song/writing challenges

50/90 - I did 50 songs in 90 days in 2006 and 2007. Both times I think I wrote maybe a max of 10 songs. However, I thought taking part in it was good as it motivated me to write and I definitely wrote songs I wouldn't have written if I hadn't done 50/90. Which is the whole point, really. They can be lyrics, instrumentals, or complete songs. They can be sketches. They don't have to have all the bells and whistles.

How do you do a song challenge? You grab ideas and write them down. Anything. You wake up everyday with a notebook at your side, write down your dreams. You tinker with words and with melodies.

NaNoWriMo - I signed up for NaNo in 2004, 2006, 2007... have yet to write 50,000 combined. But it prompts me to keep writing and keep trying

FAWM - My first FAWM (write 14 songs in 28 days) was in 2007 and I found it very difficult. I managed to write 8 songs and then I didn't write anything for 3 or 4 days, I was absolutely certain there was nothing left in there to create another song. Then I got three more. Then I knew I was done. But I managed to write 4 more before the end of the month and ended with 15. This year, 2008, I wrote 25 pieces (some instrumental, some lyric, some complete songs).

All these challenges have helped me get to the point where I work on music everyday. Yesterday, for example, I finished the rewrite of a lyric for a song that's about to be demo'd. Sent it off to Pat Luboff for review, she thinks it's great. I began to work on tweaking the music for it. I also started a new electronica piece. I also started to rework an orchestral instrumental. And yes, I worked as well. So you see, for me, the challenges have helped grow my creative muscle to the point that I write almost every day anyway. I try not to let the sun go down without at least starting something, or work on a sketch that I started the day before, etc etc.

50 songs in 90 days challenge

"This is a group whose purpose is to challenge members to write 50 songs in 90 days. Between July 4 and October 1 of any year, in the company of others, you can engage in some harmless songwriting mayhem. The prize is the pride in writing songs that may never have been written otherwise."

Info -

change = struggle

I was thinking today about change. Not change that happens from external events over which we have no control. But change that occurs because we actively choose it.

Change is the result of the inspiration from within to move forward from where we are. It often requires a significant amount of work to achieve. And besides doing the leg work – of perhaps, learning a new skill, achieving a new level of knowledge, or growing into a new habit – the biggest struggle of all may come from within, from that part of us that has a vested interest in us staying the same. You can call this the “ego”, which feeds on negative energy, which takes great glee in pointing out our failures and our laziness and our tripping ups and our falling downs.

The “ego” wants us to stay the same so it can yell at us about our stuckness. The “ego” wants us to stay the same so it has evidence that we are useless, lazy, too old, too dumb, too ‘fill in the blank’. The “ego” knows that if we continue to work towards our goals, and continue to work to be more than we are, that its existence is threatened. Therefore, when we feel the deepest struggle (‘this is too hard’), the deepest frustration (I’m getting nowhere’), the deepest sadness (‘who am I kidding anyway’) and reluctance (‘what’s the point’)… that is when a major shift in consciousness is about to take place.

I know this because I have seen it time and time again in my own creative process. I know this because in the face of utter despair at ever becoming who I dreamed of being, in the profound angst of despondency, I would just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I’d cry, I’d wail, and ask “what’s the point,” and then I’d get up from the couch and do what needed to be done, my face still wet with salty tears.

I think one of the major issues with this kind of thing is that we don’t know, if we put in the effort, if we will achieve anything at all. We want someone to tell us that yes, if we do the work, we will get ‘there’. But I think the truth is that no one can really tell you that. Even the experts can’t tell you if you have ‘what it takes’ to ‘fill in the blank’. They can’t because that judgment denies process. How can you tell, from looking at a stem growing from a bulb, whether it will flower?

If you come to me today for a first voice lesson, and can’t sing on key to save your life, shall I then pronounce my judgment, and Simon Cowell-like, tell you there is no hope, and that you should study accounting? Or shall I say, ‘thanks for sharing where you are. Now, let’s work on breathing.’ Shall I say, “I, as mentor, hear you as you are in this moment. I, as mentor, see a path for you to experience things differently, if you will try this, and that, and also this.” Shall I say, “this is beginning of your singing path. Allow it to be what it is, without judgment. It is what is. Trust that if you do this work, you will move forward. You will find your voice and release it.” Further, I might add, “and when your voice is released, and truly present in the moment with you, it will be beautiful.”

I can say what I say because I have been there, and I have done that work, and I have moved forward because of it. All that I am today comes from mentors and friends and my own spirit pushing and prodding me to move through the morass of despondency and disappointment and ‘lostness’ that I embodied years ago. And I firmly believe that if I can do it, anyone can do it, because there is no difference between me and anyone else.

In the final analysis, I believe it is the act of doing, the act of pushing through the reluctance, the act of picking up the pen, or the brush, or the guitar and doing something with it -- even if you feel it is the lousiest thing you’ve ever done… it is that act that works to defeat the ego. That’s the internal struggle to become more than you were at the start.

As if that isn’t enough, we may find an external resistance to our progress. Friends, relatives, acquaintances and colleagues may question us, or even turn away from us as we walk our path of creative growth. Julia Cameron talks about this in ‘The Artist’s Way’. Some of our harshest critics may well be those who are stuck themselves. They are critical of our attempts to grow and change because they are blocked. They, like our internal “ego,” have a vested interest in us staying stuck too. Therefore, as we take our first steps down this path of creative consciousness and skill building, we need to guard our fledgling selves. We need to protect the newly budding growth of our artist flower.

Therefore, seek out others who are on the same path, offer support and encouragement. Learn to listen as well as speak. Above all, be present in the moment whenever you can, breathe consciously, and treat yourself with respect and love. You deserve to be all that you wish to be. Anyone who truly loves the spirit in you, will love to watch as you blossom. And that, my friend, is the honest truth :)


On another note, you may enjoy my most recent video, “Truth & Relativity”: