Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: songwriting (page 1 of 4)

Falling and Floating

It has been, on the whole, a very decent week…with one or two large caveats.

Saturday, I had an afternoon volunteer shift at the Old Town School, where my partner and I were also going to catch a show that evening. When I got off the bus, it hadn’t pulled all the way to the curb, so I had to step onto the street. When I went to step onto the curb…I sort of missed. My toe caught on the edge, and I went sailing forward in what felt like slow motion – I kept thinking I could catch myself, and then there was the awful moment when I realized I couldn’t, and I crashed, hard. I landed on my bad knee, ripped a hole in the palm of the fingerless glove on my right hand, and hit my head. The travel mug I had been carrying and the water bottle that had been in a pouch on the side of my backpack both went flying.

I was pretty shaken up, and my knee hurt like hell, but I managed to get up and hobble to the school, where I texted my partner (who was at the March for Our Lives), and then, like the millennial I am, posted about it on Instagram.

It was horrible, but before too long, the day started turning around. I got some ice from the cafe for my knee, and no sooner had I gotten downstairs with that than a friend showed up with a gluten free cupcake for me. My partner came and met me for dinner between my shift and the concert, and that was lovely; the concert was also a lot of fun.

Monday I had my first gig in a couple of months, and I was able to try out some of the material I wrote during FAWM. I managed to actually look at the audience more than my lead sheets for the first time ever, so that was a big win.

The rest of the week has been fine, and I’m going to the doctor today to get my knee checked out. (Also, if you’re thinking, “didn’t he just fall a month ago?” You are not wrong. Gravity and I are not getting along these days, apparently.) The fall was a bit of a nightmare, but it could have been so much worse – I could’ve cracked my head open, I could’ve broken something else…I landed a few inches from an iron fence. And I have good people that have been checking in on me and taking care of me. It was an unfortunate situation, but a good reminder that my people are the best people.

Here’s hoping I can stay upright for a while!

February Lessons

March has arrived, which means FAWM is officially over.

February was an interesting month, and it taught me a lot. Some of the lessons I learned this month:

  • Inspiration is more likely to come if you give it a space to show up in. I didn’t feel super inspired every time I sat down to write, but it happened enough of the time to convince me that scheduling writing time is actually a really good idea.
  • If you want to write 14 songs in 28 days, you need to sit down and write songs. Showing up and putting in the work is how we get better at things. The more days I got up early to write, the easier it was to get up early to write.
  • I’m an overachiever. I’m sure some of you who know me are rolling your eyes at me, because obviously. But I really had convinced myself that I wasn’t, and I was a little surprised by how quickly I was shooting for a ridiculous stretch goal and how easily my brain can turn “you wrote 19 songs instead of 28” into a feeling of failure.
  • I actually write better under time constraints. The key here, I think, is structure. Open-ended songwriting sessions meander a lot because I am easily distracted. Sitting down to write when I know I have to start getting ready for work in an hour helps me focus.
  • Plans get derailed sometimes, and that’s okay. One of the reasons I didn’t hit my stretch goal of 28 songs was that I was dealing with the spasmed muscles in my shoulder and neck, which made it hard to write (it hurt to look down for any length of time) and play guitar. It was discouraging. But I still hit (and passed) the actual goal. Even if I hadn’t hit the goal, though, I think the fact that I showed up and tried something new is worth celebrating.

I’m pleased with my progress and like a fair number of the 19 songs I wrote last month. I’m excited to polish some of them for a gig I have coming up later this month!

Ride It Out

I mentioned last week that I was making unexpectedly excellent progress on writing for FAWM. I’ve continued to write, and I hit my goal of 14 songs in the month of February on Sunday, the 11th. (Favorites so far have been posted here.)

I don’t know where I’m finding inspiration. I am trying not to ask too many questions. I’m just going to ride this out as long as I can, and find out just how many songs I can write in 28 days.

On Thursday night last week, it snowed a whole bunch here in Chicago, and my office was closed on Friday. Which was a good thing, because thanks to whatever wonky position I slept in, I woke up with my right shoulder/neck muscles spasming.

As you might imagine, this was super discouraging and not at all conducive to writing, not to mention super painful. But I pushed through and wrote anyway. As of this writing on the evening of Wednesday, the 14th, I’ve only gone one day this month without writing. I’m really proud of that.

This weekend we have a friend coming to visit, so I may or may not get any writing done, but that’s okay. I’m happy with where I’ve gotten to so far, and excited to see where I end up by the end of the month!

Productivity

We are a week into February, and thus a week into February Album Writing Month. I’ll be honest, when I signed on for this mad endeavor, I did not expect it to go all that well. I’ve averaged about 20 songs a year since I started writing again in 2014 – less than a song every two weeks. Writing an average of a song every two days felt pretty much impossible.

But last Thursday, on February 1st, I woke up and wrote a song.

