Puttin' One Foot in Front of the Other

"When you know who you truly are, there is an abiding alive sense of peace. You could call it joy because that's what joy is: vibrantly alive peace. It is the joy of knowing yourself as the very life essence before life takes on form. That is the joy of Being -- of being who you truly are."
~ Eckhart Tolle, 'Stillness Speaks'

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Dec 2006: "I definitely want to get a new computer - a faster, bigger model with lots of RAM - to run the little orchestra programme I bought myself for Christmas."

I did a big graphic design project which paid me… strangely enough… exactly the amount of money I needed to buy a custom built audio computer. I suppose I should have put that money towards my debts... but I'd been wanting an audio computer for so long! So I got it.
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Dec 2006: "I really want to take some of the songs I've written and develop them for a new age/ classical folk a la Enya kind of feel for a mystical, magical, fantasy-based electronic folk album with dreamy, ethereal vocals and great harmonies.. I have so many sketches and drafts of songs, and worktapes of songs, and ideas for songs!!"

I signed up for 'February is Album Writing Month' (FAWM) 2007. The challenge was to draft songs for an album in the month of February – 14 songs in 28 days. I wrote 15! Some songs, some instrumentals. In looking for a theme, I remembered I had already written 4 or 5 pieces inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings'. So I decided to focus on LOTR during FAWM.
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Dec 2006: "I also have some instrumentals I've written I'd like to develop further."

With the addition of the orchestra program (and later, an upgrade to a more expanded model), I began producing instrumentals in earnest. With better sounds, I was able to create more acceptable tracks. The first instrumental I created with the new audio system & orchestra program was signed by an LA music library, which proved the investment was worthwhile!
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Dec 2006: "I'd like to write a little more... I have a couple of ideas of novels I've been mulling over in my mind, and I also would like to write something on the subject of creativity & healing through the creative process - something very close to my heart."

I started the year aspiring to write 700 words a day on the novel I began during 'November is Novel Writing Month' (NaNoWriMo) in 2004. With the audio computer, my interest turned more to music and I wrote fiction less and less often. I developed some sketchy ideas for the non-fiction book about healing through the creative process, though.
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Dec 2006: "I also would like to improve my skills on various instruments - guitar, harmonica, mandolin, pennywhistle."

Again, with the interest in working with midi, recording, working with virtual instruments, and engineering, I spent most of the year working on my composition and production skills. But playing with my trio has certainly strengthed my guitar playing skills, in particular, my ability to keep a steady rythm (at last, lol)!
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Dec 2006: "I want to spend more time with my Dad, and my Mom, which isn't as easy as it sounds as they are long divorced and live in different places."

Got to see my Dad several times over the year, in particular, I stayed with him & my step-mom for 5 weeks over the summer, got to have Thanksgiving dinner with them when they were down in my area housesitting, and stayed with them for a week over Christmas, plus a few shorter visits. I have lunch with my mom pretty much every week, and we took our second annual trip to California in November… this year, LA & Santa Barbara.
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Dec 2006: "I hope to continue the trend of doing more performing locally & perhaps also spreading that a little, to Seattle and Vancouver."

I definitely performed in Victoria, and on Savary Island. And LA.
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Dec 2006: "I want to travel a little more... maybe Nashville, certainly California again... continue to learn all I can about this music industry, the business of songwriting, and indie artistry."

Made it to LA.
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Dec 2006: I concluded by saying "I want to pay down debts, eat healthy, exercise daily, write prose more often, play with music a lot, be a good teacher, write a creatively inspired album."

I think I did a little of each of these things.
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Dec 2007:

Well, I just bought another upgrade for my orchestra programme - I now literally do have all the bells and whistles. Next I need to upgrade my recording software and get a good percussion program. A lot of the feedback I get says I don't have a good low end, especially drums. At some point I also need to buy a decent vocal mic. I've been renting different ones to try them out. Think I've settled on a Shure SM7b.

I signed up in September 07 for vocal coaching from a very well respected local opera singer. This will continue next semester. In addition, I've scheduled twice-monthly mandolin lessons… and I also met someone who has a mandolin jam every week. I also want to see if I can take a class or get some private lessons in Irish flute & penny whistle. In prep for this I picked up a recorder & have been playing it a little – and a great friend just brought me a collection of penny whistles & recorders.

Financially, I've almost paid off one debt!!! ...and I plan to take the money I was remitting to them & put it towards the next highest interest creditor I have. I would love to be out of debt in a couple years but I don't know if that's possible. I've invested a lot of money in audio equipment & software… I'm hoping I will start to see more results from this in the next 2 to 4 years.

I definitely plan to do FAWM again this February, continuing with the same theme as last year… working towards producing an LOTR-inspired album. Love to be releasing it September 2008, but don't know if I can manage that.

I want to continue to collect notes & ideas for a non-fiction book about what I've learned about life and creativity and healing.

I want to make time to see my Dad often, and hang with my Mom on a weekly basis.

Definitely go to LA again in November 2008. Hopefully with Mom. Every year the music conference is better & better, and I'm meeting lots of really great people. Have plans to collaborate with 2 or 3 of the professional songwriters that I have met through Taxi's Road Rally.

I belong to 5 or 6 songwriting forums, and I've tried to let most of them slide & just pop in now and then… I love being on forums and giving/getting reviews, chatting about the music industry in general, etc… but they can be habit forming. I've cut down a lot. I'll have to continue to do that. And try to write short posts when I am there. Ha!

What else… let's see…. I want to pay down debts, eat healthy, exercise daily, write prose more often, play with music a lot, be a great teacher, be a good friend, finish a creatively inspired album.

Above all, I am grateful for the gift of music, family and friends in my life. Miracles do happen. Treasure every day, and count your blessings.

Best wishes for 2008!!

The Process of Growth as a Songwriter

Well, I was talking to a good friend of mine this week about songwriting, producing, and being a member of Taxi. I talked about how much I've learned in the past 3.5 years of Taxi membership. I talked about how I cringe when I listen to the CD I made 3 years ago, how far I've come in my understanding of where the bar is and how far away from it I was at the beginning of this journey.

We talked about "instantness" & "fast food" mentality of society nowadays and how people expect that someone is going to come along and lift them out of obscurity and make something happen. I say this with the honest knowledge that I thought like that too.

Way back, 17 years ago, when I started taking voice lessons, I sincerely thought to myself, 'give me six months, they'll be down on their knees begging me to do concerts with them.' Well 6 months went by and I felt totally lost. Six years went by and I got a small glimmer of an idea about what the issues might be. Nine years went by (of two singing lessons a week + coaching) and I finally woke up to the fact that the armor I had grown to protect me as a child was still deeply programmed into my psyche and was still holding me back... that as I much as I wanted to sing/be a singer, I was not opening up. I spent all my life up to then hiding from people, avoiding social situations, stammering when I talked, terrified. It took me twelve years of training & practicing & working to be able to stand in front of an audience and sing without fear. Even today sometimes I'll come home from singing somewhere, and I'll think 'hey, I wasn't scared!' - I'm still surprised and grateful.

