Archive for December, 2011

Pros and Cons on Parole

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2011 by Gideon K

Having read Dale Carnegie’s old classic ‘How to win friends and influence people’ I came across an interesting piece of advice from one of his subjects.

This guy would take some time, be it half an hour, or a couple of hours, every Sunday evening without exception, and without distraction, he would sit and ask himself:

“What mistakes did I make that time?”

“What did I do that was right – and in what way could I have improved my performance?”

“I often find that this weekly review makes me very unhappy. I am frequently astonished at my own blunders. Of course, as the years have gone by, these blunders have become less frequent. Sometimes now I am inclined to pat myself on the back a little after one of these sessions. This system of self-analysis, self-education, continued year after year, has done more for me than any other one thing I have ever attempted.

“It has helped me improve my ability to make decisions – and it has aided me enormously in all my contacts with people. I cannot recommend it too highly.”

I took this to heart and thought it would be an interesting way to experiment with creativity.

SO I took a little notebook and set it aside for this purpose only.

Each week, at the end of it, I would sit down and make a brief list of pros and cons actions I’ve taken that relate to my creativity and output. Then underneath that, a brief list of the things I wish to achieve during the coming week.

The following week I would tick off the things I’ve done from that list, then make another list of positive things I had done, and negative ones, and another list of things I’d like to achieve in the coming week.

Personally, I like to start with the positives as it feels much nicer, and it’s easier to get stuck into the task if you’re being asked to list the things that will make you feel proud – a sense of achievement.

Following up with the marks against you is easier I find, because it stops me walking off with an ego as I’m left focusing on what I didn’t do, and how to make it better. Same with the pros – once you’ve written what you did right you then have to find a way to better it.

I did this for a while, occasionally missing a week or two, but generally it didn’t seem to work for me as well as it could’ve, or I hadn’t picked up the habit properly.

———————————————

Anyway, after this I started doing the artist’s way, and there is a post-script to the 12 weeks of the course. It doesn’t finish, it never does. Your work, especially on yourself is never really done.

What it does encourage is that you find an artist friend who you can be accountable to and once a week have a phone in or conversation about what your targets were for the week and how you are going to do them, and if you don’t call them, they have to call you.

I loved this idea and thought it was great. It’s not the only book I’ve read or advice I’ve heard which suggest starting your own support circle, but it has been the most recent.

I’ve given it a shot, but again, it has been hard to keep up, both on my side and theirs. However I’m all about dusting yourself off, and rather than artistic struggle being about not falling down, it’s continually about picking yourself up when you do, so I’m writing this post, then I’m writing a check-in to send to my friend who is essentially my artistic parole officer, and telling them what I have planned for this week ahead and how I’d like to see out the rest of 2011.

I’ll share some of it with you so that if I don’t keep to my word I’ll be visibly failing and accountable to the world.

Covers:

I have a number of different ideas for drastic reinterpretations of other people’s songs, some of which I’ve started or mostly finished months ago, but haven’t gotten round to finishing tweaking and mixing them. I can do the fun bit very quickly, but when it comes to the ‘nerd’ bit I slow down. However, I will have at least one production up online before new years. That is my aim.

Album tracks:

Having already recorded half an album’s worth of songs, and having 5 of them online (http://soundcloud.com/black-hay) I now have to finish the other half of the album which means fully demoing and arranging all the other songs that are ready, and completing the writing of the other works in progress. There are 4 tracks in particular that require me doing a lot of work on them to demo so that they would be ready to take into the studio when the time comes, but although I’ve started on 2 of them I really should be further along. I’ll be working more on these this week.

Performance Videos:

I’ve been messing about with home video and live footage of recent gigs, including some stuff which goes back months. I want to get at least some of this edited and online by next week.

I don’t expect to finish all of it, but I’m going to make some damn good headway into it.

Wish me luck…

(Watching) All the Lonely People

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2011 by Gideon K

 

Last week I was at a shopping centre and it occurred to me that it was a perfect opportunity to take an artist date that I’d been planning to do for a long while and had not gotten round to doing.

