Less tower, more square.

Just started two things, reading The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson and looking into selling music clips online and it brought up a thought about creativity.

Due to the way things are, especially in these times, the ability to navigate around any pecking order and connect with both collaborators and consumers is better than ever.  Just from my own research today on selling clips there are so many platforms with different costs and ways to set up that it really comes down to the creator.

There is loads of support no matter what thing you are curious about, wheth its music, visual, performing or what have you. In my experience as a bassist there is not only instruction but boards where you can talk about how to get going out there ( I also have my own joining a band blog at Band survival guide ) I mean, you can connect to lots of folks online but what’s cool is also making connection to other local like minded artists to get you started. I’m thinking of some of the places our band have played which are artist groups, made up of people who connected online. These people can inspire you as well as be there as potential as friends/contacts who can put you in touch with others.

Not all collaborative activities work out, some do, and some are like when Ricky Gervais met Stephen Merchant, when Sting started talking to Stewart Copeland or when Johnny Marr knocked on the door of Stephen Morrissey.

You never know! It’s not about being a super anything either. New Order, members of the Fall (band) and other eventual full time artists were just people who saw the Sex Pistols at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall back in the late 70s. Some went from the show to the music store, pointed and said “that one, please!”

Dont hold back on your dreams. Where they can go is limitless.

Cheers,

Tom

Creative ESCAPE

It’s hard to escape the news.

Not just because it’s upsetting or unprecedented but because the nature of it connects more to us than it did.

I can think back to even as recent as six years back where I only knew news if it was something truly extraordinary or extreme. Now it seems its hour to hour. I can think of some speakers who I’ll catch on YouTube knowing that due to broadcast timing they couldn’t have gotten everything that happened that day.

I’ve decided that this blog wont go into that stuff. It’s going to go the other way.

It’s an idea that I’ve had for a while and with summer here and a new week starting I would like to take a little more seriously something I had already been doing for fun.

I mean, they say you should do what you would do anyway, so…

This is now a blog on the subject of creativity.

Now, I can hear you, because funny enough, I took a course on creativity that had us asking it. How can you teach that?

It’s true, I can’t.

But what I have done off and on and want to explore now is how to feel capable of it, harnessing it, exploring it and all the other kinds of support I can think of (and pass on that I will learn) to you so that you can be in that best place.

This seems especially fitting now, even with us all coming out of lockdown in places around the world and worrying about this or that. No matter how you view things the chance for stress is all around.

Creativity and the self care that gives you the fuel to harness it are a fantastic defense against this. One bit of instruction you will get from most music teachers immediately would be “turn the phone off”. That’s what this will be. It will be a place of solace.

I know there are things important to you ouf there but you need to be in your best place to deal with those. Most music lessons all speak against the idea of hours and hours of practice. As such we’re not talking about getting up early, but finding 20 to 30 minutes that are yours.

But first you need to feel you can do it and that it’s worth it. I promise you both are true. Maybe mornings are better for you, maybe afternoons. There is probably a time of day when you have more energy and you’re not at work or in the middle of some obligation.

Make that your first thing you will do. Find out what that time is. Mine is morning and I have a whole routine I run through, but even that gets switched up. It use to be early afternoons back when I was younger. And dont forget, it doesn’t have to be a big chunk of time. It could be a half hour before you get ready for bed. Maybe you will want to get up a half hour early. Maybe it’s right after school or work. I dont know. But the trick is to lock it in and make it yours.

From there we’ll plan your escape.

Think the end of Shawkshank Redemption.

The guards are sleepy. The tunnel is ready.

See you on the outside.

Cheers,

Tom 🙂

The creative person you become made simple.

I read a friend’s post that was a eulogy for a creative mentor and about the advice he was given. First thing I thought was what advice I would give.

You are the sum total of your daily focus since you started.

There, that’s the condensed soup version but I’ll expand, and keep it short as my time is limited too.

Practicing, working at it, “showing up to the page” or whatever you call it is how things move even incrementally from where you were to where you are. It is really easy to run yourself down, thinking anyone can do what you do, and other kinds of self taught. The truth is you are raising your own kid in your playing (writing, painting. I’ll stick to music from here on and just insert yourself into that as needed). You’re so close that you dont see how much you’ve grown since you’ve started.

The most important thing is for it to be daily, whatever it is. If you can do hours that’s amazing but even if its 30 min do it daily at the same time.

