Dear Readers,

It has been quite a while since my last post. I found myself at a loss after the 2016 Presidential Election and my word-hoard was reduced to angry diatribes. It was all I could think about whenever I sat down to write, and I didn’t want that to be my focus, so I stopped writing. Now it is over a year later and things are falling apart in my country. I’m still angry about it, but I think I am at the point where I can focus on other things. It’s time to start writing again after close to a year away from my practice.

Musically things have been moving along. I’m playing bass in a blues-rock band that does some original material as well as other material. We have a killer drummer who I love to lock into the pocket with and both the vocalist and guitarist are very solid, so it is rewarding. We’ve got some gigs lined up which I’m looking forward to as well. I’m playing guitar with an original power-pop/Americana band, which is a blast, and also in a bluesy acoustic trio that I break out my Godin Multiac nylon for. I am also contemplating starting my own group, something that I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, but I’ll come back to that in a different post.

The music scene here remains highly challenging, particularly since I’m trying to make money performing. Chicago has an incredible number of venues, and the people in the suburbs like their live music as well. If you’re willing to play for free, gigs are relatively easy. The bar scene has really moved away from the whole built in crowd situation that used to be prevalent, and Chicago has an excessive number of musicians who are willing to not make any money. The situation in the burbs is somewhat more lucrative, but mostly for bands that are playing classic rock.

The day gig situation has been a bit weird as well. I usually make some additional cash teaching college English as an adjunct at the local community colleges, and four-year colleges. The political clime has resulted in loss of funding for many students and schools, both at the state and federal funding levels. This has led to a drop in enrollment at most schools, thus reducing the number of classes being offered and fewer adjunct teaching opportunities. I’ve had my assigned classes cancelled and/or taken by full timers who lost their assigned classes due to lack of enrollment. While the pay as an adjunct basically sucks, it’s still teaching and a paycheck of sorts. I’ve got three courses lined up for this coming fall, but I can’t count on them until I’ve walked through the door of the classrooms on the first day.

 

Basically, life has continued to roll forward over the past year’s break from the old blog-spot. My wife is still the love of my life, my daughter starts high school this summer and my dog still loves to go for walks wherever I’m willing to take him (as long as there aren’t any fireworks or big noisy trucks. The jury is still out when it comes to large cows.) Here’s to more posts to come this summer!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Busy-ness is Part of the Business

This has been a busy week and promises to continue to be so at least through tomorrow. Monday was taken up to a great extent by my annual physical, which between the commute there, the appointment, waiting for the blood draw at another office and then the commute home consumed about four hours. Tuesday was my light day. Wednesday consisted of a morning rehearsal and one in the evening. Thursday involved a trip to the dentist to reaffix the crown that came off Wednesday night, then a trip to Waukegan, IL for a television date with one of the Blu Wavs, then rehearsal in the evening with another band. Today has been devoted to class preparation for next week, and another rehearsal tonight. Tomorrow isn’t too bad with a guitar student in the morning and a gig opening for The Tubes in Bolingbroke, IL. Sunday I’ll finish up my plan for the semester and send off the syllabi for printing. All the while I’ve been keeping up with my writing commitment and doing the other things I do around the house to help keep things running. It’s good to be busy, but it really amazes me how much time is spent on the background stuff (preparation), versus the foreground (performance). I also find it ironic that the background area is where most of the actual nitty gritty work gets done, but the only money really comes in with the foreground work, which usually takes the least amount of time out of the bargain. As a writer and a musician both, I find myself with the conundrum of trying to turn it all into making a living, and both fields have similar issues.

Most writers that make money in the book market earn it in the form of royalties and the initial payment takes the form of an advance on expected royalties earned from projected book sales. The writer doesn’t see any more income from that particular publication until the advance has been recouped through actual sales. The IRS views the royalties as unearned income and withhold at a higher rate, which is a bit on the cruel side, despite the fact that most authors aren’t actually being paid while they write. The same holds true for musicians who make recordings through traditional record labels, except in that case usually the advance is also expected to cover the actual recording expenses. In both cases, writers and recording artists, the percentage per sales unit that they earn in the royalties themselves is quite low so making real money on the deal relies heavily upon the volume of sales. This is one of the reasons why self-publication and musicians creating their own independent labels has been growing in the digital age. This route creates a stronger possibility that the individuals who are creating the material can actually make a reasonable living without having to sell absolutely massive amounts of product in order to do so.