 

The idea I had was to go to some public place with a pad and pen and just watch people, but also to write down snippets of overheard conversation that caught my ear (stuff like “one of my kids goes 8 times a day” which I heard on the day in question), or to just imagine what people’s lives were like and try to figure out specific things about them just by observing them from a distance.

 

The venue for this ended up being an open-plan starbucks. You know the type where it’s just a sunken space in the floor surrounded by shops on all sides.

 

I don’t like starbucks, and their coffee sucks, but it was the perfect place to mingle with the beast.

 

I wanted to find a table to sit at so I’d be in close proximity to as many people as possible, but a combination of poor luck and judgement found me a seat between two tables of people speaking foreign languages I didn’t understand. On one side, an asian couple (Korean possibly? I’m terrible with languages but it didn’t sound like Japanese) and on the other, I couldn’t make it out. They could’ve been Spanish but I had no clue. It drove home how ignorant I am about so much in the world, and how I’d like to be less so.

 

On an unrelated note, I’ve been feeling this lately when walking through the park and wondering what the names of different flowers and trees are.

 

Back to my seating – to make matters worse, I sat down to realise I was in the direct line of fire for one of the speakers on the in-store sound system, getting blasted with yuppyish coffee shop tunes. To be fair the music soon got pretty good actually, but when Joni Mitchell was playing and I thought to myself – “She deserves more than this”. I’m not an elitist but I guess I feel irritated when great music gets ignored, even if it is necessary. Plus I suppose it’s preferable to hearing current Top 40 nonsense.

 

Then Van Morrisson’s Sweet Thing came on. Sweet Thing! In a coffee shop! Such sublime, intensely personal and beautiful music, just spread out like furniture or cheap incense from a stall in Camden market. I don’t know how people can just go about their business while a song like that is playing. Maybe that’s why the staff were so friendly? Such a good playlist.

I zoned out and couldn’t focus on people anymore.

 

I started swimming in my own thoughts and the people around me were just triggering different currents rather than me observing them. It seemed like that was the instinctual thing to do so I went with it. I can look outside another time.

 

I was writing down silly observations and ideas, like:

 

“The only thing I have against money is that the people who have it are so crass and unimaginative about what they do with it.”

 

Lots of off the cuff reactions and occasional judgements of my fellow humans. I actually felt strange and peaceful amongst these passing waves of suburban housewives, young worker drones, bored school kids and elderly couples slowly navigating their way around what passes for modern life, thoroughly confused and surprised at what any of it means or what they’re doing in it.

 

It felt a bit like meditation. Whereas most of the time with meditation you go as far away from people and noise as possible, and you close your eyes. This was like the flip-side of the same coin in a way. With my eyes open, surrounded by crowds I was having a similar feeling of awareness, of self, of place and time, and concurrently at the complete irrelevance and absence of all of that. How it’s all just a continuation of motion, flow, little droplets of life foaming up against rocks and sand. Everyone seeing everybody else’s mistakes and not their own. Pretty girls spending their looks and youth on their jobs working in the make up aisles selling stolen dreams and aromatic white lies.

 

Surrounded by the almost religious ritual of nurturing the appearance, the body via clothing, food, make up, perfume, scented toiletries and cleansing products – you know the drill, we all live in it.

 

As I scribbled down in my pad, in this context, hope is sometimes the denial or rejection of that inevitable decline of organism, the body working. Or maybe it’s just what happens when you realise that the soul is the winning horse, not the mind, the senses, the heart, the wallet.

 

Know what I mean?

 

Anyway, I also went out and did it today as well. I stopped into a little place for some fresh mint tea they had and sat and watched the people. Strangely, again I was sat listening in on foreign tongues (greek and Arabic this time), as well as being somewhat removed from the masses.

 

Perhaps I need to think this out a bit more and find some places which are more packed with people to watch and listen to. Hopefully one day they’ll make some sense to me.