Mind at Work: Senior Producer Heather Wade

Whenever possible, we like to sit down with one of our creative minds at VSA to find out what inspires them. In a world where there’s constantly pressure to “produce, produce, produce,” it’s important to stop and reflect on the special people, places and things that actually drive our creativity.

Today, VSA Senior Producer Heather Wade sheds light on the four things that inspire her and help her do what she does.

The BOOK that has never left my shelf or my dreams.

I’ve read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly once a year for nearly the last fifteen years. The author, Jean-Dominique Bauby, suffered a debilitating stroke at the height of his career as the editor of the French edition of Elle Magazine and awoke to find himself completely physically paralyzed, except for his left eye, in what is described as “locked-in syndrome.” He subsequently wrote the entire book over the course of ten months (four hours a day) by blinking his left eye to his nurses. The paragraphs alternate between the beauty and horror in the mundane (e.g., the itch of a fly landing on his face, the torturous static of an abandoned TV in his room); the transcendence of still being able to see his children through his one working eye; and the imaginative, epic daydreaming he uses to transport himself out of his broken body. Bauby died only two days after the book was published.

I reread this book regularly because it’s sometimes too easy to get sucked up in our industry’s day-to-day, and I find that my creative spirit is refreshed each time I pick this up. It also grounds me and reminds me to appreciate the small moments we take for granted. And, as my career has changed, alternating parts of this book have resonated differently with me. Even the scribbled notes I’ve taken over the years in the margins of my aging copy continue to show me how much I’ve evolved and how far I’ve come.

The PLACE I won’t soon forget.

Mount Desert Island, Maine. Also known as Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Bah Hahbah, etc. I spent a nomadic summer living there during college when my wanderlust peaked and my sense of responsibility waned. I rented a room in the dusty attic of a hand-built log cabin and biked eight miles each way down a country road to work. I spent my mornings on hikes watching the sunrise and photographed everything I laid my eyes on. Lately, I can’t get that place out of my head because I’ve never felt more creative and inspired in a place so far from everything I know now. Sometimes raw creativity is as simple as starting over and growing an idea from its basic roots. Also, I could really go for some chowdah right now…

The MEAL I’m currently obsessed with.

The colossal ribeye at Sarah Grueneberg’s new Italian restaurant, Monteverde, in Chicago. I love her unexpected decision to include this on the menu as a nod to her Texan roots. It reminds me to always be proud of where I came from by including a little part of home in everything I do. I immensely respect that she did what she wanted to do with her menu, not what was hotly anticipated by critics upon its opening. Not only is there a cool duality in the unique juxtaposition and brazenness of its location smack-dab in the middle of all the pastas on the menu, but it’s also just so damn delicious.

The MOVIE that changed how I see the world.

The Fall. This movie was truly a labor of love for the director, Tarsem Singh. He didn’t want anyone else to change his vision for the film, so he financed most of the movie himself over the four years he spent filming it. Because I work primarily in print, I have a profound appreciation for the contrasting colors and textures he’s able to achieve through film. The starkly barren settings in twenty countries across the world along with the clash of cultures in the characters’ traveling together evokes dreams I swear I’ve experienced before. Everyone can learn from someone who refuses to let his or her creative dream be altered to suit anyone else.