Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: songwriting (page 1 of 3)

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!

A Handful of Happy Thoughts

It’s been a week. Work is overwhelming (my first big project of my still-newish project management job launches into our live environment on Monday, and I’m scrambling to get the last-minute details nailed down). I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water. In theory, things will lighten up next week, but that doesn’t really make me feel less overwhelmed right now. 

Still, the past week has brought with it some happy moments. A lot of what’s kept me relatively sane has been music. 

Last Thursday we saw Minnesota duo The Home Fires. It was a great show. 

Friday we saw another musical group hailing from Minnesota: The New Standards. My partner’s parents bought us tickets for my birthday, and it was so much fun!

Tuesday my partner and I set aside time to play music together. It was fun to work on some songs and start to get a feel for how our voices work together. 

I’m taking this session off from classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music, because I knew I’d have to miss the last couple of classes. In August, my partner and I are going to Song School, a week-long songwriting summer camp for adults out in Colorado. Knowing that trip is coming up is a large part of why I’m managing to hold it together at work. Just a month and a half until a creative vacation!

One of my short term goals is to start setting aside regular time each week to work on music. Particularly when other areas of my life feel unmanageable, music is a really great grounding activity. 

Birthday Reflections

As I mentioned in last week’s post, my birthday was on Saturday, and as a present to myself, I took a five-day weekend. I feel like I managed a pretty good balance between packing in the things I wanted to do and taking time to take it easy. Here are some thoughts and highlights from my birthday week:

  1. I got a ton of things done around the house. Not quite as many things as I was initially planning on, but I still made some significant progress. I’m pleased with and proud of the work I did.
  2. Friday was the day of celebrating with friends. I got breakfast with a friend from work who had also taken the day off. In the evening, I met up with some friends for drinks, and then some more folks joined us for pizza and sangria. It was fantastic, and I felt (still feel) very loved.
  3. Saturday was the day of celebrating with my partner. It didn’t go quite according to plan (the weather was threatening thunderstorms that never came but that made us want to stay closer to home), but it was a really lovely day.
  4. Sunday, I went to see Wonder Woman. I have so many feelings about Wonder Woman, but a lot of them are summed up in this lovely tweet that’s been floating around the interwebs:

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    “I’ve lived to see my childhood princesses become generals.”

  5. Monday night, I had the privilege of playing an Acoustic Explosion show at Sylvie’s here in Chicago, along with three of my songwriting classmates and a couple of other cool acts. Four of the seven performers had June birthdays, which added to the fun. I went last (at 10:30 pm – way past my bedtime), which meant I was two drinks into the evening before I got up on stage; apparently, that is the magic number for me to relax enough to perform my songs at a reasonable pace. I actually had to cut a song out of my set because I hadn’t blasted through all of the things I’d prepared! Below are the two new songs I played in my set; the rest of the set was older material that’s already elsewhere on my SoundCloud page.

Where Did the Week Go?

It’s been a busy week. Possibly not much busier than weeks usually are, but the fact that it’s been in the upper 80s and humid in Chicago the past couple of days has made everything feels pretty overwhelming. In any case, here are a few of the highlights from the past week, complete with photos:

  • I got a tattoo on Saturday! An apprentice tattooer I’ve been following on Instagram had posted some flash that I thought looked great, and now I have a happy little plant on my ankle:

    Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 7.28.23 PM

    It’s my first color tattoo, and the first one somewhere other than my forearms. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out, and it’s healing nicely.

  • We got to see one of our favorite folk duos twice last week! Wednesday night, we went to a songwriting workshop put on by Mouths of Babes titled The Political is Personal. It was inspiring and got me halfway to finishing my assignment for my regular songwriting class. Then on Sunday, we got to see them play at SPACE in Evanston. It was (predictably) a fabulous show.

    Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 7.33.35 PM

  • I finished another nearly-two-year-old knitting project, though this one was much smaller than a sweater. A couple of summers ago, I bought a tiny owl kit from MochiMochiLand at our local yarn store. I knit the body of one owl at knit night the evening I bought it, and hadn’t picked it back up since. Over the weekend, I dug it out. I finished the first owl, and then started on another one:

    Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 7.37.05 PM

    I finished the second owl last night, and found a spot for them with my favorite old wooden owl (that used to belong to my grandparents) on the shelf we refer to as our owlery:

    Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 7.39.19 PM

    They were a lot of fun to knit, and I’m glad to finally have them done!

Performance Anxiety

Monday night, I had a gig.

It was not my first gig. It wasn’t even my first gig at this particular venue. But I was really, really nervous.

Now, I have stage fright. It’s a thing, but I expect it, and I know it’ll usually be gone by about ten minutes after I get off the stage. Usually it doesn’t hit me all that hard or for all that long.

But Monday night was different. Maybe it was because I’ve been so damn anxious about everything else lately. Maybe it was because I was playing a set comprised entirely of brand new songs. I don’t know. But I was barely able to eat dinner, and I felt sick to my stomach, and I really had no idea how I was going to make it through all seven songs in my set.

Still, I got up on stage, and I did it. I got through everything. I rushed through almost all of it, but since no one else in the room had ever heard the songs before, no one was really the wiser. The last song in the set, I had to start over after a few measures when I realized I had started singing it up to high, but by that point I was determined to just get it done, so I didn’t let it bother me too much.

