Today’s Reflection: Where am I today Compared to Last Year?

I can see the snow falling outside the windows of my studio here in the back of my house.  We’re supposed to get around 6-8 inches between last night and the rest of today; so far we’ve got about three or so.  It’s enough to cover the garage roofs and cause the yews along our garage to sag under the weight.  My dog, George, who is responding very well to his new thyroid meds has left tracks from the back door to the garage.  Every time we let him out in the backyard he goes and checks on the car in the garage out there as part of his patrolling routine.  Today is the start of my fifty-fourth ride around the sun on our planet, and I’m looking forward to some nice Indian food this evening as part of my little celebration.  Sometimes I find my birthday to be something I’d rather ignore, particularly when I am in the middle of an episode of depression, because often birthdays involve reflection upon what has or hasn’t happened over the past year, where I am now vs. where I was last year professionally, and various other things.  When depressed it’s particularly rough because my birthday is only three weeks out from New Year’s Day, another traditional time of self-reflection and goal setting.  Today I’m on the fence, teetering so I could go either way.  However I have made progress this year both from a writing perspective and a musical one.

This past year has been productive on the writing front, particularly the past four months.  After coming out of a depressed period where I wrote very little, this summer I wrote quite a bit of fiction due to a solid challenge month.  I’ve also been putting in the time on the computer for the past couple of months, both producing creative non-fiction in the form of my essay writing and also about 12 chapters of a potential novel.  I do need to return my focus to the novel, but I must say that I am pleased that I have been developing an actual writing practice where I do sit down every day and turn out a decent block of writing. It is becoming an ingrained part of my day, that I both need and want to do.  On the average I’d also wager that I’m much happier overall when I have done my writing for the day than when I haven’t, largely because I feel like I have done something worthwhile with my time, something that has helped me grow as a person in some manner.

Despite kicking off this past year in a state of depression I also made progress musically.  I performed at the Mid-American Guitar Ensemble Festival with a sextet, and also in Master Class with them, which was quite a bit of fun.  And while I chose to leave that particular group around June, I have started performing with four other groups, one of which will be performing at Buddy Guy’s Legends next month.  I’ve also returned to performing on bass as well as guitar, which has been a very positive move on my part.  My skills are improving almost every week due to such an increase in activity and I’m starting to see my schedule of performance dates increase as well.  The pay rate has been increasing as well, which is always a plus.  I’ve also decided to start booking my solo act as well, so I’m in the process of making my promo kit and will start distributing it in the next week or so.

There are some areas that I do need to focus on to keep moving forward that have been weak points over this past year, one of which is self promotion both for performances and bringing in students.  Self-promotion really requires networking as well as having a product to sell.  I’m quite good at putting together the product and getting things lined up, the difficulty arises when it comes time to get out there and interact with people to drum up business.  If I could afford to hire someone to do this for me I would in a heartbeat.  Most folks who run businesses do the work that they’re best at and then farm out what needs to be done that someone else could do better for them, however this requires a source of revenue in order to pay that someone else.  At this point whatever revenue I generate I need in order to stay afloat, so I need to get over my reticence about talking to people about booking, and just get out there and do it.  Likewise I need to be more creative about seeking students.  I’ll share what I learn along the way on both counts in future blog posts as time progresses over the next year.

I also plan on finding a publisher for my writing over the next year as well.  One of my goals in life is to write a book length manuscript, submit it, and finally have it accepted somewhere and published in print form as well as electronic.  One of the difficulties I have had in the past with this was amassing enough material to produce a book length manuscript.  I was close last year, but stalled out on the project.  Now I have clearly written more than enough essays on the subject of music to assemble a collection that would make a decent book, so this is another one of the areas that I need to revisit this year and actually close the circle on.  I need to finish assembling the manuscript, knock it into shape and then get it out there to potential publishers to find it a home.

The snow is still falling and George’s tracks are starting to fill in.  As I reflect on this past year I can see that it is very similar to the snow that is coming down and filling in the gaps.  I am making progress, and am building upon past progress as well.  Yes I’ve had some less than stellar periods over the past year, but when looking at this year’s arc and comparing it to others in the past I do see that I’m finally moving forward in a way that I feel pleased with.  There is still much progress to be made and I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me over the next year, but things are quite frankly looking better now then they were at this time last year in many ways.  I’m in it for the long haul, and have been, so I might as well keep pushing!