The reason for this is that you are building literally in the day before. I’ve been trying to push for more time with guitar and I’ve been working with chords I never had memorized before. That’s because I did them two days ago, and then yesterday, and then today. Saying I cant during the week but I’m going to go crazy on Saturday just isn’t the same.

Also, not only do we all compare ourselves to that other person, but we do it totally unfairly.

As a bassist, for instance, it is so easy for me to be jealous of guys that can slap and pop and tap crazy notes all over the place or look at a piano player doing a blues shuffle like out of a western until I realize…

I dont listen to that stuff to begin with!

So of course my practice doesn’t focus there. Now I can do some as we all need to do fundamentals or what’s needed, but all of this is about creating and enjoying.

Your joy is what you are harnessing. In songwriting I get that rush of following the conception of the idea and what comes out is a mash of usually what I like to begin with.

Even if you dont sound like the person who inspired you, fear not, their influence is in you now.

Now, in every sense of the word…

Play

Cheers,

Tom

🙂

The upside of 1%

It is really easy to feel like to have plateaued in what you are doing and creative endeavors are no different for this. I don’t have lots of time as I’m writing this between gigs and I have the release for the single She Lives There literally in under 24 hours but I wanted to pass this along.

Any regular time spent working on something does have a positive effect, in fact anything you focus on regularly will become refined. I’ve noticed this over the month with, of all things, music production.

I don’t consider myself a music producer or engineer by any stretch, but I’ve sort of had to play that role while recording The Goldblacks CD and onwards since I still have the same gear. In doing that there’s little nuances that have improved or approaches I learned in the blur that was the album recording, like how to give myself plenty of virtual tracks of a take to lessen the stress, or my trick of singing backup to a temporary instrument track for guidance.

The point is you may only improve what you’re working on like 1% each day. But truth is that is actually huge because if keep doing that the difference in a year isn’t 365% because you will adding that percent to the day before. Your learning method will also become refined too, like in my recording example. I wasn’t trying to become an engineer, I was trying to make some songs, but the engineering advances came as a by product. Sometimes you can blow through plateaus through consistency, sometimes it comes thanks to an outside source but as long as you keep that focus and show up to the page each day like I said before, you will get there.

Some stuff isn’t easy or fun, but it can lead to more fun if you hold on. I like my new philosophy for being at the gym which works in creativity too. If you’ve shown up and you’re doing it you’ve succeeded. The effort takes you immediately past where you would have been, and anything you actually do is just a bonus.

Enjoy the journey!

Cheers,

Tom

Show up to the page. And tomorrow the same.

How do you start something creative? It’s always that first line, that first note, that first brush-stroke that’s scary. It can set the whole tone, can’t it?

What if I’m no good?

I’m reminded of the kept-me-up-that-night excitement of a Abba documentary that I saw. I think the music just got me buzzing all over again, but it could have been this bit.

Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus would keep office hours. Bjorn would make the coffee and hike up the hill to their little cabin/studio in the Stockholm Archipelago where he’d hear Benny was already tinkering on the little upright piano they put in the tiny hut. Sure, gorgeous scenery to write Eagle and Dancing Queen but I don’t think that’s what did it.

I wrote a book ages back and just recently finished my CD The Goldblacks which I’m releasing May 1st, first single out on Friday stay tuned lol (plug out of the way…😜) and I genuinely took a leaf out of their book on both things (with the second knowingly)

Just show up to the page (or the easle, or the keyboard, or in my case my little studio spot of my place.)

There’s something that happens thats true of Goal Setting where even if a goal seems too lofty that it’s worth it just to check it out anyway. It’s like the meta-you takes over and makes it more real. If, like my Mom for instance, you play Irish harp then each day at a time you’ve decided is your most focused, got sit behind that harp (add yours here…it would get way too distracting for me to list them each time)

Where were you yesterday in playing? What haven’t you tried? My note app on my phone is amazing for this. Throughout the day you can give yourself ideas to use at this special time to kick you off. Much as you want direction for your endeavor it’s perfectly ok to just ramble, trying things out. Ricky Gervais on set of the Office called it his “mucking about” that often came up with great natural ideas.

Don’t forget, you’re supposed to enjoy it. I don’t believe in everything being final-end product focused but to be true-you have to enjoy it for them to as well.

Some stuff is certainly hard, and one thing worth looking into is deliberate practice where you can make great stides but first…

Make the coffee.

Go up to the hilltop.

Sip your coffee.

See what your hands do.

Take a chance,

😉

Tom

How to build your creative castle

You can hear Potter’s Theme in the mist as we circle your castle rising above the morning’s fog, it’s spires set against perhaps some fading last star.

