Up until recently I had not realized this simple truth: things do decay, and to maintain their functionality one has to expend energy, sacrifice time and put an actual effort into it. I think this is one of these fundamental truths that can be applied in general to life, universe and everything. If left unattended, the entropy will take its course, and the things will die.
Maintenance is one of this kind of jobs which when performed properly is invisible. Like a good matchmove or a good cut. Maintenance allows the action (life) to move forwards smoothly and without glitches. As such, in accordance to the old adage “out of sight, out of mind”, it is often under-appreciated and ignored until an accident happens.
Indeed, it is not as flashy as any “creative” work, and its results are never direct. But come to think of it, hardly any creative work can be done when tools are not prepared, not working correctly, or broken. Of course, overcoming such problems can be a creative endeavor in itself, but the satisfaction is usually left only for the person dealing with the problem, and will most likely be lost on the recipients of the work that was done, possibly hindering the results. The work might of course bear some signs of the problem in question, making it perhaps unique in its own way, and it is the sign of true mastery to turn problems into creative opportunities. But even in such cases the newly developed process needs to be streamlined and maintained.
I have always seen maintenance as dull job that needs to be done. Backups, cleanups, servicing – they all ate away the time that could have been used for “the proper work” or leisure. I did not appreciate that such jobs also do require creativity, if only to solve the annoyances of software glitches, hardware incompatibilities and such. Thinking about the safest and optimal workflow or proper hardware configuration is a job in itself, a job that requires knowledge, research, time, and also some economic sense. It is also a very important art of differentiating the wants (everybody wants the best tools available) from the actual needs (the productivity gains from faster computers tend to flatten out beyond certain point). This kind of fine-tuning, and deep analysis is what can be very rewarding, especially if you come up with some clever way to solve a complicated problem.
Of course, there is no way to absolutely avoid real accidents, and to foresee everything. The loss of HDCAM SR factory during recent events in Japan is perhaps something that very few people were really prepared for. But proper studio maintenance would give you at least some time window to prepare plan B for archiving and delivery.
This kind of philosophy can be applied to any aspect of life. By working I provide means for my family to exist and grow. Even if most of my current salary goes towards maintaining what already exists, hardly allowing for investments, there is a certain satisfaction of providing the base so that the others can employ their energy in a better way.
Similarly in relationships, after the obvious novelty wears off, maintenance is often under-appreciated, and can lead to perception of boredom. We need to remember, that our brains are hardwired for novelty, and we get the most dopamine and endorphine rush from new challenges and new “stuff” (this is perhaps why shopping works for many people as a mood raiser). Tweaking and fine-tuning is usually tedious. It is hard to appreciate the things that you do have, when there are so many things that you could have had, if you only worked harder, more or in another job.
And yet, taking time to maintaining what you have is essential for not loosing it, whatever “it” may be. Since this is the case, I might as well take time to enjoy it 🙂
Have a good day.