I joined Taxi 3.5 years ago with the same thinking - 'wait til they hear these songs, I'll have a deal within 6 months'. Ha haa. I used to get sooo mad when I got a return, I'd have to put it in a drawer for a couple of days before I could read the critique with any kind of acceptance. Slowly, through getting the critiques, and reading/posting on songwriting boards... I started to see a glimmer of what the issues might be. I started to realize that my membership in Taxi was one way I could get an education in songwriting. I take classes on-line and go to seminars and the Taxi music conference, and read the books... but getting specific feedback on my songs/music from the people screening for the industry is very valuable.

I try to write or produce something every day, because it is very very clear to me... that I sing better this week because I sang last week... and so ergo, it makes sense that if I write this week, I will write better next week because of that experience, because my muscles are toned, because I'm open to it, because I can consistently, with practice & good feedback, improve any skill. Deals or no deals, gigs or no gigs, I write, I sing, I produce, because that's what makes me feel alive.

If, anywhere along my singing or songwriting journey, I had given up on myself... I would not be who I am today. And I was reminded of the process of 'becoming' when one of my peers showed me his list of credits at the Taxi Road Rally. He only had 3 or 4 credits for each of the first 3 or 4 years of his Taxi membership... and then it took off, doubled & tripled as the years rolled on. I remarked that, if he had given up anytime in those first 3 years, he wouldn't be the success he is today....

I guess I'm trying to say... I don't expect Taxi, or a record label, or a music publisher, or a singing teacher, to do my job for me. Success is never instant. It comes about because you've doggedly put one foot in front of the other in the face of all the odds, because it means something to you to make that journey. It's the journey that is your process to becoming who you dream of being, doing what you dream of doing.

When a student stands in my studio and sings a note they never could sing before in a way they never dreamed they could... after we both wipe our eyes, I say... "you could never have found that, had you not been willing to take the journey, do the work, and trust that it was leading you somewhere."

I think I can, I think I can....

Wow, it's been a whole lot of lows the past couple weeks. I came home from my California trip exhausted from travel and lack of sleep. I'd left the Road Rally in LA (music conference) inspired and full of useful information... but when I got home, the winter dullness hit me & I struggled to get back into my usual creative mode. I felt overwhelmed by my lack of skill in producing... I mean, I do produce some decent stuff but it's always hit and miss & I never know if I'm going to make the grade. Some people just seem to have ears that hear stuff I can't seem to hear.

It all kinda started when I saw that someone was looking for a capella Christmas Carols for film/tv placement. Well, I can do that, right? I'm good at leads & harmony. So I recorded a couple of carols & posted them on the board I frequent... and got some great feedback on what I needed to do... use reverb, EQ & compression more effectively, etc etc. because the vocals sounded 'dry'. I tried, but it's really hard to know what to do. So I felt pretty down that I couldn't "get" it. But my friends are so great, they encouraged me to stay determined. One even sent me screen shots of his DAW with the reverb settings and mp3 examples of my lead with the reverb on it.

I was determined to try to figure this out, I began to read all my back copies of Recording Magazine, and I did some research on the internet, plus one of my other friends told me about some reverb plug-ins that would be better than the one I have... and they are free, so I downloaded that, and printed off articles from the net and read through all the material.

This week, Sunday and Monday, I worked on a new piece - it's a cover of an old rock song, but I did it in a unique way, using vocals for percussion and layering lead & harmony vocal tracks. I worked with all the notes I had made about EQ & reverb & compression and more than once I felt like I was just making a mess of it, but I kept going anyway. When I was done, I asked my friends to listen to the final result -- and they were very impressed. They had a couple of suggestions to tweak it a little... but they loved my voice & my arrangement, and after I made a couple of small adjustments, they felt it was ready to pitch!!

So last Monday I was totally depressed and felt like I would never get it. This Monday I was able to produce something with my own hands, eyes, voice & ears that meets the grade. My grasp of these fundementals of production still feels slippery. But hopefully through experience I will grow in my skill levels over the next two or three years.

:-D

Goal for 2008: Pick up more instruments

A gentleman I know teaches fiddle, and plays fiddle & mandolin professionally. I asked him today to give me bi-weekly lessons in the New Year. We're going to start on the mandolin & then work on the fiddle. I can already play a couple of songs on the mandolin.

I am also going to take a class at the convervatory of music in the new year, in playing the Irish flute & penny whistle. I'll have to go and buy an Irish flute & a penny whistle. I used to play flute & piccolo in high school band.

I also have a friend who can teach me a little more on the guitar & harmonica, I'll start that when the woodwind class finishes. I want to get better at playing more rock style acoustic guitar. I'm too folky right now.

I just bought myself a Baroque recorder, I have to practice playing it. I want to be able to play some medieval style music.

On top of that, I have my voice coaching with soprano Barbara Livingston. The focus is keeping up with my opera training, but she doesn't mind if I bring in my original songs to sing for her. She's an excellent coach, I'm so glad I found her.

The other thing I would like to do is take some sort of a hand drumming class so I'm more aware of how percussion works.

That's kinda my goal for the New Year - get playing more instruments so that I have a better understanding of them, can add live instruments to songs/instrumentals, and can play more solos with my trio.

How about you?

How do you compose?

Q: "How do you compose?"

A: I compose in a variety of ways:

- sitting at the keyboard trying out riffs.... usually make some kind of notation so I can remember what I like

- playing the guitar trying out progressions... again, making a note of what I like

- improvising vocally, trying out different ideas - I tend to record this as I'll get to the point where I think... oh, what was that cool thing I did 5 minutes ago

- open my recording software and play with an industrial sound & once I've got it playing, improvise vocally something that seems to go along with it in my mind.... and then choose an instrument to play that riff and do the midi for it.

- start designing a groove... choose some drum sounds and industrial sounding clips and keep adding rythmatic elements til I have something I like... then I'll start designing/recording other tracks as the inspiration flows... I try to trust the muse

- write lyrics until I'm satisfied with them, and keep them by the computer or on my keyboard, looking at them and thinking about them until melody starts to come into my mind, and I sing what I have over and over until the next part comes... start finding the guitar chords... note them down as I figure them out

Often I just start by playing with an idea... or a title... or a sound.... or a groove... or a snippet of melody... and see where it takes me.

Don’t Shrug off Networking

This may just be a Sunday babble, but I just wanted to share the thought that networking should never be discounted as a method to get your music & skill sets out there. It is difficult and time-consuming to answer emails & PMs personally, to post blogs regularly, and to consistently post on music-related sites/forums, and well as making sure you a) have one or more web sites, and b) keep them up to date. But you just never know how that raised profile is going to further your career.

