Archive for October, 2011

The Artist’s Way: Week 11

Posted in Creativity, The Artist's Way with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2011 by Gideon K

This was officially supposed to be Monday 17th – Sunday 23rd, but due to the way things have panned out has included several days from the past week and I’m doing the write up now.

Days I did my morning pages: 5/7 then 4/7

Some days I purposefully didn’t do them because I thought they might do more damage than good given my state of mind. Perhaps on these days I would’ve benefited the most from them. Perhaps not.

I did a LOT of song pages the first half of my 2-week-long ‘week 11’. They seem to have covered more ground, but especially towards the end of the week they felt like they were soulless in a way and counter-productive towards the things I think matter in a songs. I haven’t finished any of the songs I’ve been working on which frustrates me.

Artist Date:

I don’t think I’ve done anything that could really count as an artist date over the past two weeks. I’ve played two gigs, put in time doing piano practice, been shopping for clothes and vinyl etc in a few charity shops. That was one of my dates, but to me should be something I do on a weekly/bi-weekly basis anyway.

This brings me on to the crux of the problem and the reason for me running so spectacularly out of steam during the past week. I’ve been working really hard. Long hours, much blood and sweat, determination and grit. The problem is that I’m not rewarding myself for it, and am taking the fun out of it the way I have been going about it.

Several problems preside:

a) Lack of artist dates – my inner child feels neglected and doesn’t want to play. It also illustrates a kind of cowardice and neglect on my part because facing up to the necessity for fun and seemingly unproductive recreation is the only way the creative side can survive and flourish, let alone maintain any degree of output.

b) Having urges to experiment or side track into certain realms of creativity, but my organised mind telling myself; ‘Hold on, wait. We’ll get to that bit later once this other stuff is finished first’. The thing is, it never works like that, and besides the work is never truly finished.

If I’m writing a bunch of songs tied together in a certain way, in a certain style, around certain themes, then it is vitally important that I indulge myself and allow myself to go off and experiment with creating other types of sounds, experimenting with just making musical loops for the hell of it, playing with guitar pedals I know I’m not going to use, trying to create rhythms in strange time signatures because this is the kind of balance I need. I already know this about myself from all this time spent playing, writing, creating, and yet I still try and override it or ignore it – and only to my own detriment I might add. When will I learn?

Hopefully now.

c) It is this same side of my brain and pattern of thought that has let my fun muscle degenerate to a degree. The other issue here is that all the ideas I have had regarding fun things to do initially were all centred around musical tasks and were in essence adjuncts to my main work. As fun as many of these are, I need more things that are purely fun and don’t have to tie in with some sort of function. More activities and pursuits that aren’t required to fit into my musical goals, or my health regimen etc.

I’ve made a long list of future artist dates, fun and nurturing and posted it up on the wall. Some of these things are to be ticked off and some are to be done repeatedly every-so-often.

In order to emphasise the point I opened the dictionary and copied out the full definition of the word ‘fun’ and posted it on the wall in front of my desk where all my other quotes and bits of wisdom go.

Fun

Noun:

1 Light-hearted pleasure or amusement

2 Source of this

3 Playfulness or good humour

Adjective: enjoyable.

From Wiki:

Fun is the enjoyment of pleasure and, according to Johan Huizinga, “an absolutely primary category of life, familiar to everybody at a glance right down to the animal level.” Fun may be encountered in many human activities during work, social functions, recreation and play, and even seemingly mundane activities of daily living. The distinction between enjoyment and fun is difficult to articulate but real,fun being a more spontaneous, playful, or active event. The perception of time is shortened when one is “having fun”.

This isn’t to give the impression that I’m a grouch – I find my art for the most part more enjoyable and enriching than anything else I’ve found otherwise I wouldn’t do it. The problem is when it becomes very hard work and I don’t give myself little rewards just for their own sake. I get burned out, and maintaining my art, nurturing the flame is part of this responsibility I’ve agreed to take on.

The crazy thing is how simple, small and easy it is to do this and yet I’ve neglected it, as I’m sure many others have too.

