But then something changed. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly initiated that change. I have a handful of ideas what it might be, but despite the cause, the change happened. In short, there came a point where it wasn't fun any more. The joy of bringing characters to life was gone. It had become work. Not only that, but it had become quite stressful. If it was just tedious, I think I could have pushed through it, and there were several times that I tried. But there was more to it than just tedium. Something about the process of sitting down and doing the work just stressed me out. It wasn't until recently that I ran across this quote, but it seems to sum up my feelings at that time pretty well:
"Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else."James M. Barrie
In the middle of some of this stressful, confusing time, we had a break before ramping up for Open Season 2. While most of the rest of the animation team worked on rig and blendshape testing for the characters, I was asked to spend about a month doing MEL scripting. It was a mix of writing new tools that the animators had requested, and revamping some of our existing animation tools to clean them up, add new features, etc. While I was doing all that heavy left-brained stuff, I was nearly in heaven. The time just flew by like it hadn't in ages. It hardly seemed like a month when it was all over. To top it off, it nearly filled me with fear as I looked at what the rest of the crew was doing and thought about going back to animation. When I finally did get my first assignments for OS2, I tried my best to plug away anyhow, and I got off to an okay start. However, the frustration and anxiety were all there, and I definitely felt like I would rather be doing something else.
I had a series of long talks about this with my supervisors, and to make a long story short, they were gracious enough to let me shift gears. A little over a week ago, I made the official change from Animator to Animation TD. While there are a lot of things I still need to learn to truly fill that role effectively, I do know this: the joy is back. It's back despite the fact that I'm running more directions in a given day than I have in a long time. It's back despite the increased demand outside of "normal" work hours. Some might call this stress, but compared to how I felt the last time I sat down to animate a shot, it's bliss.
That said, I haven't totally given up on the world of animation. I still love talking about it. I still love analyzing it. I still love helping the students I work with at Animation Mentor push themselves and learn and grow as animators. I'm working with Class 6 this term, and it's so much fun to help them take their short stories to the next level. I'm also doing some of the weekend makeup Q&A sessions, and it really feels good to do a demo or answer someone's question and see comments come back that what I did or said helped them to understand a certain concept more clearly. It's just frustrating that the act of doing it myself has become so....well, frustrating. However, I'm thoroughly enjoying the more technical work I'm doing now, and feel that my time as an animator will only help me be a better animation TD.
So that leads to the next question, which I probably won't answer until a later blog post because I'm still figuring it out myself:
What's to become of "justinAnimator.com"?