Ok, so where do you get started?

It’s about the 1%. No, not that one percent, this has nothing to do with money.

No obligation and no salesman will visit.

This means if you improve something just one percent a day, what is the difference after a year? It’s not just 365% because not only does it stack on top of the numbers but also you will have days that you lunge forward.

It’s a little like going to the gym. Just showing up is half the success. Anything above that is a bonus. Same here. This is why the castle idea. What is a castle really? I have a really pretty one featured there but take a boring one.

It’s a bunch of walls. What are walls made of? Stones. Lots of stones. Some are not that big. One stone after another stone after another stone. The workmen didn’t go…ugh, these stones are boring and it won’t work anyways. They just kept adding stones. Eventually everyone complimented them in their pretty castle.

Same here. People will see your creation and marvel at it, but only you will know the stone after stone that put it there. Plus, like a castle, there is something nice about the fact it took so long. You have built it up over years and it won’t fail you. It’s sturdy and even you are a little impressed by the whole thing.

So when you see your endeavor before you and it looks so impossible just think, today…I will put down what stone I can find. Tomorrow may be a bigger stone or smaller, but I’ll find one then too.

🏰

For today’s music, I just got into this guy and so I had to share some of it. This is Scott Walker who was apparently a huge inspiration to David Bowie.

For the first track from this album click here!

Enjoy!

Tom

🙂

Me, I’m not talented!

Something happens when we get older, and when I say older I mean over the age of perhaps 12.

You may have heard unfortunately some people decide your artistic ability (which I’ll say two things too 1. I’m sorry that happened and 2.They are incorrect) and just generally we start absorbing what we are the rules of the creative world and genuinely believing these are set in stone.

It’s all intimidating and I can definitely relate from actual experience. The first time I actually held a bass guitar was hilarious for this. I wandered into a music store over to where the basses were and looked up at the fancy Fenders hanging above me.

“Hey, can I help you?” Came from my right where a twenty-something salesperson stood.

“Umm…yeah,” I said picking a first instrument “Can I try…that one?”

“Yeah, sure man!”

Now, I was about twenty myself so this guy probably thought I had played lots and lots. Well, I played tambourine in a church, but that wasn’t gonna help me as this thing I had “air bassed” a dozen times was suddenly before me. The salesman looked down at me fascinated as I looked at the bewildering bass neck of lines and dots and wires.

I played three confused buzzy notes, probably like the ukeleles we had to play in grade 7.

“Phht!” Came from the salesman as he walked away amused.

No seriously. That happened.

I love it because to me it was like “welcome aboard!”. Also it almost gave me a sense of the importance of wanting to take this seriously. I didn’t buy from that particular salesperson, my first bass and amp coming from a music store in Sidney that’s no longer there.

But my point is, I know only too well how intimidating it is to get you from where you may be to actually doing it. I worked on some visual arts not that long ago and it is crazy how expensive some gear is, which is fair enough but still unfortunate to me as it could be one of those things that makes a novice go “ok, it was a fun idea…”. Don’t let it happen. I started with a cheap bass and a tiny amp back then. Andy Summers, the guitarist from the police, said it perfectly.

“A guitarist is expected to be able to just pick up an instrument for the first time and play like the universe is crying, laughing and singing all at the same time, and it’s just not true. We all start with those same scales and build day after day, working slowly and methodically from the possible to the impossible.

A drummer I knew back then gave me my first music book and my first thing was the c major scale, played really, really slow for days.

Speaking of the band The Police, one of the early reviews of the band was…

If they could get a better singer they would be a band to be reckoned with

They were talking about Sting by the way. So considering that, if you’re not blowing people away (including yourself) then you are in good company.

When Ricky Gervais created his character David Brent that started his acting career, he admits that he was constantly just messing around and trying things out. This is the essential of creativity. You quite literally “play” and try stuff. Get your pen/pencil/paintbrush/pick/fingers/drumsticks/(???) moving and see what happens. After that you can pick what you liked from what you did and expand on this.

Scott Adams said this too. Creativity is the nonsense that comes out. What you keep is the art.

So ignore that voice that says it’s for other people. Be like Cartman here…

“Whatevah, I do what I want!”

😉

Cheers,

Tom

Creative adventures

These days I’m seeking them out which I admit is why I have been a little scattered across media. For a while, yes, I was posting on here morre frequently, which I know I really should be doing even more frequently. Started doing morning pages again. Hopefully I keep that up too.

