I had been teaching English at a local community college, but then the pandemic hit, which turned everything upside down. I hope to get back to working a full-time job at some point in the near future, but for now, I try to make the most of being unemployed. The situation is not ideal by any means, but it does allow me a lot more time to be creative, which is a luxury that I have not always had. Fortunately, I also have a spouse who is able and willing to accommodate my temporary lack of an income, which definitely helps to make all of this possible. I couldn't do this without her.
Over the past few weeks, I have been very prolific in terms of songwriting, even for me. I believe that this is largely because I have been treating it like a full-time job. That is, I get up in the morning, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, pour coffee, and sit down at my desk, where I then work for the pretty much the whole day. Yesterday, I was recording vocal tracks at 9:30 in the morning, which probably sounds stranger than it actually is. Then again, it probably did sound pretty strange to my neighbors. Today, I plan to start composing another song and do some more work on a few that I already wrote. As you may have noticed, I also usually write a blog post at some point in the day, some of which can be rather long (like this one, for example).
Back in 2015, when I started writing my dissertation, one of the most valuable pieces of wisdom that my advisor gave me was to give whatever it is that I am working on the time and dedication that it deserves. In other words, treat it like a full-time job. That was how I was able to go from idea to dissertation to published book in less than two years: I worked just about every day on it, even when I really didn't want to. This is how shit gets done.
Of course, I also took breaks to play music, which was always a good way to recharge my mind and spirit. Personally, I find that the act of playing music can be very meditative. Plus Fridays were always my music days -- no reading, writing, or grading, just music. It gave me a reason to look forward to Fridays again. In the process, I wrote, recorded, and produced three full-length albums while I was working on my dissertation, which I released right around the same time that the book was published. This was all because I had developed an efficient strategy for being productive.
Ever since then, I have worked to maintain this habit of writing every day, with only a few exceptions here and there. In addition to the five (soon to be six) albums that this has generated, over the past four years, I have also written four feature-length screenplays in various genres, one novel, and two children's books. Again, this is only made possible by the fact that I sit down to write every day like it's my job. I should note, too, that for most of this time, I was also working full-time hours as a teacher (while getting paid as an adjunct).
In recent weeks, I have applied this approach to songwriting. I know that in previous posts, I said that the muse had visited -- but the truth is that in order for that to happen, I have to make the opportunity possible. I do this by sitting down to work, even (and perhaps especially) when I don't feel like it. If I do that, then it really does feel like these songs come from out of nowhere sometimes, even though, like everything that I create, it's all part of a process. It's just that things like this seem to come together much faster when approached systematically, as though delivered to me through some kind of magic.
That said, one of the things that I particularly like about songwriting is the almost instant gratification that it gives me. As opposed to a book or screenplay, which might take me several months or more to write, I can sometimes write and record an entire song in one day. In fact, I did precisely that just yesterday.
As I also noted in yesterday's post, since March of this year, I have written eight new songs, four of which I wrote just this past week. Three more and I'll have another album. Granted, once I finish writing these songs, then I go back and re-record just about everything and master the songs to function as a cohesive album -- but again, this is all part of my system, as I find that the key to being productive is to have an efficient process. A clean desk also helps, as does regular exercise outdoors. Personally, I like going for bike rides. I always take notecards with me, too, as I can't even tell you how many lyrics and story ideas have come to me while I was riding around and not thinking about anything in particular.
I share this information with you not to brag about all of the stuff that I've made in recent years, but rather, so that you might apply this same approach to whatever it is that you may want to create. Basically, I am simply passing on the brilliant nugget of advice that my professor gave me about how to be productive, while saving you the immense costs of grad school. You're welcome. You can thank me by streaming, sharing, and purchasing my music.
Personally, I happen to believe that everyone has the ability to be creative, but that some people just don't know what their own gifts are yet. Sadly, some people never find out, often due in part to the fact that their other full-time jobs get in the way. I sincerely hope that isn't you, as I'm sure that you, whoever you are, have some insights to contribute to our broader understanding of what it means to be human. You are beautiful. Show us the world through your eyes.
To quote my own song (Wake Up!):
Welcome to the party
We're all glad you came
Without you it wouldn't be the same
So speak up, raise your voice
Stop talking in your sleep
Promises are the only things we keep
You can click on the links in my previous few blog posts to hear the stuff that I'm working on now. In addition to continuing to work on new material over the weekend, I plan to do some more re-recording and re-mixing as well. Like I said, I seldom take days off, but when you love what you do, that's not really a bad thing. It sure as hell beats grading papers.
As I create updated versions of these songs, I upload them to my ReverbNation page, which is an easy way to make it so that I can listen to them through a variety of speakers. This helps me to know if the mix is right, which is all part of my job as a DIY recording artist. That said, I hope you can appreciate that there really is a hell of lot of work involved, especially since I do all of this stuff by myself.
So even though I'm technically unemployed at the moment, I do usually work through the weekends. As such, you can probably expect new versions of most of these songs to appear over the next few days, as well as any new material that I may come up with. As always, faithful listeners, fans, and kindrid spirits, I will keep you posted.
Happy Friday. Thanks for listening and for reading my blog. If you like what I'm doing, please share it with others who may appreciate it as well. If you happen to be unemployed, it's probably not your fault, and you're not alone. Make the most of it. Create something that could only have come from you.