And I’ve gone on to do the same thing every day since. In fact, since I wrote multiple songs on Saturday and Sunday, as of this writing on the morning of Thursday the 8th, I’m up to eleven songs.

I have no idea what’s happening or how. I am not asking questions. I’m just getting up and writing and riding this creative wave as long as I’m able to.

I have been less productive elsewhere in my life, although I did a fair bit of cooking last night and washed a whole lotta dishes. (I’ve actually been pretty cranky this week, about most things aside from the high of finishing songs. I’m not really sure what to do about that.) But at least I’m finding things to write about!

Write Write Write

I almost forgot to write a blog post this week.

I usually write on Wednesdays and schedule the post to go live on Thursday. But yesterday I was too busy being anxious about today being the first day of February to remember to write a blog post.

See, I made the possibly questionable decision to sign up for February Album Writing Month. The goal is to write 14 songs in the 28 days of February. When I’m in songwriting classes, I write a song a week. If I’m really ambitious, I might write two. But a song every other day? That’s a lot. Like, really a lot.

And as I looked over my schedule for February, I realized that my evenings are largely booked all month long. Which means if I’m going to do this thing, I’m going to have to get up around 5am every morning to write.

I have been struggling with mornings again lately, and so I was pretty worried going into today that I was going to oversleep.

But guess what?

I didn’t oversleep.

And guess what else?

I WROTE A SONG! I finished up just before 7, which meant I had plenty of time to get ready for work, too.

I don’t know how the rest of the month will go, and I’m taking it one day at a time. But this feels like a really strong start, and I’m quite chuffed that it worked out as well as it did.

Plans

After I posted last week about my word of the year being “Action”…I promptly caught the cold from hell and lost several days to that nonsense. I was out of the office for three of the last five work days, and spent a lot of time annoyed by the fact that I couldn’t breathe through half my nose and kept waking myself up coughing. But I finally (FINALLY) and starting to feel more human again, so now I feel like it’s time to move forward with starting 2018 (a little over a week late, but hey, who’s counting?).

I’m continuing PT for my knee, which is helping a lot. It also makes me whine a lot, because the exercises are HARD (but feel like they shouldn’t be). I’m working on being more gracious about it and grateful for the progress I’m making.

Songwriting class started this week, and I’m trying to hit the ground running, so I have a shot at hitting my goal of 40 songs written this year (twice the number I’ve written each of the past two years).

I’m working on anxiety coping mechanisms in therapy. One of the things I’m trying this week is writing down my anxieties, in the hopes that getting them out of my head onto paper will make it easier to talk myself down. So far it seems like it’s helpful, but it’s only been a couple of days, so jury’s still out. I left my session this week with several ideas to try, though, so if this doesn’t work out, I have other options.

One of the things I want to do a better job of this year is actually planning out my weeks. There’s a big part of me that hates the idea of being boxed into a rigid schedule, but I also recognize that I’m more productive if I have a plan. If the only way I will make time to write songs or read books or whatever else I want to do is if I block out time in my schedule every week, then that’s what I need to do.

I’m trying to keep my goals reasonable, to not bite off more than I can chew in the first two weeks of the year, because I don’t want to burn out. Finding the balance there is a challenge.

Writer’s Block

I put this week’s blog post off to the last minute this week (I’m writing this less than half an hour before my posts usually go live), because I just don’t know what to write about.

My songwriting class has been…frustrating, if productive so far, but I don’t really want to rant about that.

I’m still learning how to be a morning person. It’s been mostly going well, although the last couple of days have been rough, probably because of the weather.

Work is going okay; this week I took an eight hour online class (over two days) to get a better foundation in my knowledge of how to pull data out of our system.

I’m incredibly sleepy this morning. I’m working from home, waiting for someone from the building maintenance team to come and take a look at our tub, which has been draining slowly and dripping incessantly.

Basically, life is happening, moving right along, but it hasn’t been especially eventful or exciting this week. But in an effort to have something to post this week, here are three things I’m happy about right now:

  1. The songwriting class has been frustrating, but I’m getting back into the project I started a couple of years ago of writing a song for every card in a tarot deck. That’s 78 songs, and I’ve only finished four or five, so I’ll be at it for a while. But it’s fun to feel excited about it again.
  2. I’m working on some fun knitting projects. I’m making a sweater for my nephew for Christmas, a sweater for myself, and I started some socks last night that have an interesting construction that I’m excited about.
  3. We hung out with some new friends last night, and it was a lot of fun. I love finding people that I can laugh with.

Reading Deprivation

I’m currently in the middle of week four of The Artist’s Way, and this week I’m supposed to try “reading deprivation” as a means of getting my own ideas out into the world. It is what it sounds like: this week, I’m not supposed to read. The idea is that, while reading is not an inherently bad thing, it often serves as a way for us to distract ourselves from our own thoughts and ideas. If you can’t read, eventually you get bored enough that you start to entertain yourself in new and creative ways, I suppose.