I stayed nervous through at least half of the next musician’s 25 minute set. I’m not sure if the anxiety faded on its own, or if it was aided by the Jack and Coke I was drinking, but thankfully, I was able to enjoy the rest of the evening’s performances.

People occasionally tell me they could never get up on stage and perform something they’d written. Now, I’m not a seasoned performer by any means, but I’ve played a fair number of class showcases and a handful of small gigs, which is apparently enough to impress people. The truth is, though, every time I’m going to get on stage, I wonder what the fuck I think I’m doing. I don’t do it because I really enjoy it. I write because I enjoy it, and I enjoy whatever positive feedback I might get after a set, but the actual process of performing is not a thing I find particularly fun. I do it because it makes me uncomfortable. I do it because writing songs just for myself sometimes feels unsatisfying, and while I’m terrified to put my soul out on display by performing what I’ve written, I like knowing I’m not creating in a vacuum.

So if you’re a creative person who’s been wondering if they should share their creativity with the world: the decision is ultimately up to you, but I recommend trying it at least once. It might not be a thing you enjoy doing, but you might find that you and I have something in common, that doing a thing that scares you precisely because it scares you can teach you a lot about yourself and the people you surround yourself with.

But enough of me rambling. How about some weird music? For the curious, if you follow the links to the SoundCloud pages for each song, I’ve posted the lyrics in the descriptions. Here’s the playlist of the whole set, which for whatever reason SoundCloud has ordered backwards:

Keeping On

It’s been another week, and there’s been more awful things going on in the world. According to the Washington Post Fact-Checker, every single day of the current regime has brought with it a slew of lies (and these are just from the Dorito-in-Chief himself). Which is unsurprising, but, you know, horrifying. It’s also been in the upper 50s-60s Fahrenheit. In Chicago (and it was in Minnesota, too, when we were there over the weekend). In February. But don’t worry, our government no longer believes that climate change is real, so it’s fine, right? (Deep breaths, deep breaths…)

Still, life goes on (for now), so I’m trying to make the most of it. Here are some of the things that have made life a little more manageable in the past week:

  • On the recommendation of S. Bear Bergman, who decided he wanted to be able to get some news to start his day without getting inundated by it on Facebook first thing in the morning, I subscribed to theSkimm. It’s a little email digest that hits your inbox first thing each weekday morning and gives you some of the major news items of the previous day. It’s helped me feel like I’m in the loop without feeling the need to start my day off miserable by reading everything on social media, and that’s been really helpful.
  • I’ve been writing a lot. Much of this had to do with this week’s assignment from my songwriting class (part of which stipulated that we sat down and freewrote for half an hour three days in a row). A lot of what I wrote for the assignment had to do with Liberty and Justice and how we’re failing to honor those values that we tend to think of as being core to what America is. It was cathartic, even if I feel like the end product fell a little short of where I wanted it to.
  • I’ve picked up embroidery again, for the first time in about a decade. (When I was recovering from getting my wisdom teeth out in high school, my mother sat me down with an embroidery hoop, a tea towel, a pattern, and some thread to keep me entertained and out of trouble. I picked it up a couple of times after that, and always enjoyed it, but didn’t take any of that stuff with me when I moved to Chicago.) I bought a dozen handkerchiefs and some iron-on transfers and am enjoying how fast it is, particularly compared to knitting. (Not that I have any intention to give up knitting, but the instant gratification is a nice change of pace sometimes.) Here’s my first finished object:

    a little green leaf embroidered onto a white handkerchief corner

    a little green leaf embroidered onto a white handkerchief corner

So tell me, friends, what are you doing to make things bearable for yourselves these days?

Dealing with Disappointment

In last week’s blog, I mentioned that I was preparing to play my longest-yet set on Sunday. I spend a fair bit of time practicing, there were a handful of people who were planning to come see me…and then, as I was on my way to the venue, I got a Facebook message informing me that the bar had double-booked, and my set had been cancelled.

As you might imagine, I was disappointed. My immediate reaction was to turn around and run home, where I would have spent the evening sulking. Thankfully, my partner had a rather clearer head in the moment than I did, and suggested we try to meet up for drinks with one of the friends who had been planning to come to the show.

Our friend was up for drinks, and while I was still super disappointed, I actually ended up having a really lovely evening. I was able to get past being angry pretty quickly. It made me particularly thankful for friends who are super supportive and who were angry on my behalf.

I ended up spending Tuesday evening recording most of the songs that would have been in my set. Most of them had been posted somewhere on my SoundCloud page in the past, but I had a few new ones to post by the end my little recording session, and because I don’t have much else to write about this week, I’m going to post them here, too.

This first song is one that I wrote back in the songwriting class I took in January/February. We were given the assignment of being “dream collectors.” I posted on Facebook asking my friends to tell me their most interesting dreams. I got a bunch of fantastic responses, and it was hard to choose just a few for the song, and harder still to distill them down to a verse each, but I’m really pleased with the result.

This song is one that I wrote in my most recent songwriting class. The assignment was to write a “nice” breakup song: the sort where you wish the other person well. I think this song might make me seem more evolved and less grudge-holding than I sometimes am, but oh, well.

And finally, here’s another one I wrote in the most recent songwriting session. This is one of the weirder songs I’ve ever written, musically. It started as a word list, and turned into something that’s one part theology, one part blasphemy, and one part social commentary.

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