Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: songwriting (page 2 of 3)

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.

Momentum

Despite the fact that the entire rest of my work team was on vacation last week, making for a rather sleepy week at the office, it feels like my life is really picking up speed.

I’m less than 50 days out from chest masculinization surgery. There are a handful of details to finish nailing down between now and then, but for the most part, it looks like it really is going to happen. It’s starting to feel real. It still feels like it’s a long way off, but then I start looking at the actual numbers, and really…it’s coming up faster than I think I’m allowing myself to process.

I’m playing two different shows in the next couple of weeks. Sunday night I’ll be playing my longest on-stage set ever (a whopping 45 minutes). I was asked to do the show with one week’s notice, and in a moment of madness, I agreed. I’ll manage to get everything polished enough to play by then, but it’s definitely nerve-wracking. It might be my last big show of the year, depending on how recovery goes after surgery, so there’s also some self-inflicted pressure there, to go out with a bang.

In a few weeks, I’ll be participating in a show comprised entirely of covers of songs written by one of my dear songwriting friends. So that’s two additional songs I need to get cemented in my head within the next few weeks. I’m excited and honored to have been asked to participate, and I think it’ll be a really fun night. I never really do covers, because I generally feel like I can’t do another musician’s work justice. So it’s an exciting challenge.

I’m trying to cherish all the time I’m spending playing my guitar right now, since it’s going to be a major challenge (and for a while, an impossibility) post-op.

I’ve been a little down the past few days, for no real reason I can figure aside from the cyclical nature of my brain. But I’m aware that things are falling into place, and that’s a comforting thing to realize.

A Summer To-Do List

My brain is feeling pretty fried this week (not helped by the sudden spike in temperatures and humidity outdoors), but as we flew through spring and seem to be arriving rather abruptly at summer, I’ve been thinking about things I want to accomplish over the next few months. Here’s a sampling:

  • Read more. I’m about halfway to my Goodreads goal for the year of 17 books, but I’m hoping I can surpass the goal this year (unlike last year, when I finished reading the last book for making my goal late on December 31). I’m currently on the third book of Maggie Stiefvater‘s Raven Cycle (which I’m thoroughly enjoying, but trying to savor, as I’m still 28th in the queue to get the final book from the library). I also need to pick Janet Mock‘s Redefining Realness back up, and work through some of the other queer books on the shelf that I haven’t gotten around to yet.
  • Spend time outside. Over the weekend, I discovered that I am more allergic to sunscreen than I used to be, which is depressing, and I’ll need to find an alternative at some point. I’m also allergic to basically everything outdoors, so spring was a little rough. But the longer, sunnier days and the greening and blooming of everything outside has me feeling a lot happier than I have in a while, and I feel a lot more centered when I have the chance to spend time getting a little fresh air. So bring on the antihistamines and natural sun block!
  • Knit all the baby things. And some socks. We have two knitter friends expecting babies this fall, and I’ve finally decided what I’m making for them. I’m bad at deadline knitting/knitting for people other than myself, so the sooner I get started, the more likely these projects are to be done by the time the babies arrive! I’m also busting through all the toes of my socks (I’ve gained at least a full shoe size since starting on testosterone, and now all of the socks I bought in the women’s department are too small, but men’s department socks are still too long), so I need to work on remedying that, as well.
  • Write more songs. I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll be taking a songwriting class over the summer (though I need to figure that out ASAP), but regardless, I have a long-term project I’m experimenting with (the first installment of which is up on SoundCloud), and I want to keep working on churning out new music.
  • Write more, period. I want to do a better job of keeping up with the one pen pal I still keep in touch with, as well as writing to some other friends, because there’s nothing quite like finding a friendly note in one’s post box. I want to get back into playing around with storytelling (fiction and non). I want to try writing poetry that doesn’t need to be accompanied by music, which I haven’t really done in years. words make me happy, and I want to get back in practice using them for more than electronic correspondence and the occasional creative project.

Things are Looking Up

Last week was awfully full of feelings, many of them rather negative.

This past week has been full of feelings, too, but largely of a more positive variety.

Last Thursday night, my partner and I went to a songwriting workshop at the Old Town School put on by one of Mouths of Babes, one of our favorite folk duos. It was phenomenal and inspiring and made me want to write all the songs.

I haven’t really had time yet to start on writing all the songs, though. Friday morning I picked up a giant rental SUV before work, and that evening, my partner and I went to IKEA, where we picked up four pieces of furniture and a handful of other organizational tools. Saturday was spent building furniture and rearranging most of our apartment. We finished up Sunday, and even had time to go to MSI with a friend and then to a Mouths of Babes concert (which was also phenomenal and inspiring).