~~Your website may just act as a business card (IMO every songwriter should have a site) - you've pitched to someone and they go to check you out on-line. It's crucial your site be up-to-date and that the music you've posted represents you well to your target market.

~~Someone reads one of your posts and takes the time to link to your site, listen to your tunes & write you a note. Action: search them out on the web & listen to at least one of their tunes, & reply thanking them for their note, chatting about their site/success/what they are up to.

~~You listen to someone else's music and write them a note, and hey... they reciprocate. Action: reply & chat about where they are from or what they are up to or ask about their album or projects.

~~Someone writes you an email, post or PM asking for advice and you do the best you can to help or point them in the right direction. Action: When they reply to thank you, write back and say they're welcome and tell them to keep in touch & let you know how it's going.

As you do these things, your profile grows, often without you even seeing the ripple effect that comes from each conversation or connection. And I'm not suggesting you do these things dishonestly, but from a sincere desire to reach out and make friends along the way.

Today, for example, I received an email from a MA musican who sent me fan mail a couple of weeks ago. I went to his site, listened to his music and sent him a reply. Now we are conversing regularly. Cool!

I also received an email from a CA songer/songwriter who sent me a lovely note a couple of weeks ago. Again I went to her site and listened to the music and took the time to reply. Turns out we'll both be attending the same music conference and we've arranged to meet for coffee. Neat! A new friend!

My point is... that all these things take a little extra time... but by reaching out and listening to what someone else is doing and making the effort... you begin to build your network. If it is true that being easy to work with and approachable and willing to learn is just slightly more important than being skilled (which is extremely important)... then building and maintaining your network is crucial to your success - whether you are a performing songwriter, an instrumentalist, a lyricist, a vocalist, a producer, or any other kind of animal.

Just my take on it.

The One Thing that will make you a Successful Songwriter

I was thinking about songwriting today. I belong to two or three forums for musicians & songwriters (for example, Just Plain Folks – http://www.justplainfolks.org/ & the TAXI forum - http://forums.taxi.com/ ), both good places to get info about songwriting, the music business, post work for review & review other’s work in kind. I patiently answer the same questions about songwriting over and over again, as I know what it is like to be at the beginning of the path, filled with enthusiasm and hope… but know very little about the industry.

When I began to step into the songwriting pool four or five years ago, I was totally excited about my work. I was sure my songs were very special, hit songs and that people would be bending over backwards to perform and record my wonderful works. I was sure if I could get decent demos and put them into the hands of the right people, I would start to hear my songs on the radio and on CDs. I knew if someone just gave me a chance, I could show them what beautiful music I can write. I knew very little about the industry, and, to be honest, I really didn’t care about all the details. I wanted to go from 0 to 60 in less than a minute.

When I look at my attitude then – that my work was more than good enough, and all it needed was a chance to be heard, and that I already knew all I needed to know to be successful – it reminds me of when I was a teenager, writing poetry. I wrote poems all the time. I seldom read them, nor was I much interested in what my English teachers had to say about poetry & structure & form. I just wrote obscure, intense, vivid poetry. Reams of it. Once I wrote it, it was very precious to me. I would not change a word. I figured if it came out of me that way, that’s the way it was meant to be. It was a unique expression of who I was and what my perspective was, and therefore, it was priceless and unalterable.

I used to keep all my pages of painfully typed poems (yes, them was the old days, before personal home computers) in a big huge folder in the desk in my dad’s little office/workroom in the basement. I came in one day and found a little note on the folder from my Dad. He’d found my poetry and left me a lovely, encouraging little note that said I should keep on writing.

Enthused by his response to my work, I looked up local publishers in the phone book, and found one that actually published poetry by writers who lived in the area. Okay! So now, I took all the carbon copies of every single poem I had ever written – about 2 inches thick of manuscript, maybe 150 to 200 poems, hole-punched them, and placed them in a big Duo-Tang folder. I wrote a little cover letter, and got a big envelope, addressed it, and paid for the postage from my allowance.

I didn’t tell anyone what I had done. I knew they would be so surprised when I announced the news that my poems were to be published in a book. I pictured the faces of my mom and dad, big sister and brother, and everyone at school, when I told them. That would show them!

Weeks went by while I hugged my little secret to myself. And one day, a big package came for me in the mail, from the publisher. Excited, I took it into Dad’s office to open. Inside was my poetry manuscript, with a little note from the publisher.

My first rejection letter.

After feeling pretty demoralized for a couple of days, I started to get angry. Well, what did they know anyway? Fine! One day I’d be a famous poet and they’d be the closed-minded publishers who had turned me down before my best-selling tome was published by someone else. Hrgph!

So now I read posts from songwriters who are interested in getting other people to pick up their work and run with it. “I just want to get my music out there.” “I just need to find a publisher for my lyrics.” “I need someone to write music for my lyrics.” “I just want to sell my songs.”

I absolutely know those statements. I made them too, as a budding songwriter, five years ago. But when I say them now, what I hear is “I just want… someone else to help me… make my music live.” “I just want… someone else… to make me successful.”

I’m not saying I’m the most rejected songwriter around, but I will say I submitted, in those first of couple of years, probably upwards of 100 songs to various "someone else's" and I got not even one nibble. I knew there had to be something wrong on their end – why couldn’t they see past the odd flaw and see the beauty and excellence of my work? I also spent, along with my stalwart co-writer (who has walked this journey with me), well over four thousand dollars demoing 6 or 7 songs.

I didn’t take even one hour or one day to try to find out how record companies choose music for artists. I didn’t research artists to find out if they wrote their own music or not. I didn’t even listen to the “a la” artists referenced in different opportunities to find out if what I was sending resembled their style. I just submitted the same music over and over again to every possible opportunity.

Very slowly, as I read lyrics on songwriting boards and read the reviews of them… as I wrote my own reviews… as I received reviews on my own work… my blinders started to come off. I began to see that I had no structure or form in my lyrics. I started to see the vagueness in my writing. How I meandered. How my lyrics lacked imagery, how my storytelling was too loose & I left too much unsaid. How I didn’t make each word count, or each phrase stand alone… how my verses didn’t lead to a satisfying conclusion (hook), and how I took too long to get to the point.

Last year, I finally read Jason Blume’s “6 Steps to Songwriting Success” and all the things I had learned, painfully slowly over a period of three years… were right there, in the book. I also read Sheila Davis’s “The Craft of Lyric Writing” – at last. At last, because it had been recommended to me by a Taxi screener in one of my very first critiques… three or four years before.