I never would’ve identified myself as having any even vaguely workaholic traits before, and I suppose constantly worrying if you’re being lazy is itself a workaholic trait, unless you are just being lazy. I have just never found a way of being consistently productive at this level of intensity before, but if I do my duty and guarantee myself enough fun, there’s no reason it can’t last.

I have to cut myself some slack here too. Apart from burning myself out by not doing artist dates, it has been a very busy month with lots of sporadic changes in my job-working hours, a bunch of festivals that have prohibited much or anything in the form of output and work, and some other family stuff like my grandfather passing away. So there has not been as much time to get all the tasks done.

Plus, I’ve been out a fair bit seeing friends, gigs, indulging in this strange thing they call ‘fun’, albeit not by myself as prescribed.

I feel like I might have lost a bit of momentum in giving myself the slack of an extra week to cut back and clean everything up, but I felt that moving onto the next week without doing the dishes from this one would’ve been leading me to a worse calamity.

Week 12 starts tomorrow. I’ll see you at the finish line folks.

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Getting to the Bottom of It

Posted in Me Oh My, The Artist's Way with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2011 by Gideon K

This week has been a total failure in terms of sticking to the guidelines of the course.

 

I am and have been in a weird position or state of mind this week. The bottom line is that nothing really felt right. For the past few days, something has just been off. A bit like that weird feeling you get when a sudden pain shoots up one of your body parts and lets you know you’ve pulled a muscle without even realising it. Only right now, the muscle I’ve unknowingly pulled seems to be my mind, my soul, my life.

 

Really, I haven’t been able to put my finger on it at all and so I’ve just tried not to let anything get me down and to maintain my schedule and carry on with my tasks as much as possible. I’ve done my morning pages, I’ve done my song pages – forcing myself despite any temptation not to do them, realising that I’ll only feel worse if I don’t do them, and doing these tasks does make me feel slightly better.

 

But there have still been clouds hanging over me somewhere.

 

I’ve even taken time out to refresh myself by doing fun things for myself. I’ve played half an hour to an hour’s worth of piano practise every day this week, I did 4 km on the exercise bike while listening to Roy Orbison vinyl (charity shops again). I sat in the car after I’d parked just to stay and hear the whole of a Chopin piece I had on the classical station. I had a great night out on Tuesday over food and beer catching up with some mates I hadn’t seen on at least a year, perhaps closer to two. Afterwards a few of us went to see Jerry Sadowitz  do a small warm-up show at the Oxford Arms in Camden where I laughed so much that my facial muscles were sore and achy.

 

But the fun, healthy or relaxing stuff hasn’t sorted me out either.

 

“…when you lay down at night, turn from one side of the bed all night to the other and you can’t sleep, what’s the matter? Blues got you. Or when you get in the mornin’, sit on side of the bed – may have a mother or father, sister or brother, boy friend or girl friend, husband or a wife around – you don’t want no talk out of um. They ain’t done you nothin’, you ain’t done them nothin’ – what’s the matter? Blues got you.” – Leadbelly

 

Still, the first half of this week I’ve felt out of sorts. I can’t tell what it is. I’ve just generally been lacking in energy this week.

 

I did whip my own ass on Sunday down at David’s studio in an 11 hour session to finish/redo the last of the tracks we were working on back in July. I had to rerecord all the guitars and bass parts again thanks to a couple of parts being out of sync and ruining the whole groove of the song.

The only other options would have been to digitally edit the pants off them (err… no) or to mix the thing so that the erroneous playing would’ve been harder to hear (errr… fuck no). It worked out ultimately for the best because I’ve been getting to know my equipment a lot better over this period and the song now has some of the best guitar tones on the whole recording now, but it has all taken it’s toll on me energy-wise.

 

Sunday is usually my day for capping off the week in the artist’s way, finishing all that week’s tasks, doing my check-in, writing my blog but this week none of that was possible due to recording. So I figured I’d get it all done on Monday and start the final week a day later, no big deal. Monday was full of distractions and various time-consuming tasks. To cut a long story short, I’ve just felt exhausted this week and had not only no inclination to do these tasks, but an empty tank of energy with which to overcome any kind of resistance and to push through it.

