.
Culture isn’t the only thing that I keep a log of – though it is the only one I maintain personally. Various apps that I use keep track of my progress automatically. So, for instance, I know that I have used Duolingo over 400 days in a row, that I have been meditating every day for 45 days now, and that since the beginning of August I have run far enough to reach Loughborough, go to the Isle of Wight and back, or reach the French coast.
I don’t mention all of these things as a personal boast; I simply mention them because they help me gain some perspective on my achievements over the year and my progress. Keeping logs is a really important way of keeping track of your personal development and giving you something tangible to look back on and be proud of. So, as we move into an equally uncertain 2021, maybe consider choosing something to keep your own log of?