Imperfection, Practice

Is it Courage?

I was asked the other day something like, is there courage involved in doing your Work, your writing?Thinking about it I said, I don’t know, I don’t think about it that way.  

For me that word courage is asking my writing to mantle too much. I don’t know if I can be brave, but I know I can show up. Showing up isn’t always easy, but I can do it. All it takes is sitting at a table with paper and pen, (or my laptop) and writing the first word, and then the next. Showing up is simple.  

With courage I find myself imagining horses to ride and armor to don; swords to raise and enemies to ride at. 

Showing up is as simple as sitting down. Maybe there’s a little bit of courage in hitting send, but even that—it’s a click. Merely another kind of showing up.    

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Imperfection, Practice, Self-Care, Songwriting

The Weekly Plan

These days, it seems, I’m always juggling just a bit more than I can handle. If I happen to have some free time, I like to fill it with more things. I know this isn’t quite optimal. I’m a human being, not the terminator. I need time to rest, relax and let go to be at my best. 

I also know when I’m resting the things I’ve been focused on start to gel and connect in my mind. New ideas arise when they have time to mulch and grow. 

So when I heard Jordan Harbinger talk on the Essentialism podcast about his weekly planning I was very interested. At the end of each week, by Sunday night, he blocks out time in the next week. He includes blocks for free time, rest, chatting with people, and family. He also uses fifteen minute blocks which seems reasonable to me. Sometime last year I had read “Atomic Habits” which talked logging everything I do to the minute. I undertand the point, but it was a big commitment, and a little overwhelming. A fifteen minute block is closer to a bite size morsel, an amuse bouche of time. Not too big, not too small.   

This is all well and good. But of course I’ve tried planning out my weeks in advance before. Who hasn’t? So what’s new as I’m approaching it this time? 

I have a better awareness of a habit I have for turning schedules into a cudgel or stockade. Something to both lock myself into and beat myself with, which I know does not work.  

What I’m suspicious will work, is more bite size morsels, this time for the planning itself. Something to start off this new habit that can be done easily. Something bite sized schedule-wise could be to simply simply planning out the first hour each day, or even the first fifteen minutes. The idea here is to get in the habit of sitting down and doing some scheduling each week, and to grow the habit from there.  

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Imperfection, Inherent Self-Worth

The Conference Lobby

 A while ago, friends of mine went to a music conference for the first time. The goal of conferences is generally to meet people, and let them know what you do. You know, networking. A person is given a name tag and set loose on awkward cocktail party of people all looking to make the right connections.   

My friends approached it a little differently. They found there wasn’t a lot going on in the main lobby was empty most of the time. People milled around, rested on the couches, or merely passed through.   They grabbed their instruments and started playing. For lots of musicians the opportunity to join in a a jam is better than milling through an awkward meet and great. Those musicians would join in. Concert promoters would pass and sometimes stop to listen. By the end of a weekend of doing that, lots of people knew who they were and what they did. 

A few years later they’ve gone from leaders of the song circle in the lobby to leaders of the community and the conference itself. Merely starting a song circle in the lobby didn’t make they leaders, but it’s an example of how they consistently looked for spaces where something could happen, something that would be fun and help others and simply started doing. When others got interested, or wanted to take part, they invited them to join. What the empty space you see?

Imperfection, Resistance, Writing

When a Dry Spell Ends

As I remember it, in a class I took with Josh Ritter, he said, I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I do believe in dry spells. Dry spells happen, and I think they happen in every profession.  

At the restaurant I earn my money in, there are days I feel great about my work. And there are days I feel bad about it as well.  

There are days I start off feeling great about the work and by the end it changes. There are also days I start off feeling awful about the work, and by the end, it changes. 

For a writer, (or any person who is their own boss), there’s a temptation to think there’s a choice to show up or not. If a person has a boss, they show up and do the work when they’re scheduled because it’s how they keep the job. There’s an axiom which says early is on time, on time is late, and if you are late, you’re fired. Which is to say, lots of people view work for the perspective of a hammer looking for a nail; It’s something you do whether you want to or not.  

A different way frame could be: 

When you show up you never know what will happen. 

Sooner or later the dry spell ends.  

And it will end while doing the work.  

It never ends otherwise. 

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Imperfection, Practice, ReWriting

An Invitation & Let There Be Song

I got an invitation a few days ago to try out for a small gig for a group of people I care about, Seth Godin’s Akimbo community. The gig is sort of an opening slot for “The Real Skills Conference.” The upside, I would be featured at the outset of the conference and some number of people could see me doing my Work. The downside, I needed to get five minutes together.  

That’s what I did today. Sculpting a song into five minutes which would be a small gift to the community. Choosing the song I’d play was the easy part. In March, a friend in the Creative’s workshop had written a poem. I suggested she set it to music.  She challenged me to do instead, and I did.  

Writing an introduction was harder. I spent two or three hours sifting through the story I wanted to tell which would have to be about sixty seconds long. What follows is the five sentences that I wrote to introduce the song.  After the video I’ve included a draft the shorter introduction was culled from.

In March, just as we were beginning to shut down in Boston, videos from Italy’s full lock-down were emerging. They were singing beautiful arias and folk songs together. As a singer, and a songwriter it was hard not to be a little jealous of that culture. 

I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back I can see that those of use who were taking part in The Creative’s Workshop at the time, were singing together. The Work we cared about enough to share, ship, and comment on generously—those were our songs. 

This song is based on a poem Amanda Judd posted in the Creative’s Workshop

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Everything that follows is rough draft stuff:

March 15th, was the last day of the last week I got scheduled to work in March. 

For the first time in my adult life I lost my job. 

I’ve since come to call those three months my government sponsored Sabbatical.   

But at the time, I had no idea how or when I’d next get paid. 

Two days before I’d bought $356 worth of groceries on my Visa at 6:30 in the morning, and literally took the last economy pack of toilet paper off the shelf at Market Basket.   

The next time I’d go shopping, we’d be showering and then washing our groceries after we got home.  

At the time, Italy was in the middle of one of the strictest shutdowns in all of Europe.   

And in the middle of their shutdown, these videos of Italians sings arias and folks songs in full harmony started to emerge.  

I went onto The Creative’s Workshop and Amanda Judd had written a poem about that singing.   

I knew she sometimes write songs, so I challenged her set the words to music.  

She challenged me back.  

I blinked first so to speak. . . 

It was beautiful.   

And as we started sharing our lives moments over Zoom calls and Facebook, I know I was a little jealous. 

Built right into the people of Italy is a culture that supports singing together.  

And videos started showing up of how they came together, the people in their culture were rising up in the moment and coming together.  

These Akimbo workshops are about culture.  

Creating culture, and rising up to moments of hardship, and challenge.  

I joined The Creatives workshop in February. 

And I joined, and we created a culture.  

So when the Italians started singing from their balconies, harmonizing, each finding their part in the choir, my friend Amanda Judd found discovered her par in the choir was writing down a few words about hearing them.  

And reading what she wrote, I discovered my part in the choir, picking up my guitar.   

And make no mistake, every single one of use who was shows up, in The Creatives Workshop, or doing their work to support others is finding their part in the choir. 

Creating and continuing a culture where we join together and lift our voices up. What each of us creates and shares is the song we are singing from our balcony song with generosity, and in harmony with “The others”  

By doing our work, “by singing from our balcony,” by shipping and sharing our voices—we find the others.    

I’m a songwriter.

We’re all songwriters here. 

We’re all creators here. 

We’re all singers.