 

I started the week drained, exhausted, completely bereft of enthusiasm, as if I was somehow facing an overwhelming problem heap. I just wanted to stay in bed for at least three days in a row. Burnt out and overdone. Dried out from dreaming.

 

I try and keep an ear out to listen for what I think the universe is trying to tell me and sometimes it’s very confusing. I try to listen to my gut instinct as much as possible because that had been my truest ally, and the part that never steers me wrong when I listen to it. My instincts in this situation, cloudy as they were due to this weird fog of exhaustion, over-exertion and general burnout.

 

I think this ties in with my chronic lack of doing artist dates for the duration of this course. It’s shocking really. How little must I value my inner artist? Or maybe I’m just so self-conscious about it as if I were some gangly geek too scared to ask out the girl I like, only the girl in this case is the eternal muse…

 

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. It’s like I’ve become a factory worker in the basement of the tower of song.

 

I have treated myself a bit, but clearly not enough.

 

On reflection I realise that part of this awkwardness, irritation, discomfort, angst etc is partly because I’m going through another birth of some sort, and these are just some sort of transitional growing pains. But it’s difficult to know what to do about these moods when they fall on you. For me it seems that having some sort of outpouring onto the page can be good for the soul and work.

 

I’ve been doing morning pages nearly everyday, and hardly avoiding any dark pockets of mental anguish. At least not knowingly, but I guess that’s the key.

 

I think in a way I’ve been pissing myself off with the morning pages, trying to twist them and mould them to do something else. I’ve not been having much in the way of noticeable or memorable ‘truth points’ in them recently, or even been thinking about that. Nothing like when I started out on them. Recently my focus has been to make the whole thing and exercise in how much focus and flow I can harness at will, to write stream of consciousness, non-stop for those three pages. A lot of the time during the course I’ve started, stopped, picked up somewhere else after my mind has had a bit of a wander, sometimes even after I’ve dozed off back to sleep with my logbook in my hand.

I think that’s also part of the ritual of repetitive processes – you’re basically beating yourself over the head with something until your body/mind says “Ok, I’ve had enough, what else can you show me?” and finds a new way of approaching whatever it is you are doing, simply out of a necessity to stay sane. With the morning pages, if I write mundane repeatedly for long enough (not that I’m thinking too much about it- I just let it come out,) then eventually I’ll be terminally bored of it and start digging deeper with more pertinent baselines of thought.

 

I’m no longer focused on being in a place per se. As long as I’m engaged with a process and moving somewhere, then I’m happy. That is part of the problem though – when I feel like things are standing still. It might just be that the changes are slow or just not visible/noticeable to ME, but that doesn’t mean they’re not happening.

 

 

Anyway, it’s Friday now. From an artist’s way point of view of doing the tasks, the week is shot to pieces. Nevermind, I’m going to finish all the leftovers from week 11 today, go on an artist date first thing Monday morning. I’m going to go down to the guitar centre and play on all the basses and bass amps. For at least an hour.

 

Failing all that, I just downloaded 7 CDs worth of Son House’s music. If I’m still feeling weird and shit after all that, well… no one knows the blues like he does.

 

I’ll be doing a proper round up of week 11 (officially last week), and then starting week 12 on Monday. Life is messy and never entirely by the book, I guess the trick is to soldier on.

 

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

The Artist’s Way: Week 10

Posted in Creativity, The Artist's Way with tags , , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by Gideon K

Days I did my morning pages: 6/7

I’ve been doing what I call my ‘Song pages’ every day too. New ground, new ideas, new levels of involvement. Had an interesting breakthrough on one song the other day by forcing myself to continue and over-ride the (cowardly) urge to stop, to avoid what they call a ‘creative U-turn’. I forced myself to do everything my head was thinking of, however pointless or menial it seemed at first. I’m glad I did, because once a task has been cleared, another idea pops up right behind it. It was useful. I ended up doing 3 pages that day and am nearly finished the song I think.