Of course the individual in these cases has to finance the whole production. This isn’t quite as problematic with writers as it is for musicians, but in both cases it involves a pretty steep learning curve, finding solid marketing and distribution resources, solid planning with a reasonable business plan, and some capital to finance the project. Both writers and musicians at this point can rely upon a strictly digital product, which can cut down some of the expenses on the front end. The advent of the e-readers has radically changed the expense of publishing a book, for instance, so if the independent writer wants to go the digital self-publication route there are several distributors that are more than willing to assist them in the process, most notably amazon.com and iBooks. They take a larger cut, but they are handling distribution and some limited advertising. Musicians can go the same route with iTunes, amazon.com and other download providers, as well as selling downloads through their own websites. However, most musicians need to invest in actual small run productions of cds as well, particularly for selling at shows along with other merchandise that promotes either their bands or themselves. Once again, the funding comes out of the individuals’ pockets.

At this point musicians are having to look into some pretty interesting ways to end up making ends meet and to bring projects together. Touring is expensive, downloading has led to piracy, and people are quite frankly becoming unwilling to part with money to pay for their daily soundtracks. The ease of access that the digital domain has created has also created a negative impact on sales of digital files. Sites like YouTube have an incredible amount of popular music material just a free click away, subsidized by commercials that aren’t lining the performers’ pockets. If there is any money made by the artists themselves, it’s even smaller than anything they would recoup from digital download sales, and while exposure is great, it won’t house or feed you. This type of situation has led to many musicians turning to crowd funding in order to make things happen and some have had incredible success simply asking their fans for the cash to front things.

So yes, I’m busy and I’ve got quite a bit on my plate at any one given time. I’m also still trying to wrap my head around all of this in a world that has changed so incredibly over the past 54 years of my lifetime. Changes in medium have brought so many incredible shifts in both the businesses of writing and music making, let alone the shifts in the technology that are still occurring at an ever increasing rate, yet still I’m loading up the equipment and heading out to gigs, paid and on spec, in the hopes that they’ll lead to something else. Still I’m hammering away on keys of some sort, affixing words to virtual pages where it used to be actual paper rolling into a typewriter or flowing from a pen. I’m still rehearsing, I’m still playing, and I’m still chasing that carrot no matter how many times it eludes me. Next week classes start up for spring semester, and a more traditional type or paycheck for at least part of my income. I’ll be ready.

Off Topic: The Social Media Mire

Social Media has become quite a pervasive entity in people’s lives.  We open accounts with the goal of finding and keeping up with friends that we’ve lost track of, to make new friends with shared interests, or to promote our businesses.  The bands I’m in use Facebook to promote their shows, as do thousands of other groups, artists, writers, dancers, and anyone who wants to be someone.  As people spend more and more time on these outlets, their lives and beliefs are being influenced whether they believe it or not.  Over the past few years I’ve watched the information that is being passed along, and have observed the willingness of folks to believe almost anything they see there, as long as it fits their preconceptions, and reinforces their personal beliefs.  Better yet, if it plays to their fears it becomes even more believable.  Combining this with the alt. right’s destruction of the public’s faith in the “main stream media” has created a conspiracy theorist’s dream come true, an open audience that will entertain accepting something as factual, that has absolutely no connection to truth, let alone correlation to it.

I used to view social media as a place where I could virtually hang with the peeps, and it still is to a certain extent.  Through Facebook, for instance, I’m in contact with many people from my past that I had lost touch with over the years and many over many moves from one part of the country to another.  Despite being a writer, I’ve never been much of a letter writer and although I’ve done better with email.   Facebook brings an element of immediacy to the connection that isn’t there with email.  You also can compartmentalize your interactions, without having to commit to full conversations.  This gives me a feeling of connection with these folks that I value, but in reality I don’t have to invest much effort to maintain the connection and neither do they.  In this aspect the entire connection is somewhat misleading in that it too, is virtual.  I’m not really interacting with these folks on any concretely meaningful level aside from maybe allowing myself and the people I’m following an opportunity to not feel isolated, even if in reality we are.

From my perspective this is one of the major negative issues with social media, the blurring of reality and fantasy, which extends to the quality of information that is being presented to its users.  People post meme after meme, attaching meaning to what is mostly a bumper sticker approach to communication.  Some of them are funny, which is fine because that is what they are meant to be, but all too frequently they’ve become rallying points for solidarity with some political or politico-religious statements where no-one bothers to check the veracity of the posts.  I’ve seen statements accepted as fact that any high school English student should be able to discern to be based on false premises through very light research and when presented with the factual information the response was, “well, it sounds like something he/she would have done. . .”  And that was the tenor; the person didn’t care about the facts.

