Newness: sometimes your the pit crew

Suppose there was a day that you could wake up, and all things, new and bright and shiny were working together for good and love in the middle of life’s hurricanes. A chosen above and mist below, horizons and fault lines, verizon and wait your times.

Never never owned by the precious moments that slip by but fully owning them, taking in the breaths and letting them go, one at a time. Not the time you could have predicted, but the time you have, the time you love, with the people you love.

It is in these times that sometimes, life asks you to be the race car driver, and sometimes life asks you to be the pit crew. Embrace your crew or your driver and run this crazy race.

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Riding the line between perfectionism and shipped art

Next week, April 21st to be exact is the deadline for a songwriting competition that I’ll be entering. Once I had chosen the song I was going to enter, I had a problem. The recording I had already made was good, but it wasn’t great. The sounds weren’t clean, the percussion wasn’t tight, and while it conveyed the song, it just wasn’t quite there in a number of ways.

My wife mentioned to me, If this is the song, it’s worth making as awesome as possible. Probably not her exact words, she’ll forgive me if I paraphrase.

As an artist, I live in-between the worlds of being so entirely anal-retentive that I never finish everything, desiring every little detail to be right. But as Seth Godin says, “Real Artists Ship”

Part of being an artist is creating connection, putting yourself out there in a way that might not work. That vulnerability of not being perfect can make art even more beautiful.

But given how great this opportunity is, my wife in telling me to make it great was giving me permission to let my inner perfectionist out of the box a bit. After all, “almost good enough” isn’t really that great. As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Or iceberg and ice cube, horse and horsefly, a house and House, M. D.

Or as anybody’s granddaddy would tell them, if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

Here’s the link to the finished song: http://youtu.be/1rECy4exWIM
It’s called, “Alabama Heat”

No More First Drafts

Confession: Almost everything I post has been a first draft. I feel like I can get away with it. I have decent grammar, and get my points across (mostly). To be honest, it is tempting to publish this “as is” with no further rewriting. Yet…

No More First Drafts

Accepting first drafts is like accepting chicken nuggets over fresh homemade from scratch cooked all day dad’s special chili.. I like to write on an impulse, bring you my whims, and move on. Now I’ll have to meditate and let things stew. I’ll have to put my thoughts in the crockpot, and not the microwave. I’ll be working on writing that exemplifies Greg Brown’s, “slow food.” In it he says, “I want food made by a chef and not by a clown.”

Writing with multiple drafts makes better writing.. My first drafts often have pieces of good thoughts, but lack focus. By writing multiple drafts, I get to edit out the extraneous material, and sharpen my message. While this pretty obvious and told to us in every English class we take, those English classes rarely demanded enough excellence to force me to take that step. Refining your craft, doing the not fun parts of your art, that requires self-motivation. It requires a deeper why. As a writer, I have decided I don’t want to just go for good enough.

The first draft is tempting because of the immediacy, the instant gratification, but I don’t want to have chicken nugget writing. I want to bring you homemade from scratch cooked all day dad’s special chili recipe writing.

I feel like I have avoided excellence in my writing by not setting aside the time to take my work to the next level. I’m sorry I haven’t given you the best writing I have in me. I’ll be working to continually improve as I press on and enjoy life. Here’s to draft 2’s, 3’s, and becoming a better writer!

Take the next steps

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When I was a sophomore in college, I went home for the holidays and like many sophomores, I was overwhelmed,

Overwhelmed by life.

Overwhelmed by school.

Overwhelmed by my lack of vision for my future.

I said as much to my dad and he told me…

“Really? You don’t know what you want to do with your life? That’s strange, because when I was your age I knew I was going to meet and marry your mom, move across the country and then work for the same company for 20 years. Come on, get it together!”

In his sarcastic way he was letting me know that it’s ok, just worry about the next couple of steps. Nobody can know what they are going to be doing forever. If the end isn’t clear, take the next couple of logical best steps. Later in life, the path will be more evident.

William Stonewall Monroe

Finding your voice when you’ve lost your voice

That is where I’m at this week. A cold has wrecked my literal voice. Yes, it allows me to talk like I’m Johnny Cash or Billy Gibbons, but… I can’t really sing right now. I have to allow time for my vocal chords to heal.

Voice Tunnel 02...
Voice Tunnel 02… by Tasayu Tasnaphun, on Flickr

Which has me thinking, when you can’t directly pursue your voice, when something is blocking you from figuring out how you were meant to express yourself, what do you do?

Whatever is blocked may only be one piece of your voice.. Right now, my literal voice is what is blocked. But that is not the only way I express myself. Writing, playing instruments with my hands, performing acts of service for my wife, these are all ways I can express myself without saying a word.

Don’t give up.. It is really tempting for me to give up all creative endeavor when my voice is lost. I can’t do that though, giving up creativity can lead to other creative blocks when you return to your work.

Take rest where you find it. Yes, I’m not going to give up, but there is a healthy rest of which you can partake. The world won’t fall apart if you don’t figure everything out today. Exercise other parts of your callings, but let some areas rest. I’m not going to try and sing some sweet Soundgarden songs while my voice is in this state. Without rest, I prolong the time when my voice is not ready to be used.

What do you do when you find your creativity blocked in one area?

William Stonewall Monroe

The master of your domain

The master of your domain,
Quiet, self contained.
Shielded your life from the dragon’s breath
Kept your heart from a hero’s death.
Walked and bruised feet ramble on

Sailing the Bay (7837a)
Sailing the Bay (7837a) by H. Michael Arrighi, on Flickr

But the sky is no less bright
The dawn no less the end of night
Awakened from a restless sleep
Into a hope that is not kept but keeps
And a fear that handcuffed, shuffles on

Whispers into the recesses
Exploits in the digresses
As ready as ready can be
A steady grasp of uncharted sea
What grasp can be held, off and then on.

William Stonewall Monroe

Schroedinger’s Cat as Applied to Success

The principle of Schroedinger’s cat is an illustration of uncertainty. If you know that a cat is in a box, but cannot perceive anything from within the box, you cannot rightly determine if the cat is alive or deceased. Therefore, according to Schroedinger, the cat exists in a state of both life and death until you open the box. The cat will then be only alive or dead.

Schrödinger´s cat
Schrödinger´s cat by @alviseni, on Flickr

This sounds an awful lot like success/failure before any attempts are made. One of the reasons I fear working towards my dreams is exactly the trap of a Schroedinger like success. Prior to working towards my dream, I don’t know if I will succeed and I don’t know if I will fail. Hence, I maintain a state of both success and failure and am tempted to not disturb the balance.

But there is a snag that I quickly forget.

If you don’t open the box, and the cat is alive, that poor little kitty will eventually fade, giving up its mortal frame. What I need to remind myself is, if I don’t work towards my dream, it also will eventually fade, and I will be left with only failure.

Don’t let time decide whether the box holds success or failure, it always only makes a choice for the latter. Open the box, fight for what you believe and want and dream.

William Stonewall Monroe