It’s funny, just when I thought I was being really cool and hardcore with the pages I read in the book that it’s a lot easier to get people to do the pages than it is the artist dates. Gulp. I suppose part of that is that I don’t have to go anywhere to do my pages, but it unavoidably led me to another realisation.

I think I’ve come to the end of another growth or learning curve and need to step up to another. I’m looking forward more. Doing the pages and writing, I’m not rewarding myself enough or giving myself little treats and rewards as much as I should be.

It’s not enough to just be creative and do creative tasks I’m supposed to. I have to play with them and actively engage in making them fun. I know what my work load is going to involve for the next 6 months to a year at least, and simply knowing that can make it somewhat boring or turn it into drudgery, so I have to devise ways to keep myself entertained, keep some free time to include spontaneous acts of freewheeling and fanciful detours, distractions, more fun and more decorations everywhere. I feel as though up to now and until the end of the course I’ve been building a solid frame work and a base for myself to continue being consistently creative without being fragile or subject to any winds of fortune or favour – I’m going to be creating for myself regardless of circumstance. What is next is to keep it up but to keep playing with it all and adding more twists to the everyday to prevent anything from becoming mundane.

 

 

Artist Date:

I didn’t do it alone, but I’m going to count it because it recharged me somewhat and was purely for the pleasure and entertainment of my artistic side. I invited a whole bunch of musicians over for a jam. Funnily enough it ended up as just me and a friend of mine playing guitar and some inept drumming on both our parts.

I mentioned the prospect of it and have been sounding people out about it for ages and everyone is always saying ‘Yeah, definitely, call me,’ and then on the day it just didn’t happen that way, but it worked out for the best actually. We had a good talk and good fun playing which is what it’s all about.

It’s been too long since I’d last done that. Too often I’ve only been playing in scenarios where everyone is tied to some sort of (often imaginary) schedule and pressure is on to deliver magic etc at every opportunity and no time is dedicated to just experimenting and trying to find a groove with each other as people, or exploring musical tangents that might not have a ‘use’. Being in bands where this thing happens can be a huge drain on incentive momentum, morale and enthusiasm. I’ve always been of the opinion that bands should have dedicated time at every rehearsal to just make some noise together of any kind and invent weird and wonderful or even dreadful music. Each exploration brings back new experiences even if that is the knowledge that jungle-funk-tango-punk doesn’t quite sound as good as the title suggests.

It has been a very busy week outside of trying to do creative things so not a lot else to report on that front. I think I’ve figured that the trick with me is just to keep doing things differently each time and switch them around to keep me from being to set in a certain way of doing things.

I’ve realized a number of erroneous habits I have that I’ve started to avoid doing simply because the nature of these bad habits irritates the hell out of me and so once I’m aware of it I start to gravitate away from them. I’m not spending as much time wasting my life on the internet anymore, or finding pointless tasks to do in order to avoid doing more serious, pressing or intimidating ones.

One area of progress I’ve made is that I finished sorting out all my songs and song sheets into tidy folders so that they are all easily accessible when I want to look them up or work on something.

Over the years I’ve accumulated sheets upon sheets of paper filled with lyric drafts and song ideas etc and I’ve got them split up now broadly in two giant ringbinders, with alphabetical separators.

The first folder is for all my finished songs and their accompanying sheets, because some of my songs went through about fifty-something different versions and revisions before being finished and I try to keep them all for reference/posterity/proof of authorship etc.

The other one where I keep all the started songs that I haven’t finished, and there are lots of them, some that I got stuck with, some that I needed distance and perspective on, some that I just started but didn’t make time to finish properly. I’ve had this kind of filing system in place for a while, but it just needed refining and tidying. My room and work area no longer has piles of loose papers and stray sheets stacked high.

Also, I thought I’d treat myself to some nice shiny alphabetical dividers, some of those plastic sheet covers to keep all my pages tidy and together and some other new stationary. I hate writing with cheap/found/borrowed pens that don’t write properly and how that frustration can take you out of the flow of writing. So I went and bought a pack of brand new ball point pens. It’s so funny how little things like that can make such a positive difference to your working environment and general well-being. It’s as if we assume that we are above such petty material concerns and think we should always make do with what we have, after all, there are people out there in the world who can’t afford such luxuries and make do with simply memorizing things rather than writing them down… and so on. But it all has a positive effect.

