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.
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.
In order to make my online presence appear a little more professional, I will delete many of my previous, more vulnerable posts to this weblog.
I don't like doing this. I don't think I've posted anything incriminating or negative. But the world wants a squeaky-clean image online, and posts that can be read as evidence of mental imbalance, well, they can go.
There's an irony here, though. I mainly want to delete the posts that might seem un-educational-leader-ish, but whenever I attend leadership conferences, people praise people who are "vulnerable" and open. I go as far as to assert that there's a fetishization of vulnerability in these communities and in educational discourse. It annoys me when I see people praise vulnerability as a virtue, as something we should all aspire to; my annoyance stems from my perceived double-standard: they want you to be vulnerable, but only once you've earned enough trust to gain the position already. One takes a big chance to hire somebody who already wears their heart on their sleeve.
Anyhow, in case you follow the weblog semi-regularly, that's why some posts will disappear over the next few days.
My daughter accompanied me to the Party in the Park in Chilliwack on Friday night. She made some fan art for my busking set at the Triple Play.
Last night, Saturday July 13, I played again at the Hot Spring Villa in Harrison Hot Springs, 6-9pm. Come on out to any of the other nights I'll do for the rest of the summer there!
Summer's here, thank goodness.
This school year has been tough. Workwise, I don't think I was an effective teacher. I was playing catch-up from the very first day; at the end of each day, I procrastinated, and then I didn't give myself the time to catch up the next morning. I couldn't seem to think creatively and struggled to keep up with most of the bureaucratic tasks that make teaching work. I hope I learned some of my lessons. Needless to say, the antidepressants, over the last month, have helped.
I've been running and working out. I live above a gym and I've started with a bit of a weight routine. I've also been running intermittently, and I hope to make that more consistent soon. I've been injuring myself more frequently though, so I've had to admit that I'm getting older.
I acted in a play in the Fall. Although I was overbusy during that period, I'm glad I did it. I met quite a few good people and felt successful in it overall. It exhausted me enough that I didn't audition for a play in the Spring. I'm extremely glad that I got to have this experience and that I got to meet so many good people through it.
And I've been getting back into my music again. Almost every Saturday evening, I've played covers at the Hot Spring Villa Restaurant in Harrison Hot Springs. This has helped to rebuild my musical confidence that had truly waned over the last five years or so. I've even recently started willingly going to open mics and jams, even when I feel out of my element. This is good.
So summer's begun and I have my kids with me for a few weeks. I hope to get some more musical connections around Chilliwack and around the Lower Mainland. I hope that I can get a bit more music happening in the Fall. I've already made a few connections and hope to expand my gigging beyond the restaurant in Harrison Hot Springs. And maybe I can put a band together and get a couple of the songs finished that I started so many years ago.
And lordy, I'm looking forward to waking up without an alarm.
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