Yet I don’t regret that time. I think that kind of inching forward in knowledge was important for me. I had to gently and slowly broaden my thinking and realize that, if I wished to be a professional songwriter… that there was a marketplace… and the marketplace dictates what is commercially viable. I mean, if you go to a clothing store, you don’t expect to find them selling pets. In fact, you might be quite indignant if they try to sell you a goldfish when you want a new blouse. In addition, the marketplace has a language, a structure, a way of doing business, and if you want to be respected… you need at the very least to understand the language.

If you don’t know what a PRO is, or how publishers get paid, or what a synchronization licence is, or how to copyright your work… then asking how you get your music out there is putting the cart before the horse. Make it your business to find out how songwriters get paid, what publishers do, how to licence your song to someone, etc. Resource: John Braheny’s “The Craft & the Business of Songwriting”.

But even before that… if you’re a lyricist who doesn’t play an instrument, sing, or write music, then you need to develop those skills. It isn’t that hard. If you are serious about being a songwriter, then you go and take some basic guitar lessons… or some basic jazz-based piano lessons (a guitar is easier as you can practice at home without investing hundreds). It isn’t that hard to learn how to write lead sheet (melody line, guitar chords, lyrics).

On top of that, go out and join a community choir. Not only will it be fun & social… but you’ll learn about harmony & the human voice. If you don’t sing, and you don’t understand the needs of singers… and you are writing music for singers to sing… then this is experience I think is really valuable. While in the choir, you can find out, by asking… what the natural range is for male and female voices of different types.

A couple of years ago a local songwriter, who writes lovely lyrics and can plunk out a basic melody on the piano… but needs a pianist to figure out an accompliament… she came to me with two or three songs and asked for some input. She had a country song she expected to be sung by a typical male country singer, a la Alan Jackson… but she’d written some of the melody as high as an A5 (a tone and a half down from high C). She had no knowledge of the human voice and was writing country music melodies only an opera singer could sing.

I’m targeting lyricists because musicians have an advantage. Even if they can’t read musical notation, they generally know about structure because they play music all the time. They know what a chorus, verse and bridge is, and they’ve experienced, in their playing, the contrasts between those sections. They also tend to have some sense of timing… and sometimes they have even done some singing.

The disadvantage to being a musician-songwriter is falling in love with the sound of your own instrument. I listen to lots of demos with long solos… or I listen to songs where the vocals basically just mirrors what the guitar is playing in both rhythm and melody. Some musicians find it difficult to write lyrics, but again, I think this is a skill that should be worked on.

I don’t expect that lyricists-only will become great musicians (although they might), or that musicians-only will become great lyricists (although they might), but by walking both sides of the fence, and growing your skills in that area, you broaden your experience so that… if someone writes a melody for your lyrics… you know about form & structure, repetition & musical hooks…. If someone writes a lyric for your melody… you know about storytelling, interesting rhyme schemes, form & structure, and leading to the hook.

At present I am taking guitar lessons, singing lessons, songwriting classes. I have a friend who is a sound engineer who is going to come over and help me understand more about the production end of things. I have read books on recording and ask questions about recording and post samples of recording and ask for advice. I read articles in Recording Magazine where every second word is Greek to me while I struggle to understand the language. I’m learning how to use orchestra samples & growing my skills in recording & mixing vocals. I know it will take time, but at the same time, I know my “ear” for music is more skilled than it was even one year ago. I know it for a fact because, after years of rejection, I’ve had instrumentals forwarded and recently signed a publishing deal for one of them.

On top of this, I try to write something every day. Sometimes it may just be the counterpoint oboe to the flute melody, sometimes it’s all or part of a lyric, sometimes it’s a complete song. IMO, a songwriter is a songwriter because they write songs, so writing daily exercises that muscle. I also find it helpful to read the lyrics of hit songs… and write them down longhand. If you do that everyday for a week, it’s amazing what you get from it.

I admit, I’m a full-time creative person, I spent many years aspiring to get to the place where I could do nothing but creative things from morning til night. I work 25 to 30 hours a week mentoring my students and organizing my studio. I probably spend about 15 to 25 hours a week writing, playing, recording & producing music. On a good day, I can probably write and produce a complete instrumental in about 6 to 8 hours. But most days I don’t have that amount of time, so I have to work on it in segments spread over 2 or 3 days. But this is my life, and it’s what I want to do, so it is as much a part of my life as making coffee or going for a walk.

I recently watched an interview with full-time, professional songwriter Matt Hirt. If you watch the complete series (which you should, if you are at all interested in getting music in film/tv), count how many times Matt says “learn”. Resource: http://youtube.com/user/taximusic

Because the story I just told you is how I learned to be a songwriter… and how I continue to learn to be a songwriter… and that the process of becoming the songwriter you were meant to be starts by honestly & objectively assessing where you are now in skills, networking & catalogue-building… and getting clear about where exactly you want to go… and then mapping out the plan of how you will learn what you need to learn to get there… knowing that the time you spend learning now and in the future is part of your long-term investment in your songwriting career.

It seems to me that I've finally learned the lesson I needed to learn from that very first rejection. That writing is rewriting. That one writes for an audience, not for oneself, and that means reaching out, writing accessibly, inviting the listener to feel like you are telling their story. And that any artform has skills that can be acquired if you are willing to do the work... if you do that work, you will grow, and that growth is your success as a human being in terms of rising beyond your programming to find new vistas for yourself. The recognition of the world is secondary to that. Being willing to change is being willing to take the risk of admitting you don't know everything... and being willing to challenge yourself to learn. Beyond that, the only person responsible for my success in life is the one I see in the mirror.

a poem should be no less, no more
than the writer’s first intention
to make you feel a certain way-
painting a fifth dimension.

a poem is not a machine
to be analyzed and re-designed;
a poem is made to freely roam
across the rhythms of my mind,

to poke and prod at uncomfortable thoughts
to make my feelings clear
and in the last, my greatest need-
to make someone really hear.


xxox ~ Vikki

PS - what happened to the non-commericial songs we demo'd? We rewrote them as best we could... and I recorded them. ~ http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/flawith

Yes you can!

On the long drive home from my summer hiatus I started to think about some of the goals I have for the fall and winter months. Since this is the 4th year in a row I've gone away for some weeks to sit in the woods and commune with nature... I am familiar with what happens when I get home. I always seem to do three things:

1) reneg on the commitment I made to myself about looking after myself when I get back to regular life;

2) hit the ground running, staying up too late to work on multiple projects while feeling frustrated I'm not getting enough done;

3) go back to struggling with my demons and sometimes losing the battle.

It occured to me that one way I could keep my motivation centered on the goal is to become my own cheering section. I can post notes to myself in various places, with messages like "Yes, you can!" "Don't Give Up" and stuff.

Another issue I can see coming up already is trying to be all things to all people. I simply have to turn down projects & collaborations and focus on completing the projects I feel I will be the most successful at. I have to have time to play & be creative and I can't burn the candle at both ends.

