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Posts Tagged ‘procrastination’

You know how sometimes you fail to reply to an email, or a letter, and then time passes, with you meaning to respond, and then more time, and more time, until suddenly you realise that it’ll now be weird when you reply, and you’ve left it way too long and don’t even know where to start?

That.

I didn’t mean for four months to fly by with nary a post from me to let you all know I still had a pulse, I really didn’t. But one thing led to another and as the days crept guiltily by I just couldn’t think of what to write.

So what has kept me from you all this time?

My writer’s block hasn’t extended to music, not one bit. I completed FAWM comfortably with 14 solid songs, many of which are keepers. I’ve continued writing since the end of February, and even have a crazy plan to attempt 50/90 – another songwriting challenge. Where FAWM is a sprint, this one is a marathon. 50 songs in 90 days, or an ambitious 16.333333333 (recurring ad nauseum) songs per month (ish). It starts on the 4th July, and promises to be an interesting diversion. Or obsession. Tomato, tomato.

You know, I’ve only just realised this: “Tomato, tomato.” That’s one of the few phrases that simply doesn’t work in text. Crazy. Anyway, I digress.

What else have I been up to?

Well, amongst the writing, I created a brand new song in an afternoon, along with a video. The demo was basically recorded while I filmed, which was interesting, and the most complex thing I’ve attempted so far.

Videos have always seemed to me to be a dark art, and the one aspect of musical creativity I really don’t understand how to do. I go on Youtube, and I see these amazing videos, done by up and coming artists, who all seem to have tame camera operators and film editors to call on. They are also invariably gorgeous, own long flowing dresses and at least one grand piano, and live near a mystical forest, or a scenic beach, or an empty church… I try to do the same thing, and it looks like the cat got hold of the video camera, dragged it around a bit and accidentally turned it on. Given that an untrained chimp could produce a better video than me without really trying, I was actually pretty thrilled with this attempt:

It was both harder and easier than I expected. I’d like to try the picture in picture thing again, this time for something like Scarlet Casanova, because the harmonies kick in from the beginning. At this rate of video creation, I expect to be halfway competent before I’m sixty!

Anyway, sarcasm aside, if anyone out there feels like it would be fun to make a video for any of my songs, shout out. I have zero budget, but I do a good line in cake and gratitude, and perhaps worldwide fame one day! I’d love to collaborate!

What else? Well, I’ve been working part time at the University in a continued, misguided attempt to make my millions (aka pay the rent). It’s been hard this year, work seems to be thin on the ground, but I do have a good number of singing students, which is helping, and also I enjoy teaching. It’s hard to have a bad time singing duets or showing people how to stretch range and build power in their voices, it’s a learning process I’m immensely proud to be part of.

Musically, I have a few other bits and bats in the pipeline. I’ve started the process of editing and mixing the tracks for the new album. I don’t yet have a title, but I do know that it’s being released in September, and I also have an artist lined up who I’m thrilled to have on board for the artwork. I am so lucky to have the friends I do – I am surrounded by a very multitalented and generous group of individuals and I’m grateful every day for them.

York has a new radio station starting, 2 Rivers Radio, and I’m pleased to say that Vinnie Whitehead is going to be interviewing me and playing some songs from the new album for it. We’re doing a live In Session recording next Tuesday and I’m very excited about it.

To my abject astonishment and without any bribery on my part (either financial or in the form of baked goods) I have also been nominated, for the second year running, for a Yorkshire Gig Guide Grassroots Award, in the category of Outstanding Band/Artist. This is amazing and I’m thrilled to bits! This is where some audience participation can occur, if you feel so inclined, you can vote for me to reach the next stage.

So, I could say at this stage that I promise not to leave it so long before writing again. But you know, and I know, that that is simply a challenge to my subconscious to really fall off the wagon and not write another word until 2016, so let’s not, eh?

Until next time.

x

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Leading on from this post last week, about ways to beat writer’s block, it occurs to me that sometimes one just wants to wallow in the mire of procrastination. So, in case you were running out of ideas, allow me to present 7 effective procrastination methods, all of which I have used to great effect when practicing songwriting avoidance. Enjoy!

1) Read blogs. 

Maybe start by reading this one and add a few comments about procrastination methods of your own. Or go back and stalk previous posts, leave comments and follow links. Eventually you’ll end up so lost in the internet, it’ll be past bedtime before you know it, and all without the strain of having written a note.

2) Candy Crush/Pet Rescue/Bejewelled Blitz

Time-eaters of the highest order – you’ll start by saying “just five minutes” which soon becomes “just one more level” and then “just until teatime”. You know you have a real problem when you’re eating tea at 2am (but hey, you’ve earned all the stars!)

3) Clean, sort or alphabetise something.

When I was a teenager, when it came to exam time, I had the cleanest room for miles. My cassette collection (yes, I am THAT old) was in alphabetical order. I had colour coded revision timetables. I think you can imagine how effective my actual revision was. Of course now, you are more likely to be sorting out folders on your computer, but the same idea applies. Just tell yourself that you’ll be ready to start writing when your space is right. Just right.

