Finished Challenge: Roundup

100 days of production complete. Well, that’s that for another while. I think I’d like a few days where I don’t *have* to do anything serious, but I’m also hoping that habit formation kicks in and I do the work anyway, just without having to post about it.

To mark the end of the hundred days, this is available on BandCamp. It’s rough and unmastered but as a rough draft I think it can still demonstrate some progress. I pulled apart Valentine and re-recorded most of this last night.

What have I learned? 

  • Finishing something is the hardest for me.
  • I can easily fall into the trap of collecting sounds and effects at the expense of making anything.
  • I don’t have anything I’d be happy to call finished.
  • I get hung up on minutiae, especially if I go into it without a fully formed idea
  • Most of my ideas are not fully formed, so this is an issue
  • I learned I have to be much more realistic about what I can and cannot achieve in a specific timeframe.
  • I learned that doing a small amount every day does not and will never feel like enough. However, it still puts me further on the road than doing nothing until I have that perfect amount of time to do the things I want. Because usually when I have that time, I don’t use it how I expect or hope.
  • I learned that words mean things, and that “learn something about Ableton every day” and “have a finished piece by the end of the challenge” are not mutually inclusive goals if you are also trying to improve songwriting, music theory, chords, etc.

What did I do in the last 100 days?  

What changed? 

  • I can now improvise what is in my head.  I can now write out and chord a melody idea that I blearily recorded first thing as a phone message in one day. That to me is huge.
  • I can throw together a suitcase in short order (good life skill, questionable reasons)
  • I began a more regular singing/piano practice – closer to daily, and pushing myself on violin more (Bach Partitas)
  • I can sing my lines and have more confidence with timing and intonation overall
  • I have a better understanding of some topics. However, that understanding is eclipsed by the sheer scale of my ignorance.
  • If I weren’t too ignorant to know better, I might give up.

So what’s next? 

I made a decision that is going to impact at least the rest of this year. Namely, that I’m going to start working on an album proper. Even typing that is terrifying. I want it to be part album, part artbook, and I also intend to try out crowdfunding for it. There is going to be a phenomenal amount of work involved. If it fails, though, I will still learn.

Being candid, the last few months have been pretty anxious for me. I have pushed through as much as I can, but it just means that I nitpick everything. This blunts the creative edge, as I’m judging to harshly, too soon. The anxiety is nearly constant. It’s daunting to keep doing what I’m doing and have a constant sense of nothing being enough, even though I must have improved somehow. Whether that translates through my work or not is not something I can judge.

Also, I’ll just say, if you have something you want to do and aren’t sure if you can follow through on it, I find being open about your vulnerabilities is the surest and fastest way to learn. So I will continue to do that. Last year, when I finished my last 100 days’ challenge, I broke down crying. It wasn’t even like it was a huge deal in retrospect but it changed a lot for me. I feel a weird sense of disappointment? disillusionment? It’s tough to say but I know I have the energy to keep going, even if I am gritting my teeth much of the time. Campbell talks about the crossing of the return threshold, and I feel a lot of this (bolding my emphasis):

The returning hero, to complete his adventure, must survive the impact of the world. Many failures attest to the difficulties of this life-affirmative threshold. The first problem of the returning hero is to accept as real, after an experience of the soul-satisfying vision of fulfillment, the passing joys and sorrows, banalities and noisy obscenities of life. Why re-enter such a world? Why attempt to make plausible, or even interesting, to men and women consumed with passion, the experience of transcendental bliss? As dreams that were momentous by night may seem simply silly in the light of day, so the poet and the prophet can discover themselves playing the idiot before a jury of sober eyes. The easy thing is to commit the whole community to the devil and retire again into the heavenly rock dwelling, close the door, and make it fast. But if some spiritual obstetrician has drawn the shimenawa across the retreat, then the work of representing eternity in time, and perceiving in time eternity, cannot be avoided” The hero returns to the world of common day and must accept it as real. (Cousineau, Phil, ed. (1990). The hero’s journey: Joseph Campbell on his life and work)

Every challenge is a paradigm shift. From the decision, to execution, to aftermath, it will bring a change and realisation that did not exist before. You may not want to return to the world you left, although most of the time it is unavoidable.

Returning to what was before the beginning of this is not always the most appealing option. I wanted to do this to see whether or not I could make this work. I was fully prepared for it to fail. If that had been the case, I would have chalked that up to a grumpy win. At least then I could move on with my life, and not defend my choices out of some misguided notion of sunk cost.

Small note on the social media aspect. It was equal, sometimes more work to come up with content, day after day, and try to reach people. Some days I felt completely burnt out, especially in this last sprint. I didn’t feel like I had anything to say. Keeping with it kept a journal I may not have kept as faithfully otherwise.

As one friend told me once, you find the energy. Somehow you get through it, even if you don’t remember exactly how you did. That’s comforting. Because statistically, knowing you got through something before increases your probability of getting through it again, or something equal or greater.

I want to thank everybody who showed up. Whether it was online or in person, in messages or just checking up on me, likes, shares, and all that, thank you. You helped me survive the impact of the world, and for that I am very, very grateful.


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