I can use the rest of the summer to go through the house and get rid of all the stuff I don't use. I'll package up everything that belongs to someone else and give it back. I'll give away the things I don't need, and throw away the stuff that isn't any good. I also want to call a junk remover co and get them to come and take away the old couch on my porch. I can also sort out my receipts for the year and get that sorted out & entered into my Excel sheets so it's not hanging over my head. I've been inspired to do this by a blog of Christine Kane's about getting rid of stuff we don't want. I know exactly what she's talking about - my Mom is always bringing over nicknacks and stuff she gets for free from folks who are tidying up their apartments in her complex. So I become the repository for the stuff they're trying to get rid of. And I seem to collect paper, magazines, print-outs, even newspapers I intend to clip articles out of but never do. And paperwork that needs to be filed effectively so I can find it!! Anyway, the blog is at --
http://feeds.feedburner.com/ChristineKane-Blog

In terms of looking after myself - routine is the key. Set a routine and do it everyday. I fall into that easily enough during the summer holiday... up by 7ish, coffee... morning walk, breakfast... out painting in the yard by 9 or so. Regular meals and good sleeps. It's somewhat easier because 2 other people are helping buy groceries, cook meals and clean-up. At home I have to do it all myself and I confess I get very tired of those chores (boring). So getting my mom to come over a couple of times a month to help me tidy up would help. I also found a local woman who will run errands, including picking up groceries, for a reasonable hourly rate. I feel guilty getting this help - like I should be superwoman, what's wrong with me - but you know, in business, they say -- delegate. In fact, just a while ago on a teleclass I participated in, it was suggested that indie musicians have to include their domestic responsibilities when considering how best to use their time & in getting together a team to support them in their work.

In terms of projects, I have to concentrate on writing & producing new works for film & tv, or remixing existing works. I plan to head to LA in November with a CD with several broadcast quality pieces to pitch.

I will be working with a local opera singer on improving my vocal health this fall... I'd also love to take some lessons for mandolin or fiddle but at this point I'm not sure how I could fit that into my schedule. I can certainly continue with my on-line guitar lessons. I also invested in another 3 months membership with SongU (www.songu.com) to continue growing in my knowledge of songwriting. I need to schedule time to complete classes.

I can feel myself rebelling against scheduling my time, but really, if I don't do that, how will I achieve anything? There's something about looking at my month's worth of appointments and seeing all the time blocks that are designated for something that makes the inner kid in me wail for recess. Yet I love doing all those things, so why the resentment?

I think the resentment is part of the self-defeating behaviour that can keep me stuck in the spot I'm in. It's easier to rebel & resent, and feel frustrated & guilty than use that energy to move forward. It's endlessly facinating to me how we human beings get so walled in by 'how it's always been' that we, in very creative and subtle ways, actually work against ourselves. Again, I read a blog on this subject this morning - great reading --
http://christinekane.com/blog/getting-discovered-getting-discouraged-and-getting-a-clue/

Look, the rain has stopped & the sun is trying to come out. Time to write a song or two -- I'm very far behind in the '50 songs in 90 days' personal challenge! Talk soon, eh?

Summer hiatus

Well, I'm off tonight for my summer break... where I will write copious songs with the guitar - hopefully some of them good - and lie on a cot in the yard & nap in the sleepy afternoons.... cook dinner once every three days... take the dog for morning walks... paint... spend time with my beloved Dad... and basically be in nature. Hope you have a good one! Talk to you when I get back :)

50 songs in 90 days - Jul 4 to Oct 1

Hey, I'm doing the "50 songs in 90 days" songwriting challenge. I did it last year, but only wrote about 12 songs. I hope to do better this year! You can do it too --- http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/50songs90days/ No excuses!!! Yes you can - it isn't impossible... yes you can, you can find the time... yes you can!!!

Other than that... let's see... found myself a new vocal coach - she's a fairly well known opera singer & a very sweet lady; I auditioned for the chorus of the local professional opera company; I signed a two-year exclusive agreement for an instrumental with an LA music publisher; and I'm working on collabs with Dean Taylor, Noel Downs, Arie Boom, and Michael Kavanagh. My trio performed several times in June, but we'll be taking a break over the summer as members will be away. I've been working on my guitar skills and am trying to understand more about production, and more about orchestration. I've booked a trip to LA in the fall, as well. Oh, and I was interviewed by CBC Radio on the topic of 'music as therapy' and how the practice of music lifts us and moves us forward in growth and awareness. And - I did laundry. Now if I could just organize my bedroom. Anyone got a backhoe?

Dreaming

I ponder my dreams and why I dream them. I talk about "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. How doing the tasks in that book moved me forward. How that book helped me realize my thinking was too limited, and too much affected by the past. How my dreams have progressed as I grow in awareness and conscious living....

Flying Dreams... http://www.shysinger.podshow.com/

The Bare Facts on Songwriting

Lindsay Miller: "Vikki, I'm doing some research... I was wondering if you had time to answer a few questions for me about your experiences in song and lyric writing, so that I can start thinking about how to prepare for my future."

Vikki Flawith: "Hey, wanna be on my podcast?"

So Lindsay and I end up talking about various aspects of songwriting on my new podcast :)

http://www.podshow.com/shows/?mode=detail&episode_id=64859

Artistry Knows No Age!

Well... the subject of Ageism in the Music Industry is one topic I seem to end up discussing every few weeks. So I decided, for my first ever podcast, to say a few thoughts about Creativity and Age. Check it out at...

http://shysinger.podshow.com/

believing in your capacity to be the artist you are

It's easy to say we should overcome the past and get on with it. It's easy to say that we should have the confidence to ignore the North American work ethic & social mores that say we are born & educated to be productive workers & good consumers, and so work & buy until you drop.

After many years of buying into the myth that you have to give up your dreams to make a living, I awoke the possibility that the things keeping me back were deep inside of me. Yes, integrated when I was young, programmed into me by family, school, church, and the need to be 'good'. My shyness was, in a sense, beaten into me. It was implied I was pretty useless and even when I was useful, it was less than adequate. I grew up thinking everyone else knew how things worked, and I didn't. I felt like everyone else had the manual. But I didn't. And even if I did, I still wouldn't be more than adequate at anything.

Extra-sensitive, I cringed at loud noises. Extra-sensitive, I sensed the malovent energy coming from school classmates... and (as a skinny silver haired pre-teen) from some men. Painfully shy, I went beet-red and stammered in social situations. My mind would just go blank, and I couldn't think of anything to say... and if I had any thoughts at all, it was "they think you're boring / stupid". I punctuated my sentences with nervous giggles and talked so softly & high pitched that even in my 20s when I answered the phone people would say, 'is your mommy home'?

