Positano began with a retreat. Me and my bruised eyes and weary soul hightailing it to the Italian coast to heal.

While that first adventure was undertaken with a clear (and somewhat urgent) need, it also spawned an unexpected years-long creative endeavor with my husband, media artist Hal Wolverton. Turning that draft of a story into a multimedia novel with original photography, video, and sound has been a (very slow) wild ride.

Along the way it evolved into an annual trip to Positano, part disconnection from normal life, part revisiting familiar places to shoot and re-write. Sometimes it was experimenting, like working with a Roman crew to shoot in the light of the full moon on a sailboat out on the sea.

Last summer, unlike in years past, we didn’t go to Positano. Instead, we took the month to be at home and work on our project, in our studio.

Note the ital on our. We normalized the commitment.

Carving out a month every year to work on our project has changed us in kind of wonderful ways. We have always been very good at taking our work seriously. We do whatever it takes to deliver great work for our clients. But last summer, working on Positano in our own studio was a new kind of joy. We lived and worked in our normal life, on our own project, and in the process we became good at taking our own work seriously.

I’ve noticed other effects from setting the time aside. In U.S. culture it’s provocative to share that you’re taking a month off. It sparks a lot of conversations about what others would do, if they had the time. There is also a genuine respect that has emerged from those we work with, a deepening understanding of how much Hal and I value our own work, and so in turn, an understanding of our dedication to them when we direct our attention to their projects.

This fall, we’re wrapping up Positano. There’s been a lot of joy along the way.