I’m coming to the end of the course and feel like it has allowed me to discover the way I work, what is good for me, and how to maintain and look after myself in the best way possible for the future.

Let’s see what they have in store for the last two weeks.

The Artist’s Way: Week 9

Posted in Creativity, The Artist's Way with tags , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2011 by Gideon K

Days I did my morning pages: 6/7

 

And on the 7th day he rested….

 

Actually it was the 6th day I didn’t do them. It was a day of fasting and atonement and contemplation and would not have been in the spirit of the day.

 

This week I’ve finally hit some serious pay-dirt with the pages. Regarding the size of the pages in my current notebook, I allow myself to do 2 pages of stream of consciousness, which is equivalent to 3 full pages in any other book, and then I use the 3rd page to write a full page-worth of ideas, thoughts, lyrics, re-writes etc of a song I’m working on. Just pick one and go. And the thing is, that I’ve done it each morning? And thus it works.

 

I’ve tried hard before, really hard, in heartbreaking terms, to find a daily, disciplined songwriting regime that I can stick to and that works for me. I’ve tried setting a timer and writing for an hour each day. I’ve tried chaining myself to the chair until I finish. I’ve tried a whole bunch of different ways. None of them have worked for me, and being cruel to myself, I figured that each time they didn’t work I was being lazy and not working hard enough, not wanting it bad enough etc, when the truth is that I’m not lazy I was trying really fucking hard, it just wasn’t the right method for me.

Now, I know I have a concrete goal which is basically write  and write, whatever I think about it, whatever avenue I want to explore with it and don’t stop until the page is finished. It just works for me and allows me the space to create and explore without having to get it right or wrong that I needed and that has seemingly been missing from all my other methods.

 

I did this every day that I did my pages, which is the first time I’ve ever said that I would repeatedly work on my songs every day – AND ACTUALLY DONE IT!!

 

If this had been the only thing I had gotten out of the course, it would be more than worth it and I would still be overjoyed. I’m finally on my own conveyor belt artistically instead of somebody else’s. I’ve made decent headway into several songs in this manner. None are yet completed, but they will be, soon, when the time comes.

 

Artist Date:

 

No I didn’t. I had planned to go people watching, to see if I could make up stories about what I thought people’s lives were like and what they were saying and feeling etc just by watching them from a distance. Or going to a crowded bar/café and noting down bits of stray conversation my ears picked up. I was going to do this for a bit on Thursday but failed to reserve enough time for it between what I was doing during the day and what I was doing in the evening. It will have to wait until I make the time for it either this week or next.

 

Can’t think of any synchronicity exactly. I’ve had a few gig offers and confirmations this week, but I’ve been contacting people about gigs for several weeks now. It seems logical rather than mystical.

 

They ask me about compassion, I think regarding myself. I’m totally cool with myself regarding my artistic side at the moment. This doesn’t mean I can’t do better, but I’m ok with me. I like me a lot.

 

I’m also feeling a lot more favorably disposed to people at the moment, more forgiving. I’m trying to clear out any cobwebs or bad feelings in my life towards people.

 

I finally got round to that exercise from week 6 about postcards. I sent off a bunch of emails to people I wanted to contact and say things to. People I haven’t spoken to, people I wanted to get things off my chest about, people I miss. Better late than never. I feel so much better doing this. I feel full of life, love, I feel clearer. It’s off my chest so to speak.

 

I also finally bought a keyboard and feel very happy. I can now use it to play midi parts on my demos as well as having easy access to a fully-functioning keyboard to practice and learn on. I’ve been playing it a little when I’ve had or made time. I started working through a book of small pieces to get good at reading music and get my L/R hand coordination back up again. Feels great.

 

I think once I’ve finished the course I’m going to go back and go through any and all taskt I didn’t get round to doing each week. There haven’t been that many, but one here and one there will add up I suppose. I want to lick the lid of artistic progress, drink every drop.

 

I’m very happy about finally doing song writing pages each morning. I know it will lead me on to big things.