So what is my point? Well, first of all, if I could overcome all that, so can you.

The voice(s) in your head (internal editor, internal critic, dragon) is there for a reason -- it's there for you to struggle against. If you see that voice & what it says as a stop sign, you will wake up one day and be 10 or 20 years older, regretting that you gave up on something that means so much to you. It doesn't matter what you do or how well you do it, that tape will loop itself over and over again. Talk back to it. Struggle against it. Fight it. Everytime you get knocked down, take a moment to feel what you feel... and then get back up and keep going. Because you love music, and you love being in it and of it... and it makes you feel alive... and nothing and noone can take that from you but you. Feel the fear.... and do it anyway.

some things leave a bad taste... even when good for you

Yes, I learned this week that some things that are meant to make you healthy don't taste very good at all. In fact, they taste like old coffee mixed with black tar. But I am taking my medicine. I'm supposed to take a cup a day before I go to bed... but it's so foul, even with honey in it, that I can only manage half a cup. It's Traditional Chinese Medicine. I have two friends who have tried it and have had amazing results, so I thought I would try as well. We'll see how it goes.

It reminds you, though, that some things require determination to see them through. Especially with the creative process. You know, sometimes I struggle and struggle to get a piece of music where I think it ought to be, and then I put it away in disgust. Weeks later, I pull it out and have a listen to see if there's anything I can do to resurrect the piece... and often, I'll think, 'hey... this is good!'. I guess in the moment, in the midst of the frustration that what you hear doesn't match what you imagined in your mind... you don't see that it took you somewhere else... and that's not only cool, but sometimes even better than you imagined. If you can open your mind to it.

This week I'm challenging my creativity by getting up early and working with students in the early morning... leaving the rest of the day, until my late afternoon shift... for creative projects. So, rather than staying up late, and sleeping in, and then teaching all day... the plan is, I'll go to bed early, get up early, teach 2 or 3 hours, and then have 5 hours or so free for play.

I have the month end/month beginning financial stuff to do; working on some musical projects, of course; try to get out and enjoy the spring air & flowers every day as well. And drink my bedtime medicine. Face the dragon.

this week's goals

This week, I've resolved to get back to writing 700 words a day on my novel, walk every morning, and get my paints out of the box and start working on a painting. I have to finish my books for 2006, and start working on jewelry for my summer gallery. I'm working on musical projects with Dean Taylor, Arie Boom, Ron Patton, Lee Kweller, Richard Larabie & Michael Kavanagh, I also have songs & instrumentals of my own I'm working on. Plus teach and look after my health.

Keep busy, and stay inspired!

self evaluation

Someone was asking about self-evaluation on a songwriting board. Do you do it, are you honest with yourself?

IMO, critical self-evaluation is critical to any artist. If it's done in the right way. No point in putting yourself down if you don't sound like an opera singer in your first voice lesson. There needs to be an understanding of process. Process is like... moving forward because you've built the foundation to move forward... and often we don't know we're going to move forward, but if we keep building the foundation... suddenly we will be a step further on the path.

There's little story I often tell my students... about the stone cutter. In the way olden days before things like ProTools, cell phones, and electric coffee grinders, folks used to make their tools out of stone. The stone cutter is banging one stone (the hammer) against another stone, to cut an edge. On the one-thousandth blow, the stone splits, revealing a straight & sharp perfect edge. The stonecutter knows it's not that one-thousandth blow that cut the stone, but all the blows that went before.

Attending music conferences has been for me the most effective way to access my current place on the path towards being a recognized, professional songwriter with cuts & placements. The first conference, I just went and soaked it all in. One would you think you would be demoralized by all the talent and all the excellent music... but somehow it's inspiring. I came away knowing more than when I had arrived, and with more specific ideas on what I needed to do to get further down the path. The second conference, 2006, was even better - perhaps because I was 'better' - knew more, was more honest, could clearly see my strengths and identify my weaknesses. Again, I came away with a clear idea what just what I would have to do in order to get further along the path.

One thing I strongly believe -- and perhaps because I've been a student of singing for 17 years and have sung everything from folk songs at coffee houses to operas at opera houses... is that an artist must always be growing - that is actually the journey. Getting a part, or publishing a book, or placing a song is very nice and part of the experience. But it's actually the doing of the work and the knowledge that you're better at it today than you were last year that is the motivating factor.

I'd say I'm somewhere in the middle between rank amateur & professional composer. Determined that there is a craft to be learned and that I have the ability to learn it. Totally aware that that learning is going to be a process spread over several years and then some. Totally fine with that, knowing where I want to go and slowly taking the steps along that road. Aware that there has been some recognition of my work from the public as well as the pros. Aware that I have further to go. Part of the business of songwriting to me is participating in several songwriting boards and passing along what I have learned. Making connections with other writers & artists is very meaningful to me and definitely something I want to continue. Those connections & the sharing of knowledge, support & creative energy is half the reason I'm here.

I've performed one heck of a lot - started singing in choirs at 6 and won't stop until the final curtain - and I've sung all kinds of music as well as playing piano, guitar, flute, piccolo, trumpet, harmonica, recorder. My lyric writing & my singing are my greatest strengths at the moment. Translating a knowledge of a lifetime of performing music into composing & arranging music and then producing it effectively is what I'm working on now.

Personally I know I'm the typical absent-minded, befuddled creative person. I have no energy for housework or income tax or paperwork or laundry, but I'll stay up til 3 am endlessly listening to the mix of a new song and tweaking it over and over... cause that's where my heart is and what makes my days on this earth worthwhile.

How about you?

rain...

Ah... well, we've gone from the wierd climate change snow storms and wind storms and hurricanes to the usual sodding grey days of rain. Feels like home :)

Got a few projects going on:

Arie Boom - tweaking the lyrics & vocals for a cool pop-electronica song about climate change;

Lee Kweller - working on writing the melody for a folk song & doing a simple demo;

Ron Ropatt - working on writing the lyrics for a pop song & recording the vocals;

Dean Taylor - working on tweaking/remixing a pop-electronica James Bond sort of song;

Joe Wrabek - working on a couple of tracks for a country song

Plus I'm working on a couple of my own. Have to get my books done for income tax, and have to get organized to go spend a few days with my Dad over Easter.

Gotta go out in the rain now....

creatin' blood, sweat & tears everyday

Here I am fresh from the struggles, fights, exhaustion and elation of "February Album Writing Month" - where you challenge yourself to write "an album" of 14 songs in 28 days. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, because I managed to write, and record, 15 pieces of music - 4 instrumentals and 11 complete songs. All folk-based, all inspired by the fantasy world of JRR Tolkien.

