For some of us, now is a perfect time to, well, take our time. Perhaps rather than binging another show, and even in lieu of reading (but not all day – just for a bit), listen to an album. I’m a long way from my record player, but I have albums on my computer. There’s also YouTube, where you can find just about anything.
In The Artist’s Way, this was one of the tasks in a later chapter of the book. Julia Cameron recommended doodling while you listen. Let your mind wander. Listen, relax, and consume the album from start to finish.
Something I heard long ago was about a songwriter who would frequently hear tunes while driving. Like, original tunes, only in the mind. And it was frustrating, because while driving it’s hard to write down music (this was before cell phones and inexpensive voice recorders, but you get the idea).
The moral was, train your inspiration to come when you’re ready for it. Not when it’s convenient for your muse.
Somewhere in Stephen King’s On Writing, or perhaps in one of the interviews he’s given about writing, he says that the way he writes is to start at the same time every morning, write the same number of hours, take the same breaks. His inspiration comes during that time.
Certainly he may get ideas while showering, or taking out the trash. Notebooks and recorders are handy in that way. But mostly he puts ideas to paper during that time when he’s set down to write.
Thankfully, we are never lacking in ideas. Good, bad, indifferent, we think things up every day. Many aren’t original. Some are. Of the original, many are terrible. Some aren’t.
As Seth Godin says, ““If you put enough bad ideas into the world, sooner or later your brain will wake up, and good ideas will come.”
I thought of this because as I was waking up two mornings ago, I heard a whole song. An original song. I got as much of it down as I could, as I was just waking up and fumbling with the recorder. I unfortunately haven’t trained my muse in the same way.
Now, that doesn’t actually sound horrible to me. “The Weekly Rundown.” I’m sure it’s derivative of something else, but I may stick with that.
What I’m reading: Spook by Mary Roach. “What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that’s that—the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my lap-top?” In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die.
What I’m listening to: Halloween music. Or more specifically, classical pieces of music that has a spooky tilt to it. You can try these out for a start.
What I’m spending my time with: The AFI 100. They’ve been on my list for a while, and I’m checking them off. So far I’m fifteen films in. I’m planning on getting them all watched by the end of the year.
Other things of interest:
- The Fountain Pen Network. Here’s a place to nerd out over fountain pens. If, you know, you’re into that sort of thing…
- A24’s screenplay books. The first run of three books has sold out, with second printing arriving December 13th. These are attractive books to add to your screenplay collection – if you have one.
- And in my continuing struggle to find a good night’s sleep, here are some suggestions from Huckberry’s Brooke Vaughn.
A song I’ve heard a thousand times if I’ve heard it once, Drive by Incubus played on the radio the other day. And for whatever reason, I really listened to it. Not, I could sing along with it easily enough, but I guess I hadn’t paid attention to the lyrics.
“Sometimes, I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can’t help but ask myself how much I’ll let the fear
Take the wheel and steer
It’s driven me before
And it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal
But lately I am beginning to find
That I should be the one behind the wheel
Whatever tomorrow brings
I’ll be there with open arms and open eyes
Whatever tomorrow brings
I’ll be there, I’ll be there”
It’s a question of how to live your life. Do you drive forward, making the decisions? Or do you just go with the crowd?
Better to stand out…
Take a classic Greek tragic myth – the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Create a modern retelling, throw in some jazz swing style musicians on stage with the performers, and take it to the Great White Way. What’s the result? Tony Award for best musical, obviously.
I may get a chance to see it in September, but for now I’ve only listened. I like it okay, but it’s probably not the type of musical I generally go for.
The myth aspect is great, but the songs for me aren’t the most singable. And that’s often how I become attracted to musical cast recordings – songs I can sing along with.
All five musicals seemed to be worthy of the nomination, and I had it down to Hadestown or The Prom, though my money was on The Prom to win.
But I was wrong. Congrats Hadestown!
Driving from a to b one day, I was thinking about the radio. I’ve had satellite radio for about a year, mostly to listen to Symphony Hall, Metropolitan Opera, and Broadway, but it isn’t a necessity. Early on, there was just wireless telegraphy. Over a century of radio broadcasting, with the first 60 years shaping the nature of music and entertainment.
Then it started to change. The take-home market, bootlegs, and audio recording devices for personal use. Not a phonograph, but cassette. As the size of data decreased, the ease of consumption increased. Now, thousands of songs are instantly available from the phone you’re carrying, likely hooked up to your Bluetooth in the car. Not thousands. Not millions. Every song ever recorded is virtually accessible in some way through most mobile devices. Not needing to carry cassettes, or cds, your tastes can expand, but your curatorial sense may be reduced.
We rarely listen to complete albums any more, so maybe we miss gems from our favorite artists. But we’re constantly exposed to new artists, ones we may have missed otherwise. As in all other arenas of modernity, it’s a trade-off we’re still learning to come to terms with.
I’ve been working out a 168-hour timeline for the week, planning out days. Without overlap, it looks something like:
- 56 hours – Sleep
- 50 hours – Job
- 10 hours – Writing
- 10 hours – Dining/meal prep/shopping
- 9 hours – Side hustle
- 7 hours – Reading for pleasure / studying
- 6 hours – Podcast & video recording/editing
- 6 hours – Yoga/exercise
- 4 hours – Music gigs
- 4 hours – Meditation
- 3 hours – Radio show
- 3 hours – Nothing
Now, I rarely sleep 8 hours per night. I haven’t been as faithful in my yoga practice as I should be. And I do write sometimes during gigs when I’m not singing. So there is overlap.
The problems come when other things creep in and I have to decide which items to omit from the daily list. And things will crop up. Date night (which should be every week). The film that I just have to say (a lot coming out this summer). And other activities that require some measure of concentration on my part – I’m thinking of the garage that needs an overhaul right now.
And I look at Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule in awe, and can’t help but wonder how he managed it. (Of course he didn’t, but it didn’t stop him from trying.)