Creativity is something that I really think doesn’t just belong to the Sting’s, Beyonce’s and…I don’t know, Peter Jackson’s of the world. It is a place of exploration that anyone can and everyone should explore, even if you can’t devote hours a day to it (and who can?). I know it’s asking a lot up front but I’ll make my argument. And no, no berets, long cigarettes on that stick thing or copies of Faust are needed…dahlings.

It is an adventure to tackle any of the arts like painting, writing or playing an instrument. You are immediately joining in a long established guild of explorers and not only is there plenty to get stuck into but there are plenty of references out there, especially now with Google and YouTube only tabs away (see my other post on “Library Firepower” if you want to go old school).

In doing this, and I can’t claim immortality, but there is a sort of fountain of youth-ish thing going on where you are never really retired and there is plenty of energy and life you can tap into in the process. You can check out new music with your headphones while you try a paint-in at a local community center. You can get a guitar and start jamming with friends. With writing being the most portable art form you can (did this) go to every Cafe in town to find your favorite, and in the process, meet lots of people. And these are just three. And then there’s the art itself which is like opening the mechanism to a steam clock so I won’t go into that but the best thing is there is usually people you can ask. See a band you like locally and want to play like that? Talk to them after the show. Sounds crazy? I can think of three off the top that got inspired by my band and actually got going from that and so many times we’ve had folks talk after. I’ve done it too. Artists love to talk shop. If your asking it’s hardly because you thought we sucked lol!

What would you like to try? PS. We all fumbled n bumbled at first.

Ready for your adventure?

😊

Tom

Days are like little lives

image

Perhaps it helps that I’ve had some background of being a morning person out of work related necessity.  I worked a lot in cafes and therefore being ready and bright early just started to flow after a while.  I’m also an insomniac so I kind of get a version of both with exhaustion kicking in somewhere midday. As I steer closer to my existence of working on my creative endeavours full time, my focus has become more about how to best use my time.  I’ve always had the job that set the days program and now I will be doing that.  I won’t go into the specifics of it all because it is not as mountaintop-with-guitar/notebook-and-windswept-hair as you think.  The image I chose probably doesn’t help with that.  I wanted to represent time.

So much gets piled on mornings I’ve found.  There is so much of that “first thing in the morning” suggestion out there that I almost think it is like your early years of child development.  Everything calls for attention.  The evenings are like later in life when you can relax. 

Which thing do you do first?  For me its morning-page like free writing with coffee and something light after a walk and then bass practice before steering into the primary work that I do.  I’ve heard exercise and water should be first.  The Artist Way series got my writing going first.  Some of these things I like at home and others out.  I don’t know who else feels this but there is some thing in leaving the home to work on a creative process elsewhere.  Your away from home distractions and you know are there to do the work.  The word work shouldn’t scare creators away.  Its still creative but as Billy Joel said “there’s a job…there’s a gig here…”

All of this hinges on any kind of major event.  And yeah, I do like structure.  It’s my parents coming out in me.  My mom is the creative and my dad is the logical former service planner for Hydro.

And so I’ll be up again, in the young hours with the practical and exhuberant playing out.

If you could not fail…

image

Everest

What would you do if you absolutely could not fail?  Would you climb to the heighest high and stand on the top of the world?  Take it further with the international space station?  Do stand up comedy at the Met?  Heavy weight champ?

And does it have to be so grand?  I had this question put to me and really what it questions is goals and dreams.  I don’t personally follow the “you can do it all” thought due to the hurtful nature contained within.  Something tells me that if I try my hardest I’m not going to make the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition for 2016.  Even if I switch my latte to nonfat I’m pretty sure it’s outta my reach.  This is an obvious example but it’s best to stay in those goals, the reachable ones of what you want to do or feel you could if you put in that little extra time.  Mine is full time writer and musician.  I work on top of that but otherwise I’m already doing it. 

As to the failing side, what’s wrong with that?  We want to have experience and we like to receive experience but what is that?  Isn’t experience just the result of making mistakes and learning from that.  If you worked in a place where no one came in, yeah you’d be amazing at it and your work would be failure – proof but it would be 1) extremely boring and 2) over in less than a month. 

Some of the biggest failures have been the gateway to success as well.  Post its came from someone trying to create a superglue that totally failed.  New Order’s bassist just grabbed a bass and joined the band with no idea how to play the correct way so he created a style that became their signature sound.  The list of this goes on and on.

So get out there and try it.  Try it, suck at it and try it again.  Just keep hammering at it 🙂

Cheers,
Tom

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