I spent some time on Saturday trying to record some guitar parts. It was mentally painful and difficult and I haven't dared to listen to them yet. But I broke that ice and that's important, an accomplishment in and of itself.
My goal for this recording is simple: I want to make a product that reflects the style I play at my regular-ish gigs. Usually I've recorded my songs as big, full-band arrangements, but I want to make simple recordings that people can buy and think, "This sounds like what I what I just heard."
This is the first time I've tried to record at all for a long time. Demos that I started in 2012 stalled in 2014 or so as my life took some turns. The songs started to feel ridiculous: they were loud, overwrought, and just didn't sound right. They sounded like I was trying too hard, which was precisely what I was doing. I haven't listened to those demos for a long time; I can't really hear them anymore.
So I'm starting over with a minimalist approach. Instead of starting with the drum machine like I have in the past, I'm going to start with guitars, hoping to get some natural percussion put in at a later date, once the guitar, bass, and vocal bedrock is done. I feel like starting from a more natural approach—strings rather than drum machines—will make my recordings appear more balanced, so they don't come-off as compressed rock arrangements.
But it's hard. My motivation is next to nil. I feel like I have a bit of a time-crunch, but I don't feel like I have anything invested. When recording, I'm finding it hard to know which mistakes are worth messing with and when they're worth working with in post. I'm just not feeling it at all. I seem to think all my songs are terrible; I don't seem to be able to see an audience for them. I keep having critical comments from myself and others running through my head and I can't seem to shake the sense of futility in it all. I feel like they're already latently unfinished.
This is common Jeffrey-stuff, though: I never feel like my "work" is up to snuff. It always seems hackneyed and artificial. And I've never got my creations done to the degree that I want to. My songs feel weird; my photos seem uninspired. But I just need to keep pressing on.
This is why it's important to have a producer or an agent, someone to light a fire under your butt and tell you that you need to get things done. It always appears that there are all these people self-motivated people who seem to be driven enough to put their stuff out there without someone pushing them, but there's a good chance that a bunch of those people have agents and producers. They just have to get it out there, with help from professionals.
But I feel like I don't have the ego needed for that sort of self-motivation, at least anymore. Years and years of middle-class clock-plugging seems to have zapped a lot of my creative oomph.
So I keep slogging. And hopefully some good-sounding music will come out of it.
I appreciate today's editorial from The Globe and Mail about our rather lacklustre election results.
The federal election result on Monday has many stories to tell, but there are two that will shape the Trudeau minority government’s early days in power.
It's going to be quite the tightrope, yes, and Trudeau admitted as much today (although I can't quite find a link of the conference I heard about).
I think Trudeau's tendency to try to "play both sides" has made him somebody nobody is happy with. But I also believe he was initially elected for promises he never intended to keep, since he did not expect to win the election five years ago. I don't find him incompetent for his promises made when he expected to lose. But the whole talking-out-both-sides-of-your-mouth habit discourages me.
I tend to like minority governments. The necessity to compromise and team-up tends to work well for policy. However, I haven't seen much in Trudeau that makes me think he's a capable compromiser, nor have we seen anything like that from the main national balance-of-power party, the NDP.
I have no predictions.
Sometimes The School of Life is tediously paternalistic and ideologically narrow-minded. This video, however, for us constantly-down-on-ourselves sorts of people, is really good.
The script is based on this essay from their website:
Naturally, the reality of our inner lives can feel unusually desperate to us. But that’s only because we don’t know the lives of others in sufficient detail. If we did, we’d find all the same longing, compromise, misery and awkwardness. We aren’t uniquely awful; we just know ourselves unusually well.
That's good stuff.
Not an easy vote, but I'm happy enough with my choice.
A few weeks ago I attended a networking event where the speaker recommended reading The Artist's Way in order to break out of a creative rut. "It's self-helpy," he said, "and it's a little cheesy, but it just might work for you." So I'm trying it out.
He is correct; it is most certainly a self-help book. But I think it just might work, at least for a little bit, to get me in a creative mindset again.
At the beginning of the book, Julia Cameron the two main methods for replenishing th artistic juices are "Morning Pages" and "Artist Dates." I don't know about the Artist Dates yet, since I haven't participated in one, but she describes them as "a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend again all interlopers." I'll try it out this weekend, but I don't know what it will look like.
But I have started the "morning pages," which she describes as "three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning." It's been quite a challenge, even for my first week, but I think it's been beneficial. I mean, I'm writing this right now, right? Considering that I barely posted a thing over the summer, it's pretty nice to pump out a notes in the weblog for once. And chances are that my ability to write during the days starts with the fact that I've started each day with writing.
I've had journals before. I have a few unfinished ones strewn about the apartment. Sometimes I find old journals, read them, and shred or burn them. I know some people say that old journals show "how far you've come" or "how much you've grown," but I tend to only feel humilation from them, shame that I was such a fool. Perhaps if I was happy with where I'm at in life, I'd feel less shame. But my main feeling when I read my about old journals is simple: the person who wrote them is a neurotic, lonely fool whose ideas are not worth the page he wrote them on. So I destroy them.
But these are a little different. I'm writing them on looseleaf paper and I'm not trying to "be deep." I'm just trying to strew it out there. I'm not good at the stream-of-consciousness focus of this writing; I always write in full sentences and paragraphs. But these feel different than the average journals that I've destroyed before. Despite the paragraphs and sentences and semicolons, I don't think I'll have to destroy these.
Simultaneously, I've been seeing a counsellor who wanted me to "write down all the bad things you say about yourself and your life, then put them away for the day so you don't have to think about them all the time." But I couldn't seem to do it; it seemed to be kind-of out of my wheelhoue and flighty. A few years ago, a psychologist had once got me to write down all the things I was angry about, and that seemed to work at that time; this time around, however, the prospect was unappealing to me.
But now, with these "artist pages," I'm doing exactly what the counsellor ordered. And that feels good.
I'll post now and then about my progress with these, but so far it seems like this is the best journalling method I've ever used. So here's to hoping I can create some good stuff out of it.
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