October 29, 2011

For those of you who don’t know, National Novel Writing Month challenges its participants to write 50,000 words from 1-30 November. I signed up two years ago ten days late and never came close to “winning” (I may have eeked out 3,000 words, which I cannot even find). Mathematically, to get 5o,000 words, you have to write about 1,667 per day. I just did a trial run and got 1,877 words in about 45 minutes. I can do this! And now I’ve told my blog, so it kind of makes me want to stay faithful.

Mind you, I have a lot on at the moment. I’m preparing for an exhibition at the end of the month. We finally set a date. I am designing a high school yearbook. I work for a church. I am recording my music. I am a very social person.

However, I have also gone to two writing events this week, both of which were very inspiring. One was a networking event where you met actual writers, publishers, aspiring writers, and students studying either writing or publishing. I used to be terrified of networking in university and went to some university posh dinners and networking events to see what they were like. I realise the secret to such events now is the ability to come with encouragement. Don’t go to these events hoping to receive, but go to listen. Listening works with most people I meet. If you want to have friends ask, “How are you?” and wait through the one-word answer and the ensuing silence for the honest answer. With many people, there is no awkward silence, but paragraphs. Everyone’s favourite topic, admitted or not, is his or herself.

Today, I went to an event at the Scottish National Poetry Library. I heard from two publishers of literary magazines. I bought an issue of Dark Horse, which has beautiful type setting and essays that go way over my head (i.e. challenge me!). The poems are of the sort where every word is carefully measured. All this for £5. It is a publication for Americans and Scots with headquarters in both nations. How could I not be interested in an idea that sits so carefully close to my current situation? The biggest takeaway from this lecture was to only submit to publications that you would want to publish your work and wait until things are ready because it’s too late to take it back once it’s out there. (Made me really think about recording my songs and if I was certain about the lyrics).

When I get photos back from my gig photographer, I’ll write a post about my gig. Maybe all this motivation to complete NaNoWriMo (so fun to say aloud) this year is a result of feeling like a rockstar the day after my gig just as much as I did last night.

my first performance

October 23, 2011

I have never played an entire set, even though I’ve been a semi-dedicated open mic attender over the past few years. This past Tuesday night, I got my chance, and I have another gig coming up this Friday. Here’s a video with highlights from Tuesday’s performance:

It was odd being on the other side of the microphone (I’ve supported a lot of musician friends over the years). It only made me want to encourage musicians more, buy more albums, and work harder on the musical stuff I’m learning. It was a very odd thing having people who I don’t have personal relationships with come because they saw I was the feature. I was also really surprised people like my singing (I love writing and playing guitar, but singing has often felt like a necessary evil).

I still don’t know what motivates people to perform. It is so nerve wracking! My guitar teacher said that every time he performs, he learns something. That’s how it is with everything you show up for in life, I guess. The thing is, you don’t get to pick what you learn. I learned from the sound man that my “guitaring is great,” but I “need to work on my vocals.” My volume gets higher when I hit higher notes, and I need to stabilise and even it out. I can hear it now when I listen to others (and I’m hoping soon I’ll get it with my own work).

The more guitar I learn, the more I can hear how tunes fit together and how soon, I’ll be able to do more, like barre chords, I’ve been wanting to do for ages. I’m also recording, playing music with my friend, and got to go to a songwriting workshop for 3 hours this past Saturday with a lovely lady called Jo Mango (look her up!). It’s all happening so quickly, but beautifully. I’m growing and that’s worth celebrating. In the context of all the open mics I’ve ever sung at, my first performance was fantastic, and I am proud of this video, even though in a few years (or maybe months), I’ll wonder what I was thinking.

deeper still

October 23, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about depth recently. Shallow water moves and ripples. The depths are still. And, as I know about a lot of the creative work I do, sometimes you have to sit still for hours.

This past weekend, I got to go to an arts conference here in Edinburgh. It was in every way refreshing, but I was staring at the depths of people’s work and raising my hand for about 4 artistic endeavours (music, writing, graphic design, painting). I’m not saying it’s not okay to have a lot of interests, but I do find that I can only really focus on one or two in any given season. I was also a few years ahead of some at the conference, which has gifted me with more time to explore. I don’t mind being multifaceted. However, I don’t want to be busy without a purpose. I don’t want to use an art form as a distraction from another I’m finding difficult, especially when I’m working for others and need to get a project done.

A few conversations came up this past weekend about why it is easier to create when we are sad. That being sad somehow feels deeper. One chat rested on the conclusion that you want to correct what’s causing sadness so you examine to find out. When you are happy, you aren’t wondering why you are. You simply want to enjoy it.

The Bible has a lot to say about the deep. Most of these verses appear in Job and Psalms, supporting the idea that sadness makes us sit still and consider.

The last thing I want to do when I feel “deep” is sit still and consider. I have overcome a lot of fear about creating based on negative emotions, but some still remains. Job, however, in the midst of his pain, exhorts his friends, He uncovers the deeps out of darkness and brings deep darkness to light. Job 12:22

God wants us to process our pain and find a way to use it. For me, that comes most often through artistic expression or encouraging someone else going through a similar situation. We go to Him. He makes sense of it. And, even when the inexplicable sadness returns as it always does, we’re less likely to be moved so quickly by it, sitting still as the shallow ripples pass over us.