Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I'm Stepping Back a Bit from Many Things, and This is Why

sunrise: downtown denver
Over the last few days, I realized something about myself that maybe I've always known but was never really able to put into words. I have this tendency to fall in love with other peoples' dreams. I get high on others' excitement of their dreams and I want to see those things happen with them. I get carried away. I want to be involved and be a part of a team that sees those dreams to success. As a result of this, I add everything I can to those dreams, often multiple dreams of others at once, until I feel pretty depleted. Lately, I have been flaking out on many things (and by lately, I mean something like the last five years or more) and I have had to ask myself why the flaking happens.

see. i wasn't kidding. this is saved stuff to sift through and to work on.
I have boxes upon boxes of unfinished work of my own in the closet; recordings (scratch tapes, drafts, poem snippets, etc.), journals, parts of stories, images, and even more ideas I haven't even written down yet. I want to get in shape, be able to travel, and create something meaningful. I want a windowsill garden, and to take better care of myself. I want to create substantial means for myself, maybe even a name in music and writing, perhaps in some other areas, as well. I would love for the writing and music and other projects to bring in some of the means I seek.

The thing is, I have been giving away most of my time minus the time I spend making a small means and sleeping.

I had been doing a lot of unaccounted for free and gift-based work for some non-profits, friends, and other artists in social media management and consulting as a way to experientially learn the trade since about last winter. I called this my internship and I was pretty happy to do all that work. I learned a lot, gained some trackable results, and even gained some references, as well.  At some point, however, something in me changed. I felt that depletion I've mentioned. I felt a little used, maybe, a little taken advantage of as the demands of this work increased. I wasn't sure why I felt this. I'd chosen projects that I was really excited about, and I'd chosen people to work with whom I adored.  I wanted to give my all. Still, the depletion. I woke up mornings with dread and simply no longer wanted to do any of it, especially after I'd figured out just how much time I was giving.

some new work i have been working on. nope. you can't see it yet.
Two or three months ago, a dear friend gave me some tips on learning how to bill. I considered this the next step in my internship, as I wanted to figure out how to market the skills and knowledge that I had been accumulating, or at least keep track of my pro bono work for tax purposes. I took out a notebook and a pen at the beginning of the month and began keeping track. I logged the projects and the hours spent while learning about how much people get paid to do the work. I learned that while my paying job took up about 120 hours of my month (which barely sustains me at present -- last month I deposited my laundry quarters into the bank to barely make my rent) my unpaid work added up to just as much time, if not more. Further, I was paying some money out of pocket to accomplish certain things required of the volunteer and gift-based work.

What I was doing was not sustainable. While there are many things I want to support, I have to really pull back and pay attention first to my own needs. I have to figure out ways to self-sustain and better so that I can have more to give without depleting myself or pulling the carpet out of the role of any project I may be assisting or heading. Further, regarding my own dreams: How much should I give and for how long before I can finally sit down and get to my own dreams? I have work to do but it can't all be in giving it away no matter how much I love someone, their project, their goals, their agenda, their dreams. <3 br="">

Monday, July 15, 2013

Image (or when in Rome)

I hate to admit it but the way I dress influences my communication effectiveness.

It's not new to me that dress influences perceptions and can create barriers or openings to communication. For most of my life, I've taken a very nondescript approach to the way I dress. I have wanted to be approachable while claiming that I'm utilitarian (so as to not let on that I am manipulating my dress for the sake of approachability). My typical nondescript style of dress works for stages, working in coffee shops, working in offices, paying visits to important people, being a pedestrian, matching clothes in a pinch or in a hurry, and washing economically (always in cold!).

Lately, I've become a bit lazy about the way I dress, however. My typical nondescript dress has transformed, I suppose, into a bit of a rebellion where I let my clothes wear out to shreds. I pull my hair back in a messy little bun and wear my shoes into the ground. I even write notes to myself on my arm.

I've been reading a lot lately about effective communication. It's become important to be able to communicate with many kinds of people because of the different kinds of work I do and because of the many different circles I run in. In one of the books I have been reading (Say Anything to Anyone, Anywhere by Gayle Cotton), I learned that there are only two kinds of communication: effective communication and miscommunication. Dress can be a form of miscommunication. For example, if you want to connect with people and you are slovenly in an environment in which slovenly is not the norm, people may have already decided whether you are worth listening to or not. This could be a crucial thing in some cases.

I also learned that in order to effectively communicate, one must be proactive, which sometimes means dressing the part when in Rome (to your level of comfort, of course). If I want people to open up, perhaps I should take more personal care in the way I present myself. If I want to be taken seriously, perhaps I should nix the crib note taking on my arm and find a proper pair of shoes. If I go to certain parts of India, and I want to proactively communicate, it may prove helpful to dress in the native dress to show that I want to be active in that community. If I go to a rock concert, it might be a good idea to not wear my business casual meeting attire but perhaps instead, a rock concert t-shirt.

I feel that many friends will say that this is a load. I think I have been saying this, too. Why should I change to fit someone else's expectations? Lately, while at work or wherever I am, I have had this sinking feeling that I am not taken very seriously or that I am somehow unapproachable (see rebellion cribs above). I would love to be able to just talk with people without having to cater my dress to whatever environment I might find myself in. It does seem, however, that the world doesn't really work that way. A first impression in most cases can make or break us, open us up to new conversations and bring on some strikes that are difficult to remove once pitched. I have to be proactive if I want to make an impression and further, the way I dress is a sort of communication.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Furthering My Geekery in Music: Researching the Concept Album

because i have no records in the house, i'm posting an old picture of thrown away tapes
from umpteen million years ago
My friend Matt Channing and I talk  a lot about music ideas, history, and techniques in our band rehearsals for Month of Sundays. One of the ideas that keeps coming up is the idea of the concept album. We've been talking about the concept album, really, because we want to make one (or maybe more than one! who knows!).

I've found that I don't really know a whole lot about the concept album. I mean, it makes sense to create a slew of tunes and also related performances around a theme. I get all of that. I just have never really thought about the concept album in depth until round about now. I'm suddenly smitten and curious. As a result, I've decided to do a little research and make it collaborative and interactive to those who might want to participate. Here's the link should you want to read, conversate, contribute, or offer insights/feedback/comments/etc.