We had the good fortune of connecting with Carley Rutledge and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Carley, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
In my experience as a freelancer, intern, student, full-time employee, no matter the position – the most valuable habit has been passion balanced with discipline. As long as I have been creating, I have always been in a constant battle against burn-out. As creatives, we all struggle with balancing vigorous dedication and the unavoidable low-points of burning out – so what is the happy medium? Can you have one without the other? I believe that my greatest asset will always be the ability to become completely obsessed with something. Our best work always comes when we are working on a project or topic that we truly love – we all know that burning feeling of inspiration when a new idea hits, and the sleepless nights at the computer that follow. That obsession is a creator’s best asset – but in my experience it can also be our greatest downfall. I know I have hit that obsessive creative stride one too many times before. The exhaustion creeps in, the motivation slips away, and the ideas come slower and slower, until full burnout sets in. This is where the most valuable habit we can form comes into play – discipline. Whether it be structured time, exercise, meditation, etc. our brains need something aside from our work to accomplish. I am an avid runner, and I learned the hard way that our bodies always need cross-training in order to stay healthy and get stronger. Our brains need cross-training too and that requires discipline. After throwing all of myself into getting my graduate degree, high-pressure jobs, producing a documentary, etc. I realized my passion-driven approach was unsustainable. My burn-out lasted for a year before I started applying discipline to my obsessive creative ‘spells’. I began to throw myself at distance running, which forced me to structure my time more efficiently and gave me a new environment for my brain to get quiet. I started valuing my sleep and time-off between projects. This discipline, and shift in valuing my body and my time as much as my work, has been my greatest asset. I have learned when to turn my brain off, when to take advantage of a creative streak, and how to pace myself in a lasting way (on the trails, and in my work). Running may not be for everyone, but find a hobby that you love and carve out time to throw yourself at it – even on your busiest days. Structure your time around it, and view it like ‘creative cross-training’. This habit of self-awareness and discipline has directly led to my success. I now have work-life balance and the ability to harness and control my creativity in a productive way that can be replicated for project after project without burning out.    

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My work centers around film and photography, with a focus on targeted communication. I have a science background and wrote my master’s thesis on climate change communication – this allows me to use film/photo/graphics to bring the powerful tools of marketing to sectors that have a desperate need to communicate dense or polarizing scientific info with everyday people – like scientists or cancer researchers. While my work is not limited to this world, it is my main passion and expertise. The underlying motive in all my work is a passion for storytelling. It’s the oldest and most powerful form of human communication and can be used to make our world a better and safer place. All of my projects are branches off of this tree. My documentary series Hotspots (hotspotsinterviews.com) is a short form series that tells the stories of everyday humans across America – their passions, traditions, and how climate change is affecting their lives. These short, poignant stories have particularly resonated (as it was designed to) with southern/rural communities who have felt rejected by the current methods of climate change communication (or lack there-of). Storytelling is also at the heart of my political blog – Politics But Make It Funny (https://carleyrutledge.com/politicsbutmakeitfunny). I am a voracious student of online communications, extremism, social media, news outlets, etc. People are exhausted of reading the news and are bored of one-sided publications and archaic forms of communication like print news (I however am an avid print news fan, but that’s neither here nor there). Extremism is knocking on all of our digital doors…banging, more like. So, I began transforming our political goings-in into funny and thoughtful blog pieces. They are designed to be visually entertaining, and most importantly to be consumed in short bite sized pieces. Many of my readers forget they’re even reading the news (again, as I designed it). It is designed to present both sides of the arguments, while hiding behind humor. I have equal amounts of conservative and liberal readers – a testament to the storytelling style and the careful design of each piece. This is yet another way that I use storytelling to mend bridges and break down dense/polarizing information. The last piece of work I will speak on is my podcast – TX Forever. (txforeverpod.com). While this is more of a light-hearted project where my co-host and myself re-watch the T.V. Show Friday Night Lights, I have still found it to be a surprisingly effective platform to use my own storytelling as a tool to speak about Young Adult Cancer (I am a two-time survivor and am currently battling cancer once more), survivorship, and even the issues of race and football in the south. I didn’t get here easily. Not only did I have to fail again and again, but life got in the way too, cancer got in the way, depression got in the way, I myself got in the way. You will always have roadblocks or reasons not to do something. But success in this field takes not only talent, but just a touch of recklessness – be just dumb enough to take the leap off the ‘creative cliff’ and figure out how to fly. In the creative world there just is no other way. In art, no one will gently guide you down the steps – either jump or watch everyone else jump and fall and then fly, while you remain hopelessly on the edge of the cliff. My final advice sums up all of the motives behind my projects succinctly; do what you’re passionate about. No excuses. Find your passion and jump off the cliff; you’ll figure out how to fly while you’re falling.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If I had a friend visiting Denver, I’d show them our amazing parks first. As a runner, all of the Denver parks are very special to me and each holds its own individual beauty. I would take them skiing at Breckenridge and ice-skating near Georgetown (or summer hiking and kayaking). I would also take them to see the wonderful Denver Art Museum, the Capitol building, and the vibrant Colfax and Cap Hill area for some city adventures. I would also, of course, take them for food at my favorite restaurant Hop Alley and my favorite coffee, Hudson Hill. Can’t forget my favorite farm to table restaurant – Potager! 

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
So many people outside of myself have contributed to my success – as a human and as a creative. First off I want to thank the myriad of directors, writers, photographers, and podcasters who have inspired me, swept me up in the worlds they created, and driven me to carve a path for myself in this competitive environment. Most of all I am grateful to my friends Kelsey Huffer, David Coons, and Emma Ziobrzynski. Not only are they astounding artists themselves but they have shown an unwavering amount of support for my work and my journey. All this while also building a creative community that has allowed all of us to better our skills, learn from each other, and stay passionate (and disciplined) about what we do. I also want to shout out Jonny Black who is the founder and owner of Boulder based design company Cast Iron Design (now located in San Francisco and called Ordinary Things) who was an unflinching and supportive mentor for me during one the most difficult times in my life. His support and more often than not, harsh criticism, pushed me to have confidence in my work, and to stretch farther out of my comfort zone than I ever had in my creative career. During that time I learned that I was capable of success in this field – a feeling that, surprising to some, doesn’t often sink in for many creatives…if ever. Thanks to everyone who told me my dreams were possible and to everyone around me who leads by passionate and loving example. Most of all thank you to the many who have watched, critiqued, participated in, or helped share my countless creative projects, be it friend, mentor, boss, or the smiling stranger at a coffee shop who looked at my computer and wanted to learn more about my work.

Website: https://carleyrutledge.com/
Instagram: @cool.cactus.media
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carley-rutledge/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carley.rutledge
Other: Podcast website – txforeverpod.com

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