Repetition is one of the ways that people convince others to believe things that aren’t factual, and social media is one of the largest purveyors of this type of communication.  There are laws about truth in advertising, and in advertising subliminal messaging is illegal in the US.  Repetition of misinformation, however, with the purpose to mislead the public isn’t ethically right, but it’s also not illegal and essentially that is one of the grand loopholes in the entire social media experience.  People are being misled on social media everyday by the millions.  People see the same thing over and over and eventually it starts to influence their beliefs.  They trust their friends who are reposting things that they have seen posted by other folks who’ve seen it somewhere on their feed and reposted it, so they accept it as fact without bothering to check the veracity of the so called information being presented.  Much of this type of information’s sources are not listed or made available, or is listed but the source is questionable at best due to either bias or shoddy reporting.  The more often it is seen and repeated, the more it worms into the beliefs of the folks reading or seeing it regardless of it’s actual credibility.

Yes, we are being manipulated every time we log onto social media, and it’s not by our actual friends or contacts, although they may unknowingly be contributing to the issue through reposting things.  We now know that Russia influenced our most recent election in the US in part through using social media to manipulate the American people’s beliefs about the candidates.  They ran a misinformation campaign on social media to support the individual they wanted to run the US for the next four years, someone who is a committed social media user himself, launching destructive twitter post after twitter post despite not even being in office yet.  If you choose not to believe that this is the case, just think about how a lie about you, or someone you know, was spread and ended up damaging that person on a personal level, or that person’s reputation because enough people believed it to make it accepted as fact among the majority of people around that person.  The remarkable thing about this is how easy it is to convince people to believe a lie, and then once they’ve bought into it, how difficult it is to make them believe the truth.

 

The Last Gasp of 2016

It’s almost six o’clock on the last day of 2016 and I’m just now starting my last blog post of the year.  I’ve been pretty tired today due to getting in at three in the morning from last night’s gig and then not being able to fall asleep until four-ish.  I had to be up at eight to get ready to teach one of my guitar students.  A power nap did occur, but it was short, maybe twenty minutes of actual sleep, so coffee will have to carry me through until time for bed.  Last night we hit at about 8:45 and finished our last tune at around 1:30.  All in all we played well and kept a crowd there through the night.  It was a decent way to finish out the year’s performances and we all made it home safely.  Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about the positives of the year in review and haven’t taken a stab at the things that could use improvement.  I think that it’s time that I do just that.

This past year kicked off with my being involved in one group, The Chicago Classical Guitarists Ensemble, essentially a sextet.  We did some good work and performed at the Mid-American Guitar Ensemble Festival in Grand Rapids, Michigan in early April.  We had a couple other performances, but I decided to leave the group in May because while it had been a very worthwhile experience it was not moving me closer to increasing my income as a musician.  While this might seem to some to be a somewhat mercenary reason for moving on, one of my major goals for this year was to come closer to a livable income in my chosen profession, and this was not moving me forward in that direction.  This left me entirely on my own through the summer, which yielded three pickup gigs with some local semi-pros between June, July and August.

After moving through eight months of the year, I hit the end of August and the realization that it had been a full year since I’d been involved in a regularly working group, which didn’t sit well with me.  I obviously was not getting closer to one of my prime goals, so something had to change.  I decided to load on the groups to try to boost the income potential.  Theoretically, I thought, this would be likely to resolve the issue, so I dove in, committing to four bands and a heavy woodshedding workload.  Since around October the gigs have started to come in through a couple, the workload is still pretty heavy, and the income is improving, but not anywhere near what it needs to be, and quite frankly I’m still not getting the level of personal satisfaction out of the game that I’m looking for either.

My writing practice has made solid improvements this year over the previous years.  I have, as of this writing, successfully completed two writing challenges for a total of three months of daily writings of at least 750 words per day.  I’ve generated a good number of essays that I’m pleased with and some fiction that I’m not sure what I’m going to do with.  There were periods of lost time over the rest of the year and low productivity, but for the most part I’m starting to actually be the writer I want to grow into.  I’m running two blogs and have been gaining followers on both as well as being read all over the world, twenty-seven countries and counting.  This pleases me greatly, but I also need to look at formal publication submissions, particularly ones that pay.  However, I do think that I’ve made much more progress this year in my writing work than I have in my musical work, and I’m going to stick to that perspective because I’ve actually accomplished some of the goals I set for myself in this arena quite well.  The bar will need to be higher for 2017, but I am going into the next year in this area with some confidence.

