Tag Archives: writing

Sounded like a good idea at the time

Sounded like a good idea, until it wasn’t.

This statement could describe my life.  I actually do a lot of things that seem like a good idea, until I realize that maybe it wasn’t the best decision.  I especially feel that way when I think about my writing goals and the theme for my blog.

When I first started blogging, back in 2011, it was in support of my dog toy business (Another idea that has come and gone).  I knew that a social media presence would help my business sales, so I started a dog blog.  I developed a posting calendar and joined some blog hops.  After about a year or so, traffic on my blog was decent and then the retail sales started to come in.  Great news, right?  Well maybe, but I still had two other jobs.  Once the dog toy sales started increasing, the time I needed to put in to keep up with the orders outweighed my interest in making dog toys.  After a couple months of way to much work and very little profit, I closed that that venture.

I didn’t want to give up on writing as a hobby, so I tried my hand at another blog.  This one was going to document my outdoor and fitness adventures.  Writing posts for that blog became a little bothersome and mechanical. I just couldn’t get my mind into it. I could only write so many posts about running in the dark or trail running with my dog.  I closed this blog quickly.  Sounded like a good idea at the time.

Then I had another blog idea that was linked to a resale business.  For this one I had a great idea to tell a little story about every item that I was trying to sell as a way to create a buzz about the stuff and increase sales.  Again, I thought this was a good idea, until it wasn’t.  After some initial sales, I lost interest and decided to close that venture.  Sometimes even the most interesting trinket doesn’t scream out a good story.

Now I wonder if you, the reader, are noticing a theme with my projects.  Maybe you are noticing that I give up on things.  Well that might be true.  I, however, might want to say my flighty-ness is possibly a result of adult ADHD.  Or maybe it is that I don’t spend enough time planning out these adventures.  Either way, I think my sporadic blogging is more an example of my varied interests and my continued desire in becoming a good writer.  Even if I am struggling to find a path.

Reflecting on this behavior makes me think about Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of the 10,000 hour rule to success.  In Gladwell’s book Outliers he talks about how successful people have this common trait of completing 10,000 hours of practice in order to become experts in their field.  Gladwell explains how the Beatles played as a house band for 8 hours a day in Hamburg, Germany before they were famous. This experience enabled the band to play together for long periods of time and forged them into a cohesive musical group.  Beatles biographer Philip Norman says of this time:

They were no good onstage when they went there and they were very good when they came back. . . . They learned not only stamina.  They had to learn an enormous amount of numbers—cover versions of everything you can think of, not just rock and roll, a bit of jazz too.  They weren’t disciplined onstage at all before that.  But when they came back they sounded like no one else.  It was the making of them. (Quoted in Gladwell p. 50).

Gladwell also talks about how Bill Gates had some exceptional opportunities as he was growing up that enabled him to get close to 10,000 hours practice with computer programming before he even got to college.

Gates started to learn about computer programming when he was in 7th grade, and from that time forward he spent most of his free time in a computer lab.  Gates, like the Beatles, also had some exceptional breaks during these early years that helped him hone his skills.  For example, a local computer company with ties to his school allowed Gates his friends to check code for them on the weekend in exchange for free computer time.  Later on in Gates’ high school career an organization called Information Sciences Inc. allowed Gates and his friends to work on a piece of software in exchange for more computer time. (Gladwell, p. 52).  All these opportunities added up to more than 10,000 hours of focused computer programming practice, which enabled Gates to become a programming expert by the time he reached Harvard.

So what does this have to do with my misadventures in blogging?  I think it highlights my challenge with focus and how it isn’t helping my blogging and/or writing goals.  In reading about what makes a successful blog, most advice articles would suggest that you have a theme, any sort of theme.  Blogs can be lifestyle blogs, fitness blogs, and specialty blogs, just about anything with some sort of binding theme.  Unfortunately, my scattered mind doesn’t lend itself to this type of process.  I do like to say that my diverse interests make me well rounded in other parts of my life.  I can fix a leaking pipe in my house, I can cook a three course vegan meal, I can write a grant to fund special projects at work.  But, unfortunately, I can’t focus my blog.  That is, unless, my blog can focuses on indecision.  I bet I have close to 10,000 hours devoted to that!

Hey, maybe I am on to something.  A blog about indecision!  That sounds like a good idea . .

cartoondecision

References:

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers. New York. Back Bay Books.