 

What blessedly have you allowed yourself to change or accept? The glorious moment. Letting go of past failures. Smiling at the future. Flirting outrageously with what lies ahead. I want to be humbled further.

 

This great trip keeps getting better.

 

 

The Artist’s Way: Week 8

Posted in Creativity, The Artist's Way with tags , , , , , , , on October 2, 2011 by Gideon K

Days I did my morning pages: 5/7

 

Been a busy week. Some morning I wasn’t able to do the pages for reasons including time and other things.

The book asks if I’ve been tempted to ditch the pages. I haven’t, I’ve just not been as invigorated by writing them, especially at their current length. I worked out the difference between my current pages and the old ones. The old sheets had 32 lines per page, the new ones have 47. Times 3 equals 141 rather than 96 thus 45 extra lines each day. Not a huge amount, but it’s like doing 4 and a half pages instead of 3.

 

Never one to do things the easy way….

 

Artist Date:

 

I played a gig this week. That counts. I thoroughly indulged and challenged my artist self. It counts more because I’ve been finding it a bit of a pain to get any gigs booked at the moment. I’ve been slightly out of touch with the acoustic gig circuit and it’s been slow getting in contact with any promoters and getting sets, finding out which nights are worthwhile nowadays in London, or just not completely booked until February.

 

I didn’t engage with some of the tasks and exercises this week. I did them, but for some of them I felt like they were unnecessary, which has been a first for me because I’ve gone through them up until now no matter what I thought of them. I made the decision to submit to the course and to put my fate in its’ hands for 12 weeks, but I just didn’t feel the point of some of them.

 

For example, Task 2 this week required you to dream up a new childhood – to imagine what it would be like if you’d had ‘prefect nurturing’. In the context of how I’ve looked at my childhood and examined all that sort of stuff during this course, that serves no purpose.

 

I wrote in my journal:

“I don’t feel like doing this because it seems pointless and indulgent and the childhood I had was fucking brilliant. I wouldn’t change things. I am who I am now and I am where I am now because of it, and I am who I am and where I am supposed to be. I hold no kind of resentment against my parents, my childhood or my upbringing. I’ve been privileged.”

 

I feel this completely.

 

I got some interesting stuff out of that early patternings exercise, but most of it reinforced how encouraging of self-expression and creativity my parents have been for me and my siblings growing up. I’m very thankful for that.

 

One of the things I realized last week in looking at themes from the kinds of films I like and this week from patterns of memorable events in my upbringing is that I’ve always had that feeling of us vs them regarding me and my family and the rest of the world. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I just find it interesting. I think it does define my world outlook in many ways.

 

Here’s an excerpt from that patterning exercise:

 

18) The thing is, I am suspicious that… no one really gets what I’m actually talking about, nobody really appreciates the things I find most beautiful and most of all, nobody really cares but me.

 

19) I just can’t believe that… everyone can be so completely unaffected by the music and art that means the most to me, and then really understand where I’m coming from artistically enough to fully appreciate my efforts and what goes into my work.

 

There’s a whole part of me that feels the way that is expressed in the above two paragraphs, even though I realize somewhat that part of being a good artist is being able to share the things which mean something to you in a manner that communicates and resonates with other people regardless of their taste, background and experience. Still it’s always been a part that has resonated with me.

 

Oh, I kept my pact about buying clothing each week, and there’s a funny story around this week’s adventure but it’s not for public consumption. If you’re interested you’ll have to ask me in person about the penguins and I’ll explain.

 

As part of Jewish New year I’ve been reading Psalms and came across these two lines from psalm 47 which I thought I’d share. I liked it so much I’ve written it on my wall above my desk.

 

Make music for God, make music, make music for our king make music.
For God is the King of all the earth, make music o enlightened one.

 
Enlightened one is one way of translating the word ‘Maskel’  the root of which is ‘Sechel’. Sechel is to do with one’s intellect. Only the sane and sensible will be the ones who put their efforts into making music to sanctify God’s name and presence in this world.

 

2/3 of the way through now and feeling pretty good, other than this damn cold I seem to have caught.