One of the things that I have learned over the years is that as a creative person I have to be a creative person in order to have any chance of achieving either personal satisfaction in my life or a modicum of happiness.  I must create; it’s something that I HAVE to do.  When I’m not pursuing a creative bent, I lose my desire to be.  My depressive periods become progressively more dangerous, last longer, and are much more devastating.  I become increasingly difficult to live with and wall myself away.  So, I have continued my pursuits and will do so, continuing to try different approaches until I find something that works and yields the results I desire.  I’m finding my way, and will eventually get to where I want to be.  Tomorrow I start 2017, and start brainstorming for a fresh approach to the conundrum which is making a living as a musician.

 

 

Making a Life in the Arts: Make the Commitment, Do the Work; Expect Payment.

A life in the arts provides its inherent challenges, not the least of which is making a living within your art. Some folks go to school, graduate, then go on to graduate school, finally landing a job teaching in their field at the college level. While this might seem like an undesirable compromise to some altruists out there, the reality is these folks are lucky. They have found a way to make a decent living in their field, have the opportunity to continue pursuing their art, and are the ones who actually stand a chance of building a retirement fund in the process, all the while having access to other benefits like health care.   Some take the route of teaching in their field in elementary, middle and high schools. For those who land full time work there, it can be a reasonable living; however, in today’s public schools the arts are one of the first fields to be cut when funding crises occur. There are other ways to make your way in your field, but they are not for the uncommitted. If you can’t commit to doing everything it takes to make a living in your particular field, then you really need to face the fact that the only way you’re going to make it is with a day job.

The lady who owns the dance studio my daughter goes to studied dance through the college level, danced professionally for years, and is a certified dance teacher, licensed to teach in public schools as well as privately. She is currently in her middle years and still dances as the opportunity presents itself, but most of her professional life at this point is directly linked to her school here in Oak Park, IL. She has two studios, one in Oak Park and the other in Forest Park, which is a neighboring suburb. She has a cadre of instructors who are all excellent, and she still is very active teaching. I am amazed at the amount of work she puts into the studios, with dance concerts several times a year involving full productions on excellent stages in the area. She’s a dynamo who is also currently starting a dance company as well, featuring students and local professionals, and giving the ability to experience a full on professional production for the members. She spends enormous amounts of time teaching dance and choreography, producing the shows, choreographing dances and all the while maintains a positive attitude regardless of how stressed she might be. If you’re curious about her, her name is Diane VanDerhei, and her studio is Intuit Dance Studio in Oak Park, IL.

Diane is an example of the level of commitment necessary to be successful in the often cut-throat world of the arts. Most musicians that I know who aren’t teaching in colleges full time, either don’t make a living as a musician, relying on day jobs to pay the bills, or cobble together an income from a variety of sources, usually a combination of gigging, teaching private lessons, and working in a music store, or some combination thereof. I have a friend, Erik Truelove, in Tucson, AZ who is one of the best drummers I’ve ever worked with and a wonderful gentleman to boot. Erik has always been something of an entrepreneur and has worked as a contractor doing construction as well as having his own businesses over the years. Erik started a music school in Tucson called Drum and Drummer. Originally it was started to teach percussion, both group sessions and private one on one lessons. He also sells percussion instruments through his school. He has been successful, marketing his skills very well and has been expanding the school to include guitar, piano and bass lessons as well. This is in addition to working as a drummer on a fairly regular basis. He has a cadre of instructors as well as other staff who man the desk and take care of various aspects of business. This being said, the reason the place is running so well is that Erik committed to the project and didn’t go in part way. He had a plan, worked the plan and is getting solid results.

Often people go into the arts and have a somewhat flaky assumption that inspiration is something that cannot be rushed, you just have to wait for the moment and it’ll come. Most of those folks are still waiting. In order to be successful in the arts, whether it is dance, art, writing, music, or whatever, work must be done and it must be done on a regular basis. The people who are out there on the local level and making a living at it are all committed to doing the work it takes in order to reap the rewards. It’s also important to have a concrete understanding of what you need in order to make a decent living. What is a decent living must be ascertained otherwise it is simply a vague concept. Determining what you need to make also has a hand in determining what you need to do in order to hit that target. If you’re not willing to do that, then it’s definitely time to look for a different stream of income.

Too many people approach a life in the arts with the romantic notion that artists are dreamers who keep their own schedules and can’t be troubled with worrying about money. And far too many adopt an attitude that they’re selling out if they start thinking about the money aspect, looking upon those who expect to make money with sneers of disdain. The fact is people need to eat. They need a safe place to sleep and they need to be able to take care of themselves. Expecting to be paid for your art is simply the difference between a professional and an amateur. And if you have any hopes at all of making a life for yourself in the arts, you really need to focus on both your art, and how you can make a living with it. That is actually one of the key factors in succeeding. The other two are total commitment and tons of hard dedicated work.