And then Monday came.

Monday evening, a friend arrived in town who will be staying with us for a total of almost two weeks. My partner and I can’t take any time off during the week, but we’re looking forward to playing tourist a bit over the weekend and take advantage of some city sites we haven’t taken in yet in the 3+ years we’ve lived here!

But before that, on Monday, I worked half a day, and then went to a consultation appointment with a surgeon here in Chicago who, among other things, performs gender-affirming chest masculinization surgery for transmasculine folks.

The appointment went really, really well – the surgeon was charming and knowledgeable, and considering the rather intense anxiety I generally have regarding medical facilities, professionals, and procedures, I felt surprisingly safe.

Long story short, I set a date for surgery, so come October, I will be getting two literal weights off my chest. I am unbelievably happy, and far less anxious than I was a week ago now that I have that giant unknown better nailed down.

Stage Fright, Take Two

On Monday, I played my second ever non-class-recital show. Last time I did this, I ran out of material a couple of minutes early. This time around, I over-prepared and didn’t get to play my last song, but that was better than walking off the stage early, for sure.

The show was a lot of fun (in a completely terrifying sort of way). I realized the morning of the show that music has really become a place of home for me, and it’s nice to be able to share that with other people, even if it makes me unbelievably anxious. (Turns out ManicBrain and pre-show jitters are a SUPER FUN combination, if anyone was wondering. By which I mean Monday was not the most comfortable for my brain.)

Thanks to the friends who came out and the ones who couldn’t come but sent encouraging messages throughout the day. My people truly are the best people. And hey, we recorded the audio of my part of the show, so you can get an idea of what it sounded like even if you weren’t there:

Feeling Spacey

I’m writing this on Wednesday night, approximately twenty minutes after I remembered it was Wednesday, which meant that tomorrow is Thursday, which meant I needed to write a blog. This is kind of how my week has been going, generally: I keep thinking it’s rather later in the week than it actually is, and I’m having a bit of trouble hanging onto coherent trains of thought long enough to be productive.

Still, despite feeling totally spaced out, it’s been a pretty good week all around:

  1. Last Thursday I made the last-minute decision to snag a ticket to the Welcome to Night Vale live show here in Chicago. It was absolutely incredible. The people involved in WTNV are so talented and engaging, and the musicians that accompanied them for the “weather” segment of the show were great, as well. Plus, I ran into friends while I was there, which was lovely.
  2. Thanks to the WTNV show, I’ve had some new music in my rotation this week, from artist Danny Schmidt. Mostly, I’ve had his song This Too Shall Pass on repeat for days.
  3. I really struggled to write a song for my songwriting class this week, and I really wanted to have something, because Tuesday was the last class of this session. I ended up abandoning the assignment entirely and chasing a concept that had been knocking about in my head for a couple of days. Turned out that was the right decision, because I really like the song I came up with (and it earned me a glitter unicorn sticker in class – the highest honor).
  4. While I’ve been anything but grounded this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about ways I can keep myself from flying too far off in whatever direction my brain is taking me. So far I’ve been pretty good at curbing impulses that will get me into trouble (mostly in regards to spending money), so that’s something, at least.
  5. Today I finally started reading Gender Failure by Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote, which I picked up several months ago and hadn’t touched since. It’s SO GOOD. Highly recommend.

Catching Up

Sorry for the late post today, folks! I usually write the week’s blog on Wednesday evening and schedule it for posting at 9am Thursday. Unfortunately, I was feeling feverish and gross all day yesterday, and wound up heading to bed super early. It didn’t even occur to me that today was Thursday and I should have a blog going up until I was almost asleep last night, and then I didn’t get a chance to write until right now.

This whole week I’ve been feeling one step behind. I’ve been fighting an as-yet-undecided battle with the horrible cold that hit my partner at the end of last week, which mostly means I’ve been super tired and not very good at staying focused on things that need to get done. Thankfully, work this week has been significantly less ridiculous than it’s been in a while, so I feel like even though I stayed home yesterday, I still have a chance of getting caught up…if I could just get my ass in gear and focus for a few hours, I might even get a little ahead of the game.