(Even now my books are sorted by genre and author, whether that makes me expert at procrastination or OCD I leave up to you, dear reader)

4) Do”research”.

Songwriting does involve a certain degree of looking up things for inspiration. It’s pretty spurious reasoning, though, when my research involves dogs that text or snakes in hats. And don’t even get me started on dreadful real estate photos. Surely the worst culprit is Wikipedia though – looks like legitimate research until you realise you’ve been reading up on the Silent Hill game franchise, or abandoned battle sites of England and Europe.

5) Make lists.

Nothing helps you procrastinate more effectively than creating epic (colour-coded for preference) lists of all the things you should be doing, if you weren’t so busy procrastinating by making a list of what you should be doing, if you weren’t so busy procrastinating… They say it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become a master at it. What mastery I lack in songwriting, I surely must have attained in list-making. Mine are things of beauty. They should be displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum as tangible proof of the peerless art of procrastination.

6) Watch box-sets.

You can pretend that you are actually following step 4 of this post , “consume instead of create”, and are therefore taking positive steps to beat your writer’s block. Or you just fancy binge-watching all of Firefly and Dollhouse one after the other in your dressing gown. One or the other.

7) Write blog posts about how to procrastinate.

Do you see what I did there?

 

Let me leave you with a marvellous article I found on Wikihow, about how procrastination can actually be a Good Thing (™) – I leave it up to you to decide how much of that you agree with. Meanwhile, I’ll work on breaking my procrastination habit. Just need to tidy my workspace and get to level 257 in Candy Crush first…

 

 

 

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Cast your mind back to the start of July. For most people, it’s business as usual, but for me, due to the joyous status of studenthood, I had an unfettered, glorious eight weeks of summer, stretching out like a beautiful promise before me. Oh, the things I was going to do, the songs I was going to write, the projects I was going to finish!

Now, I look with dismay upon the calendar. A mere 11 days remain of this time bounty, before I must again constrain myself to the timetable dictacted by my educational establishment. And have I completed any of these modest feats I set myself at the start of the summer?

Have I heck.

The reasons, I could claim, are manifold. At the start of the summer, my better half was working part time – so inevitably, just as I was gearing up to write, having consumed my body weight in caffeine, the front door would rattle, signalling the arrival of my beloved, and also, generally, lunch. Our street was The Street Of Houses Having Scaffolding and Other Noisy Things (TM) so in any case, recording in the non-sound-proofed study was always going to be challenging. There were major gas works taking place at the bottom of our road, so any recording would also be punctuated by that most musical sound, the jackhammer. So for the first 4 weeks or so, it could be argued that I had very good reason for not achieving the goals I had set myself.

August rolled around, damp and windswept – the perfect environment to ensconse oneself indoors and Produce Good Works. My beloved went full time at work, so no mid afternoon interruptions, I tidied the studio so that everything was to hand and easily accessible, bought new notebooks for lyrics and ripped all of the lovely free samples I’ve had from various music production magazines onto my computer for ease of use in my glorious new creations. In short, I was good to go. No distractions here. Time to work!

With 11 days to go, I have deleted a track I was working on before the summer, and then rerecorded it, almost identically to the original. I have two new piano tracks, ready for vocals and lyrics, if only I could write any lyrics that weren’t riddled with gorganzola-esque cliches of gargantuan proportions. I have several snippets of started tracks with lots of “promise”. But that is such a far cry from a completed EP, the Bellytrance DVD ready for release and a new set of acoustic/piano tracks.

So what HAVE I learned, this long, damp summer?

Well. My capability for procrastination is endless. More importantly though, I think this has been useful, because something I learned is that when I think I HAVE to write, I will almost certainly fail at it. I will find conditions that have to be met first (“oh I can’t write when the house is a mess/my work space is set up wrong/the moon is waning…”) or I will sit and stare blankly at the computer or piano for hours and not do a thing. And what this ultimately reflects is my own fear of failing.

Writing, getting stuff done – it’s all taken on a much bigger importance recently. After all, I have expended a lot of money and effort on this course at Access to Music. People have bent over backwards to help me too, I am so very lucky in the amount of support I have received. So in theory, I ought to be good at it, right? Can’t let everyone down, and with training I should be churning out a chart topping hit a day, right?

That’s a lot of pressure, and the worst thing is, it’s all mine – no-one else is actually expecting that.

Procrastination is an important part of my creative process, in fact I frequently let ideas mull at the back of my mind while doing seemingly random things like alphabetising my CD collection. I do think, though, that it has its place, and sometimes the art is recognising when it is true procrastination and when it is simply a displacement activity because you are frightened of failing.

So. With 11 days to go, I am going to revisit FAWM. I’m just going to write anything, regardless of quality, just for the sake of writing. And instead of trying to dedicate whole days or even afternoons to it, I will start with an hour a day. I can’t fail if my aim is simply to spend an hour a day writing something, anything, and hopefully, out of the muck, some gold can be drawn.

 

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