I know that things are rough on the other side of the border, and that we've been dealing with a pandemic, but I don't really have anything to add to the conversation there. Although I listen to the news constantly and it fills me with both trepidation and anger, I have nothing to say about it. I hope for some meaningful peace on American streets soon.
I've been working from home for the last month. I've found it difficult; sometimes I feel like I'm floundering. The things that make teaching worthwhile—joking with students, a-ha moments, problem solving—just don't come off the same through a computer screen. Some of my students have produced some really excellent work in this quarantine; still, it's tough to internalize it when mediated through a screen.
This may be the way of the future in education, but it seems inefficient. Education is already an inherently inefficient system—packing a bunch of kids into rooms isn't exactly practical—but keeping everyone behind a screen, well, it just doesn't seem to work as well. It feels less like I'm teaching the content, more like I'm teaching the platform. I find this uncomfortable because it muddies the waters between content and training. I know we all need to be confident when we move from platform to platform, but it also seems a little hard on the brain, which seems to tire as it bounces between platforms, sorta' like flipping channels too quickly on a television set.
I'd like to believe that, if we'd started the year with the assumption that online education would be the norm, we'd do better. Our school is already accustomed to Google Classroom for the students, which is acceptable, but limited. As soon as the pandemic hit, we had to lean far too heavily on Google Classroom. Albeit robust, it's also a limited mode. Perhaps more importantly, it makes me an agent of Google's advertising: I, the teacher, use Google Classroom, and thereby suggest that Google/Alphabet, the corporation, is good. When activities cannot be easily created and submitted through Google Classroom, students get discouraged, and this discouragement reinforces that Google is good; they feel that assignments that can be completed on Google Classroom are easier, and therefore better. I don't like being a vector of corporate propaganda in this way. I hope we can adopt a better, less corporate, system soon.
Many people, at the beginning of quarantine, said "What will we do with all this time?" They had big goals to learn new things, to use the time in productive ways. I aimed to restart my self-directed piano and French lessons. However, admittedly, this hasn't worked as well as I'd hoped it would. I've played piano, but not very much; I've done some French, but I certainly haven't made it a daily habit. When I likely have time during my work-from-home workday, it's also hard to focus on personal goals when I know I'm supposed to be working at my job. And then I apply some more guilt on myself for not using my time more productively, even for myself. I feel very tired a lot; motivation has been hard to muster.
A few years ago, I finished my Masters In Educational Leadership, with the intention to find my way into school administration. However, I haven't found my way into that field yet. I realized at the beginning of this quarantine that this could be a good opportunity to find some ways to capitalize on this unique opportunity. But instead I got kinda' bogged down in the process, and now I wonder if I'm administrative material at all. As the school year starts to close, I still wonder if I've mis-aimed my goals. It wouldn't be the first time.
But overall things are ok. Not having to drive to school has saved hundreds of dollars in gas costs. I'm getting by and hope to enjoy teaching again soon.
And really, I can't complain about anything.
I haven't written here for quite some time—I haven't felt like I've had much to say—but I think I'll try to think a little through writing here.
Due to the covid-19 pandemic, I haven't been very social. This has been largely because I've been quite busy. For the last week I've been preparing for school as a distance learning teacher, for example. I've never taught distance learning before and look forward to the challenge, but I also dread being a vector of corporate branding; our school has regrettably depended upon Google's "Classroom" platform. But strange times lead to strange bedfellows, like me and the Google platform. For the time being, in our district, Google's the only feasible way to make the information work.
I've moved in with my partner. This means I've moved out of Agassiz and to New Westminster, close to Vancouver. We moved here at the beginning of March, expecting me to commute to Agassiz for work for at least the remainder of the year. However, the pandemic offered me a solution on this front: stay home... in New West. This will save an enormous amount of time and money, both of which are hard to come by.
I'm happy to have moved in with my partner. It's a bit of a surprise that it worked out. I had kind-of given up hope mid-February that we could find a place to live that fit our mutual professional and personal needs. But then... we found this. And it worked out. And I'm grateful.
The pandemic, however, also decreased the availability of gigs and supplementary work. I had done regular music gigs in Harrison Hot Springs until September, and then followed that with a few months of dog-walking. However, both of those opportunities have disappeared since the pandemic hit, so I have to live without the extra influx of cash each month, which I admittedly got used to. So be it; I can do it.
And that's all. Just for the sake of an update.
Stay safe. Wash your hands.
My friend Katrina Ryan helped me make an Electronic Press Kit. Here it is!
And here's the direct link:
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.
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