"I can't wait for the album!" said my good friend. "Oh," said I. That will be a work in itself, taking each first draft (cause that's really all they are) and reworking/writing until they are ready to be produced. I already had 4 pieces on this theme I'd written sporatically over the past year, so that means I have 18 pieces. Perhaps two albums :)

Now I am working to catch up on some collaborations with lyricists, musicians & producers that have been waiting in the wings while I get myself organized.

In addition to that, I'm working on writing instrumentals of varying lengths for the film/tv market.

And I have 3 or 4 lyrics I was working on in January for pop, rock or country, that I need to fine-tune and then create the music so they can sing.

I also need to gather & sort & add up my receipts for last year so I can do my books and get my income tax filed. Not my favourite thing to do but I've set aside a little time two or three times a week to do a little more. Should be done by the end of March.

I've written over 33,120 words in my novel, and I want to get back at it, but I think it will have to wait til April.

Which brings me to creating blood, sweat & tears everyday. In the month of February, I had a revelation. I have revelations from time to time, usually after I've become aware of some issue in my life, and wrestle with it, feel guilty over it, or try to ignore it... but can't.

Lots of folks who read my blog & know my story tell me how inspiring I am and that's great, but I live with me, and I know there are many times when I'm not inspired or inspiring. In this revelation, I saw clearly how I stop myself from being inspired. How I stop myself from achieving more.

I saw how I put things off, procrastinate, for various reasons... it's almost like I get disconnected from them - they are "over there" and I know it, and it bugs me that they are there and not dealt with... but the same time, with the disconnect, I'm able to push them aside... and time passes... and suddenly I realize, it's been ages, and I haven't completed that thing. And then the voice in my head starts - 'see, you're such a loser, you haven't finished that project; you're a waste of space; who are you kidding; you're so lazy; you don't accomplish anything; you're a piece of s**t'. And then I become very scattered, because I've got several of those overdue things on my plate, and I don't know where to start, and it doesn't feel like much fun, and I'm so frustrated & angry with myself for not getting them done in a reasonable time frame and leaving them to the last minute, etc etc etc. Laundry, grocery-shopping, music projects, design projects, writing projects, answering emails, etc.

So, in the midst of writing 15 songs in 28 days, I had an epiphany. I decided I needed a system to deal with the backlog, and to deal with new projects. I decided I had to take the skills I already have in scheduling students, rehearsals, and gigs, and apply that to my other projects. I could feel myself rebelling as I began to schedule specific times to work on collaborations and to work on organizing different parts of my life.

"That's not very creative" said the voice in my head, as I assigned an entire week's free time to one collaboration, contacting the co-writer & suggesting we talk on the Sunday about what we have planned.

"That's restrictive" said the voice in my head, as I assigned another week to another co-writer who has been waiting patiently for me to get my ass in gear.

"How can you schedule inspiration" said the voice in my head as I contacted new collaborators and scheduled time for their projects.

But I'm here to tell you, it works. It's amazing. Instead of having all these responsibilities weighing me down and stopping the flow... everything is done, or has its time/place. So I can work today on an instrumental, because I've put aside tomorrow morning for this week's collaboration. The bills are paid and the grocery shopping is done. I have two students today and I can spend the rest of the time writing or producing music, knowing the other collaborations on my project list all have been scheduled and their time is coming up.

I feel lighter, more energized... and tons more inspired. I still struggle with finding the right words or the right notes to say what I want to say (blood), I still struggle to find the right instruments & textures to paint a sonic picture of my inspiration (sweat), and I still am moved by how it feels to be part of, and in, the music on a daily basis (tears). I am just so grateful for the conscious awareness in my life that allows me to grow, learn & create every day.

I did it!!!

In February I...

-- completed the graphic design of a 291-page student manual;

-- submitted a 25-page excerpt of my novel to the 2007 Summer Literary Seminars Fiction and Poetry Contests, in Affiliation with The Walrus magazine, Fiction Judge: Douglas Coupland

--wrote 15 pieces of music for the "February Album Writing Month" - you challenge yourself to write 14 songs in 28 days. I wrote 3 or 4 instrumentals and the rest complete songs, and recorded worktapes of each;

-- taught, scheduled, prodded & pushed 28 students;

-- looked after my personal health by eating tons of steamed vegetables, taking my vitamins & flax oil, and getting no sleep.

lagging behind deadlines

Maybe it's the struggle to get over this cold, but I have had to fight the demons this week. All the doubts and procrastination have reared their ugly heads. OTOH, I have managed to write song #8 for the '14 songs in 28 days' challenge... but I am a little behind, since it's the 18th today... I should be on song #9. I have concepts for 2 or 3 more songs, but nothing is exciting me.

The challenge has been interesting, because I see that, when I create a song, I want to 'live' with it for awhile... enjoy the moment, so to speak... and kinda glory in the fact that I created something and that I like it. But you can't really wallow in your success with a challenge like this, nor can you waste time perfecting what you've written, you have to write it, do some sort of recording of it, and then move on.

I see something else too, which is a total contradiction to what I just said -- I find it difficult to rework and revise and rerecord over and over. Sometimes I get lost, and sometimes I feel like my "fixing" takes something away from the song.

That is the creative process, and also the reality of being a human being - that you have these feelings or inspirations that are total opposites to each other, both at the same time.

I also see that I have a great love of great story-telling and use of language, which is why I love JRR Tolkien and Mary Stewart and Jane Austen and John Grisham and so many other wonferful writers. And good movies too. I love to live in the worlds they have created. I suppose my music is to me a way for me to get into and create worlds of my own.

This week, I've had to fight against the internal editor who has been saying 'this isn't good enough' or 'no one will want to listen to this crap', I've even spoken out loud to myself, saying, "write what comes to you, don't say it needs to be something else, embrace it even if it feels totally out to lunch or non-commerical or even without structure. You must embrace the inspiration... cause if you don't you will never get to the place it could lead you. You will never know that place if you say 'no'."

Thus I have written music that is... I don't what kind of genre... but it expresses something in me and of me... and really that's all any artist can do. I can't be anyone but me, saying what I have to say, in the way I say it.

waaaaaaaah me sick :(

Play the violins.... I was fighting a bit of a cold on Wednesday night and Thursday... but Friday - wham, it hit me like a ton of bricks with an awful sore throat and a fever and everything (sniff)... anyway, I had to cancel work for two days. And, on top of that, I can't record anything cause my voice sounds like... gravel.

On the good, side, I got my new audio system today... minus the correct soundcard (although they had all the instructions), they have to order it in. But I can get myself set-up with my programs and highspeed internet, and take the CPU back in a few days when they get the right soundcard -- which needs a plug-in for my midi keyboard.

So I have to work on transferring data from my existing system (via my external hard drive) and installing all the programs, once I've done all that I'm looking forward to seeing what it feels like to work on a system with enough ram, faster processor, and lots of memory, when recording/producing. Have to run to the store tomorrow to get anti-virus software & a couple of other things.