Focusing is hard, though. There are so many things I’d rather be doing than work (sleep ranking pretty highly among them). Still, I shouldn’t complain. I’ve got plenty to be happy and excited about right now:

  • Last weekend, we got to spend a significant amount of time hanging out with our knitting family. I’m grateful for the frequent reminders that my people are the best people.
  • After a few weeks of feeling a bit stuck on the songwriting front, I was really pleased with what I wrote for class this week (which was weird and rather unlike anything I’ve written before, but it worked).
  • Tomorrow, I’m going to the first session of a workshop series at the Old Town School about the music of Turlough O’Carolan. I pulled out my mandolin for the first time in eons in preparation for the workshop, and was pleasantly surprised to find that most of what I used to know came back. It’s like riding a bicycle, I guess (although I personally find mandolin playing a lot easier to get back into than bike riding, haha).

Pause and Reflect

I’ve been in an introspective sort of place this past week.

Yesterday marked the last session of the songwriting class I’ve been in for the past eight weeks at the Old Town School of Folk Music. I’m 99% certain this is the first class where I haven’t missed a single day, and 100% certain this is the first class where I’ve done the assignment every single week. It’s been an incredible growing experience. I’ve tried new things, challenged myself…and I am overall very pleased with what I’ve written over the past two months. There were weeks where the first song I wrote was okay, but not as good as I thought I could do…so I wrote another one. I feel like I’m really finding my voice as a songwriter, and that’s a fun place to be in. Sue Demel has my eternal gratitude for teaching such a transformative course. It’s been a truly magical eight weeks with our little class of five. I’m excited to head back to Steve Dawson‘s class next week to continue this process of growth!

I’ve also been reflecting on less happy things. My nephew’s birthday is next week. It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen a picture of him or heard anything about how he’s doing, and that hurts my heart more than I can say.

I feel a little bit all over the map emotionally, between those two lanes of reflection, but I’m trying to take concrete steps to take care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s a slow road, but I’m making progress. My goal for 2016 has been integration of the various parts of myself, and while that involves some hard work, I can feel the effort paying off in some ways already.

Making Music

I have always, always loved music. Listening to music has always worked wonders for my unpredictable brain. It’s incredibly soothing. I enjoy music across most genres for a myriad of reasons. (Fun fact: when I’m manic, nothing brings me down and back to myself like putting on headphones and listening to heavy metal music. It’s the only thing that can keep up with the frenetic pace of ManicBrain.) But I also really love making music, and that’s becoming more of a focus in my life again. I’m really excited about a lot of what I’m writing, and I feel more of an urge to share it with the world instead of just playing for myself.

This week I’ve been wrestling with the fact that I am always wanting to learn new instruments, but that I need to be saving money and working with what I have, at least for this year, as I’ve got some big expenses coming up in the fall. Contentment is something I struggle with, along with patience and delayed gratification, but it’s something I need to learn.  So, I’m thinking I will need to focus on writing more than ever, and on expanding the skills that I have on the instruments that I already know how to play, so that I can do more interesting things with the music I write.

Last week I read this article about Apple’s new Music Memos app for the iPhone, and over the weekend I got a chance to play around with it. It is so cool and I’m super stoked about it – I’ve basically been telling all the musicians I know that they should try it.

I was pretty pleased with the song I wrote for my songwriting class last week, so I recorded it and stuck it up on my SoundCloud page. The guitar was recorded in Music Memos, where I also added the automatic drum and bass tracks. Then I exported it to GarageBand (also on my phone) and recorded vocals over it all. I’m really pleased with how it turned out – this is the closest I’ve ever come to hearing how one of my songs would sound if I played with a band, and it’s making me extra excited about making more music.

Five (Somewhat Scattered) Thoughts

  1. The show on Monday went really, really well; I’m pleased to say I’m proud of the performance I gave. I recorded the audio of my songs, but I’m still trying to decide if/when/how I want to put it up online. [Edit: I’ve put it up divided into tracks here.]
  2. It’s fascinating to me that I’ve reached a point where I can actually enjoy listening to recordings of myself singing. i hated my voice for so long…it made me so uncomfortable. Now, it sounds…well, it sounds more like me. Last week, I pulled up some old recordings of myself from the year before we moved to Chicago, and it was more than a little surreal hearing this voice that apparently used to come out of my throat but that sounded like a completely different person.
  3. I need to rotate which instruments I play more frequently. After almost a year of mostly playing my guitar, switching back to the tenor guitar or mandolin is more of a challenge than I’d like to admit.
  4. I’ve been super distracted lately. While I’ve been riding a bit of a high since Monday night, I’m still definitely in a place of lower energy overall. My brain feels pretty scattered, and I’m casting about for a bit of direction.
  5. In light of the general scatteredness, I’m really grateful for the structure I have in my schedule these days. I’m also wishing I had a bit more. How do you find the line between structure and overscheduling? I don’t seem to be very good at it.
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