 

 

Advertisements

The Artist Retreat Day

Today will be an artist retreat day.

rocksimages

Photo from Max Pixels

I don’t have to work so I can spend the day nourishing my creative soul.  My plan is to respond to writing prompts, go outside and take pictures, go for a walk in woods, and sit in silent mediation.  Today will be a retreat day, a day where I can relax and rejuvenate.

But before I can get started I should really clean the house.  Then it will be time for my artist retreat.

Actually, since I have the time I should make lunches for the week.  I think I will roast a bunch of potatoes.  Then what should I have for dinner?  After I figure that out, I will start my retreat.

I do need to check work email.  I am waiting for a couple of important messages. Then I should confirm some meetings for Wednesday and Thursday.  Then I will start my retreat.

I need to run to the grocery store, I am out of cereal and milk.  I also need to go to the bank.  After those errands, I will start my retreat.

I really want to get at least 3 miles of running in today.  It is going to be about 40 degrees today and I want to start getting in some outdoor mileage.  Race season is just around the corner.  Maybe after that I will start my retreat day.

Speaking of running, I really need to order some new shorts and running shirts.  After I do that I will start my retreat.

I would feel bad if I am going to home all day and I neglected the dogs.  I should really spend time with them. And since I am going to be outside with the dogs, I should get a little spring cleaning done.  I need to remove that those branches that came down in the last storm.

I forgot about picking up the mail and dropping off the taxes.  I definitely need to do that.  But after that I will start my artist retreat day.

Hmm, I wonder how much time that leaves me for my artist retreat activities? Doesn’t look like much.


Does this scenario sound familiar to anyone else?

I have noticed that I have this uncanny ability of putting obstacles in my way towards creative growth.  I construct all these reasons why I can’t focus on myself.   Julia Cameron in her book The Artists Way talks about how this type of behavior is an example of limiting and blocking an individual’s creative spirit probably due to some sort of past event where the creative spark was hampered by those of authority.  Cameron would probably also tell me that I am the perfect example of someone who is caught in their own Virtue Trap.  Cameron explains by saying, “We are on the treadmill of virtuous production and we are caught.” (p. 96)

Many of us have made a virtue our of deprivation.  We have embraced a long-suffering artistic anorexia as a martyr’s cross.  We have used it to feed a false sense of spirituality grounded in being good, meaning superior.

I call this seductive, faux spirituality the Virtue Trap.  Spirituality has often been misused as a route to an unloving solitude, a stance where we proclaim ourselves above our human nature.  This spiritual superiority is really only one more form of denial.  For an artist, virtue can be deadly.  The urge toward respectability and maturity can be stultifying, even fatal. (Cameron, p. 98)

The problem with this approach to life is that we lose our true self through the constant desire to serve others.  Our true self withers as it is replaced by the to-do lists and the obligations.  I order to keep in touch with our inner passions and potentials, we need to take time to retreat. We need to take time for the “Self”.  It is important to take time to nurture those creative impulses so we can embrace opportunities for growth when they happen.

The challenge, at least for me, is to increase the level of importance these types of activities.  If I want to say “I am a writer”, I need to find the time to be a writer. I need to be able to retreat and write.

penimages

Photo from pixabay

 

Works cited:

Cameron, J. (2016). The Artist Way. New York. Penguin Random House, LLC.

 


(I’m not your) Stepping Stone

I mentioned in my last post, I recently got a satellite radio.  Let me tell you, this radio is my new favorite thing.

You see music has this way a triggering memories.  Although science tells us that smell is more closely linked with your memory due to its connection to the amygdala and hippocampus (Mercola, 2015).   Music has a similar ability. That is because “listening to music engages broad neural networks in the brain, including brain regions responsible for motor actions, emotions, and creativity” (Bergland, 2013). The connection between music and memories is even being studied in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia.   A good source for more information about this link between music, memory and the treatment of Alzheimer’s is the Music & Memory website: musicandmemory.org .

For me, one example about the link between smell, music and memory starts off with the smell of freshly baked bread on a fall day.   This smell brings up some really positive emotions for me.  However, part of that memory is associated with music. Specifically, these memories are associated with John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High album.   The interesting thing for me is that the music brings back more of those positive memories than the smell of fresh bread. So, I think the power of music wins out over smell in my world.

Anyways, this post revolves around that radio and music.  However, this post is about a music genre on the other side of the spectrum for John Denver.