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!

 

Building an Organized Thought Process: Getting the Most out of Time

Yesterday I wrote a nine hundred word essay. I was in a bit of a hurry, trying to fit things into an incredibly busy day, and I was stressed about how I was going to get my writing done in the midst of everything else I was attempting to accomplish. So I sat down and cranked it out, essentially going all out to produce something and hoping for the best in the process. I could post what I wrote, and it would be ok, but it really wasn’t up to my standards. For one thing I only had an implied thesis to guide me, which didn’t solidify into anything overtly tangible in the process. For another, I felt that what I had belted out was only loosely viable as a rough draft. The focus vacillated throughout the piece, and it would require some time and effort before it coalesced into something I’d be satisfied enough with to post to my blog site. While some of my writing is therapeutic, my main goal with each piece is pour some of my knowledge and experience into an essay that will either entertain or help fellow musicians, as well as other folks with creative bents. In order to do so the essay must have a point that is clearly made, be reasonably well supported through logic and examples, and also present itself in an organized manner. This requires a certain element of ensuring that I have the time available to do so, and that I have an organized approach to what I’m attempting to do. I have found that this holds true to most of the creative endeavors that I have been, and continue to be, involved in, whether it is writing creative non-fiction, fiction or poetry, practicing my instruments, or performing with them as well.

Personally I find that writing, and attempting to write well, helps in maintaining an orderly thought process in what could be a very disorderly mind. As I’ve mentioned in other essays I have ADD, which means that I have both the capacity to hyper-focus as well as be easily distractible. This increases when I become excited about something, particularly when ideas are flying around. My brain will latch onto a passing idea, follow that for a while, and then get distracted by another passing idea. This is one of the reasons why I started off my post college writing career writing poetry, because I was dealing with a smaller product. Today I find that most of my writing is primarily essay based and I follow a process to do it that permits me to focus and keep my thought process organized. I have a premise which becomes my thesis, and then I lay out my development through a logical framework until I reach my conclusion. For my shorter essays I do a mental outline after I’ve kicked out the idea, organize my thoughts in a logical sequence and then take a run at it. I can do this because I’ve been writing for years, and at this point the organization principles are ingrained to the point where they influence how I think.

The same principles can and should be applied to practicing my instruments. At this point in my career the value of my practice sessions isn’t based on how much time I’m sitting and playing, it’s based on what I get done in the amount of time I have. Focused practicing both in the short and long haul, produces far better results than long stints of unfocused practice. The latter actually tends to end up being more time spent playing than actually learning and improving. Each practice block should have a specific purpose and a plan to meet the goals of the practice session. If I need to address technique issues, then that is the focus, and while exercises are a great way to ingrain excellent technique I find that working a section of a piece I’m going to perform that requires the use of the targeted technique to be a much more practical and efficient use of the time. The technique will end up transferring to other situations where it needs to be employed, and I’m ending up a step closer to actually using it on a gig. This is an example of focused practicing that will move you closer to your goals, particularly when you are dealing with limited blocks of time.

Organization and time management are also highly valued by active performing artists. They’re keystones of professionalism both on the stage and off. When you have a contract to perform it sets the expectations and responsibilities that must be met. Typically this includes where and when you’re to perform, for how long, and what kind of performance is expected. This requires heavy duty organization and time management skills. This runs from knowing how long it will take to get to the venue, set up equipment and getting ready to perform, to how many pieces are required to fill the time requirement, and what pieces are appropriate for the intended audience. It even requires planning an organized departure. Often performances involve quite a bit of expensive gear; you do want to ensure that you leave with everything you brought, with it in the same shape that you brought it in. It is also important to plan things to minimize the amount of pre-performance stress that you encounter, which means including time for things going wrong. More often than not, things will go wrong when you haven’t allowed enough time for a gremlin to appear and be dealt with.

Over the years I have found that having an organized plan of attack for most of what I do in my life yields rewards, and through my writing practice I have helped myself establish a platform to reap those rewards in many areas of my life. It has helped me think in an organized and logical manner, streamline and improve my musical practice sessions, run rehearsals that minimalize wasted time, and ensure that I maintain certain aspects of professionalism in my performance duties. I have also found that my thought process is much clearer and more engaged on days where I’ve spent time actively writing than when I haven’t, because I apply similar principles to my other tasks. Yes, the ADD does still kick in, and sometimes my attention span has spasms, but for the most part I have found my method of dealing with it.