I got a good deal on a LCD monitor - I originally was going to get a 19", but they had a slightly used 22"-wide screen monitor, which they sold me for just $50 more.

Other than that, I've written 4 complete songs for Fawm, and I have two more lyrics, with music composed, that need production; and I have another piece of soundart I'm saving to work with on the new system next week. Being sick, plus this system being chock full of data, kinda put the stops on posting anything musical for a few days.

That's the news for now! Stay creative out there.

FAWM: 4 down, & 11 to go?

Well, I got off to a good start with the February Album Writing Month... my girlfriend called me from Denmark... which is 9 hours ahead... so it was 8 am for her and 11 pm for me... and we talked for over an hour. So, after we got off the phone, I sat down at the piano and played this 5 note motif I had improvised in someone's lesson that day.... and before I knew it, I was well into creating my first piece. I wrote a complete arrangement for the music, and recorded a short 1.5 minute sample of the work, in the early hours of Feb 1st.

The next morning, I had a cancellation, so I went down to the local coffee shop with some notes I had on 3 or 4 story elements or characters that Tolkien created. I just thought a little... and before I knew it, I had a lyric. In my lunch break I wrote the music - but I had a lot of trouble making a work tape I was happy with, so I ended up just doing an a capella version with vocal harmonies as a sample.

On Friday, I sat at the piano and improvised a little, and then wrote a couple of interweaving music motifs. I managed to actually produce a longer piece. It's posted at:
http://www.mixposure.com/song.php?songid=35447

Yesterday and today I struggled with the 4th piece. I wrote these lyrics yesterday and they are within the theme of my 'album' - inspired by Tolkien - but the song isn't anything I'd put on my album. But I kept telling myself not to block the inspiration, to write whatever comes, and trust it is leading somewhere. Don't think about the end product, allow the flow, accept the flow, no editing. Then I had some computer problems and ended up spending 4 hours - and reworking it twice - before this ol' computer would actually render a work tape for me.

I haven't got my new computer yet -- I found out it would be better to have a second SATA internal hard drive, instead of an external hard drive, for storing the orchestra samples, as the transfer rate through the USB hub might be too slow. That means, if you are using several different instruments, the main drive has to go 'get' the samples while you play your music. The USB hub may not transfer that data fast enough, so you get pops and clicks in your playback -- well I have that on my old computer, and the whole point was to get away from that! I'm glad I found this out, because the internal hard drive addition costs $100 less than the external.

I'm trying to organize my desks and stuff so I'll have a place to put it :) I actually went through some stuff today and filled a garbage bag and two recycle bags. Feels good.

I'm tired now. I decided not to try to write anything else today. Hopefully inspiration will flow again soon :)

Oh, yeah.... this week I also have a short writing project to complete; work on a large graphic design project; keep up with my students and do some paperwork.

"When you know who you truly are, there is an abiding alive sense of peace. You could call it joy because that's what joy is: vibrantly alive peace. It is the joy of knowing yourself as the very life essence before life takes on form. That is the joy of Being -- of being who you truly are." ~ Eckhart Tolle, 'Stillness Speaks'

Aquarian creativity at boiling point

I don't know what it is... but I'm burning up with a creative fever.

This past week I wrote several thousand words on the novel I started in NaNo 2004... and tried to continue in NaNo 2006. Now suddenly it's firing me up and luring me to the computer to type away... first thing in the morning, get that. Oh, what's NaNo? National Novel Writing Month - it happens every November, where participants challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in that month.

I have signed up for Fawm 2007. Fawm is February Album Writing Month, where participants challenge themselves to write 14 songs in 28 days... an album... it can be lyrics, songs, instrumentals, anything, as long as you start it in February. I have a theme.... so I'm just waiting for February.

In the meantime, I've been reading the lyrics for one hit song a day... looking at structure and imagery and craft. That's inspired me to write some lyrics of my own... so every day I'm trying to write at least a line or two... or a verse... or a chorus... or a whole song. It's gettin' my creative song-writing muscle in shape for February.

This month I was priviledged to begin working with several new students, and my studio is very full... and I have a waiting list of about 10 or 12.

And I am now in the throes of choosing the computer... the one that's going to properly run my recording software & orchestra program. I'm going Monday to talk to some folks who build systems, to see what they'll quote me for what I want. Hopefully not too much...

Thankfully our freaky weather has calmed for a moment, the white stuff it deposited on the ground has gone... the sun was out today, I bought some daffodils from the store... and I saw a hummingbird in my garden this week.

Other than that, I've been contemplating a new painting... but haven't gone so far as to set up the easel or find my paints.

I've been practicing the guitar - my new country stum, and my new folk pick are coming along.

That's it for now. It's wayyyy too late and I should be in bed. Famous last words!

Ciao.

looking forward to new system

Yeah! This week I get paid for all the hours I worked on a big project in December... and that means I can buy the hard drive I've been dreaming of.... and will finally be able to produce music effectively.

I have so many sketches and drafts of songs, and worktapes of songs, and ideas for songs, and collaborations to finish - I'll be busy for the next six months!! Hopefully there will be an album at the end of it. A mystical, magical, fantasy-based electronic folk album with dreamy, ethereal vocals and great harmonies.

I've also been trying to write at least 700 words a day on my novel. It's hard going. It's amazing how, when you sit down to write, suddenly all these things you would never do start appearing in your mind... "gee, I think I should clean the closet", "I should tidy the sock drawer", maybe I should check my email".

I find myself looking for little tidbits that might inspire me... like trivia or wierd news or just observations... and then start there and talk about them through the eyes of my character... her perspective on the world and the strange things that inhabit it. Sometimes it's like pulling teeth to get even a few words out of my brain... other times it seems to flow and I get to 900 words without even thinking.

The freak weather here - yet another snow storm where normally we get a dusting one afternoon which then turns to rain - has been keeping me inside, so I haven't done as much walking as I'd like. My mind turns to mush if I don't walk everyday. I discovered, though, if I can make it the half block to the parking lot, and then over the parking lot, I can walk around the park - which is grass, so if I slip, it would be softer. So I've had a turn or two around there.

Been playing the guitar everyday, and looking at my schedule to see where I could fit in some more lessons. That's the trouble with being a teacher - other teachers tend to teach at the same time as you, lol.

Had the first rehearsal of the new year with my trio yesterday. Felt good to be back together!!

Back to the salt minds tomorrow. Not. I love my work. It's a good thing I have something to do or I would just fritter away my time...

I always liked recess.

Goals for 2007?

I have some goals for 2007, I don't really think of them as New Year's resolutions, but just something I plan to do -- pay down debts, eat healthy, exercise daily, write prose more often, play with music a lot, be a good teacher, write a creatively inspired album. How about you?