Here is the scene:

It is a little after 9:00 pm and I am driving home.  I am traveling that same two lane highway through the rural countryside that I always travel. It was warm for a late February evening and there was fog rolling across the roads.  I had just left my second job and after a 14 hour day I was tired.

20 minutes into my travels, I finally decompressed enough to begin to notice the radio.  It is a little scary that you actually drive that far and be stuck in your head enough that you don’t recognize what music is playing in the car.  I wasn’t into the evening’s NPR selection and I resorted to my normal routine of flipping channels.  After a few minutes I landed on the Punk Rock channel called “Faction”.  I often listen to this station in the morning but had rarely listened at this time of day.  It turned out to be good timing because the station had Marky Ramone (drummer from the Ramones) sitting in as the DJ for a weekly show called Punk Rock Blitzkrieg.  Amazing!

I was digging the stream of new and older punk rock tunes that Marky was playing, but my favorite song of the night was the Sex Pistols doing a cover of the classic song “(I’m not your) Stepping Stone”.

“(I’m not your) Stepping Stone”, which was originally recorded in 1966 by Paul Revere and the Raiders, has quite the history over covers.  Several bands including The Monkees, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Minor Threat have all recorded their own versions of this song.

The Sex Pistols’ cover of “(I’m not your) Stepping Stone” is not the most melodious version of the song, but it is as good as any punk rock version.

YouTube has recording of the song with a still montage (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXd8qnONDIk)

And here is a version from a 2016 a reunion show. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMpbEp71nC8).

The Sex Pistol’s version was released in 1979 on The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle album.  The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle album also included some other covers including: “Johnny B Goode” originally by Chuck Berry, “Substitute” by Pete Townsend (The Who), and “My Way” by Paul Anka, Claude François, Jacques Revaux.  (Frank Sinatra’s 1969 version of “My Way” is probably best known rendition of this song.)

An interesting side note is that The Sex Pistols also released a movie in 1979-1980 also called The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle.  The movie is a:

a stylized fictional account of the formation, rise and subsequent breakup of the band, from the point of view of their then-manager Malcolm McLaren. In the film, McLaren claims to create the Sex Pistols and manipulate them to the top of the music business, using them as puppets to both further his own agenda (in his own words: “Cash for chaos”), and to claim the financial rewards from the various record labels the band were signed to during their brief history – EMI, A&M, Virgin, and Warner Bros. Records. (Wikipedia, 2017, The_Great_Rock ‘N’ Roll_Swindle)

I remember watching this movie at my parent’s house when I was about 15 or so.  Not sure how I got my hands on a copy of this video because it sure wasn’t at the local video store.

In 2006 The Sex Pistols were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  However, they did not attend the ceremony.  Johnny Rotten (John Lydon) instead wrote this note and posted it on thefilthandthefury.co.uk,

Next to the Sex Pistols, rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. We’re not coming. We’re not your monkeys. If you voted for us, hope you noted your reasons. Your anonymous as judges but your still music industry people. We’re not coming. Your not paying attention. Outside the shit-stream is a real Sex Pistol. (Quoted in Sprague, 2006)

Really, the point of this whole thing is nostalgia.  For some reason, the Sex Pistols and The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle bring up positive memories for me.  The Sex Pistols were probably one of the first bands that really got me into music and got me into researching the story behind the music.  The Sex Pistols were also one of those bands that helped me forge my own identity and made music relevant.  Kind of funny thinking about this in now.  A band that came from a completely different world than my suburban New England upbringing would have such an impact on my adolescents.   But they did and those were some good times indeed.

the_great_rock_n_roll_swindle

Works Cited:

Bergland, C. (2013). Why Do the Songs from Your Past Evoke Such Vivid Memories? Psychology Today. Retrieved March 5, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201312/why-do-the-songs-your-past-evoke-such-vivid-memories.

Mercola. (2015). Why Smells Can Trigger Strong Memories. Retrieved March 5, 2017 from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/08/06/smells-trigger-memories.aspx

Sprague, D. (2006) “Sex Pistols Flip Off Hall of Fame”. Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://web.archive.org/web/20080217032318/http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/9385165/sex_pistols_flip_off_hall_of_fame

Wikipedia (2017) “The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle”. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Rock_%27n%27_Roll_Swindle

Wikipedia (2016). “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone”. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/(I’m_Not_Your)_Steppin’_Stone

Wikipedia (2017). “Sex Pistols”. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_Pistols