Now, I’m having to make some exceptions – I can’t do my job without email, and reading emails and text messages outside of work doesn’t tend to take up a huge amount of my time, so I haven’t really counted that as reading, either. Where I see myself wasting time and avoiding my own thoughts is in the moments where I get lost on Facebook or poking around other odd corners of the internet. So I’ve basically been off Facebook all week (with a couple of under-60-second exceptions), I’m checking Instagram less often, and I’m trying to steer clear of Google. I’m also not picking up the books I really want to be reading.

It’s been interesting so far. I’ve done more journaling. I’ve been doing tarot readings for myself (a different type of reading altogether that I sort of arbitrarily decided didn’t count), but haven’t cracked open a guidebook when I feel stuck on the meaning of something, which means I have to lean more on intuition and my own interpretations of things – not a bad practice, really. I’ve been looking for ways where I can use my imagination more, because I’m aware, when thinking about all of this, of how little I stretch those mental muscles these days.

I don’t know if it’s related to The Artist’s Way or not (I’m always skeptical), but I have actually been pretty damn productive this week, both creatively and at work.

Last week, I was feeling a little bit dubious about the new songwriting class I’m in – it’s pretty entirely self-directed (no predetermined assignments from the instructor), and I was worried that I’d be overwhelmed and not driven to get things done. But I didn’t want to dismiss it out of hand just because it’s not the format I’m used to, so I decided that I’m going to use this eight-week class to work on my ongoing project with no deadline – writing a song for every card in a tarot deck. I wrote my first tarot song in months over the weekend. I really liked how it turned out, and then I got some really useful feedback on it in class, which is ultimately what I want out of a songwriting class. So that was exciting.

And yesterday, at work, I managed to make some solid progress on a project that I’d been avoiding for weeks for no real reason. It was getting to the point where I’d avoided it so long that it felt impossible to do anything about it, but when I finally sat down and broke it into a couple of different tasks, it became suddenly manageable.

It’s been pretty challenging to stay awake through my morning pages this week, but I’ve managed. Some mornings I can get the three pages written in about 40 minutes…other days, like yesterday, it takes an hour and fifteen minutes or more. But I think it’s worth it, if for no other reason than it seems to be turning me into more of a morning person.

Song School 2017

Last week there was no blog, because my partner and I were at the Rocky Mountain Song School at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, CO. I spent the week almost entirely unplugged: away from my phone, not thinking about work, not focusing so hard on the news. It was…

Well, it was incredible, really. I didn’t get a lot of writing done (there are classes pretty much all the time, and they’re all fascinating, and it’s impossible to get to all of them), but I learned so much. I met so many amazing, beautiful people doing amazing, beautiful work. We talked about songwriting generally, but also about songwriting as survival, as resistance, as revolution. We held space for each other, cheered each other on and pushed each other to do better. 

I’ve never been in a new place around so many new people and felt so safe to be myself. 

It was an amazing experience. I don’t have adequate words to describe it. 

The road trip there and back was pretty great, too, although we did have some moments in small towns where we didn’t feel so safe (being an obviously queer couple in small town rural America can be frightening). I remembered, once we were finally in Colorado, that getting out of the city and into nature sometimes is essential to my mental health. It’s a thing that’s easy to forget in the convenience of living in Chicago, where I can get everything else I need, but it’s important. 

I’m going to be processing what I learned and working on the new songs I started for a few months, I think. I can’t wait to go back next year!

Adventure Calls

This past week has been a fun one. Sunday, I got to take a class on hand-sewing bow ties, taught by the fabulous Franklin Habit. The bow tie I made turned out a little snug, but I’m already gearing up to make more (with some adjustments to size so I don’t strangle myself when I wear them).

My partner was visiting his family in Minnesota for a few days, so I got some time alone in our apartment, which is a weird and rather uncommon thing. I definitely missed having him there, but it was nice to be a hermit for a few days, too.

I’ve been struggling to focus at work this week, after a couple of weeks that felt uncharacteristically (but refreshingly) productive. I don’t really mind that I’m a little scattered right now, though, because tomorrow, I will be on vacation.

My partner and I leave tomorrow for a grand adventure we’ve been wanting to take for years now: we’re headed off to a week-long songwriting camp in Colorado.

I was feeling pretty anxious last week, mostly, I think, because I started worrying that the experience wouldn’t live up to expectations, since we’ve been looking forward to this for so long. I feel like yesterday I finally hit the point of accepting that the journey is just as important as the destination, and that even if it isn’t perfect (which it probably won’t be, because life is messy), it will still be a new experience and a thing worth trying.

Besides, my partner and I love road trips, and this will be the biggest one we’ve gotten to take together.

There will be no blog next week, because I’ll be busy making music and ignoring my phone/the internet as much as possible. Catch you all in a couple of weeks!

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