When I think back on 2013, I see it mostly as a super-frustrating and unproductive slog, where I was very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very far off my ideal game.
Due to a confluence of many factors, much of 2013 was physically painful, and mentally and emotionally…I don’t know the adjective…what’s the word for draining + soul-ripping + hopeless + hopeful + tiresome + tireless + cautiously triumphant? Anyway, 2013 was tough.
But apparently it wasn’t quite the total zero that my reflex memory says it was. Because when I went to tally some of my tangible accomplishments, I came up with all the stuff below. It made me feel better. I knew I was trying to get stuff done amid the muck and mire and foggy sloggy molassessy morassessy blechhness. Turns out I actually was!
For a lot of reasons, I tend to think of this past “year” as stretching to around 15 months, ’til back around September of 2012, when things took a series of tough turns. That’s probably one reason “2013″ has felt like such an arduous slog to me. (Smart thinking, Lance!) But it also has the benefit of pumping this list up considerably, because the end of 2012 was also when I briefly had an assistant. And when I have an assistant, I jam. So some of the stuff here took place in later 2012, or got started then.
(For the record: with my imaginarily-supersized 2013 coming to a close, I’m officially rejoining you conformists as regards measuring years. 2014 = 12 months, starting now.)
This began as one blog post, but as it tipped toward 4000 words with the end still far away, I decided it was a multi-parter. So here’s part 2: Creative Stuff.
I wrote some songs and made some music
Wrote “This Day Good” (and “Memories and Milk” and others)
I’m still working on the music-composition and instrument-playing side of creating music, but the lyrics side of it comes easily to me. Often, actually, when I get bogged down writing lyrics, it’s because I’m having trouble seeing the musical skeleton they’re going to be the meat on. But sometimes the amateur band in my head is able to wing it well enough, and I come up with something that could actually be a song—either when I finally get my true musician muscles built up, or when I find a musical collaborator who can translate my “da da dum da da”s into notes produced by fingers.
Or, if I can come up with enough finished songs in one genre, I may try and sell them to a music publishing company. Such is the case with both “This Day Good” and “Memories and Milk”, two radio-friendly country songs-to-be. The latter needs some work still, but “This Day Good” is solid (I think). I have a few others in the hopper (and dozens of songs in various pre-hopper states); hopefully I can wrangle a whole handful together in 2014, and/or find someone willing to make a demo recording of one or two of them. No worries either way…making music is a very slow-drip project of mine, and I have no real career ambitions there. Just slowly working on giving voice to the musical things that come into my head.
Created (produced?) “Listen 2” and “Call My Name”
Understanding that my busted-ass acoustic guitar and my Casio keyboard probably weren’t going to be producing many productive notes within the year, in the meantime I’ve resorted to the next best thing: music software. With luck, I may even end up building some of those music composition skills via this techno-shortcut. But in the meantime to that, there’s pre-made loops and sounds. And also, as it turns out, vocals.
So if you ask me who the singers are in my two songs below, I’ll have to confess I don’t know. But I do have them on contract—as long as I only need them to sing a short list of random phrases. :-)
Aside from “Lance’s First Freestyle” (a very primitive and ridiculous “rap” “song” I made in 2005), these are the first two things I’ve made that I would really call songs. I still asterisk them in my mind because of how they were made (and maybe more important, because I didn’t birth them fresh in my mind), but I think they make it under the wire. And actually, I’m kinda proud of “Call My Name” despite the fact that I couldn’t tell you what its point is. :-) Ditto “Listen 2” for that matter. It’s fun.
As mentioned above, I’m still working on the other side of the formula—making original music to fit a song I have conceived originally—but puttering around like this helps convince me that I might be able to achieve something worth listening to in this sphere if I keep working on it. I didn’t spend a million hours making those songs. (Though I definitely spent hours on each one…they are something like the 12th and 8th versions of each song, respectively.)
I suppose these little guys technically count as finished songs too…they have beginnings, middles, and ends, and they are complete. They’re also about 30 seconds long, max, and have no words. So “song” may be too strong. Initially I was generating them in search of an intro theme for my podcast Estranged…and since then, I just like making them. :-)
I’m going to have plenty of things that need intros and outros and little snippets to fill space or move the energy of the moment. And if I don’t have a use for them, maybe others will. It would be neat if someone decided to use one of my theme musics for their podcast or YouTube vids or whatever. I’ll probably get a little more proactive about offering them that way in 2014.
By the way, none of the above music should be construed as representative of the music I’ll be creating over the next decade or two. These are just early slices of a pie that is going to have many many flavors to it. And as mentioned, these slices are largely dictated by my current musical limits, which will be bashed away year by year. So, “house music and theme music and pop country” is not necessarily the foundation I’m building my musical home on. Feel free to breathe an audible sigh of relief. I will take no offense. ;-)
I wrote some poems, made some screenwriting progress, and conceived a musical (finally!)
Writing is supposed to be my main gig by now, and it didn’t get nearly enough breathing room this year. Enough said. But some progress was made…in fitting with the overall theme of these posts, probably more progress than I’m acknowledging to myself. Here’s some of it:
I just blogged about these (and others) here, but if you’re like, “Blogging about poetry? Lame. JUST GIVE ME POEMS, NOW!”, then: Bus Poem, Dragon Remote Microphoem, Cooking Monster (and in case you just missed it, Spaces)
Screenwriting holds that weird position of being the thing that I claim to most want to do, and yet the thing that I end up kind of doing the least.
But when I sit down to an open screenwriting project, my heart races, my brain races, I get a rush, and the characters and scenes speak to me in the way that I know they’re supposed to if you’re a good screenwriter. That, and the fact that my “movies, shows, and screenplays” folder of voice recordings contains 1,718 files in 117 folders, keeps me going back to screenwriting as a primary obsession, even as I continue to find it hard to block out the time and attention needed to actually get it done.
My main go-to project is my “Rajskub/Day Buddy Movie” referring to Mary-Lynn Rajskub and Felicia Day, my “dream cast” for the film, the idea of which was inspired by them meeting on Twitter. Here’s an early mention of it from me on Twitter:
— Lance M. Brown (@FreelanceLance) October 18, 2011
(Disclaimer: Neither Mary-Lynn Rajskub nor Felicia Day is officially involved in this in any way. Yet.)
Anyway, “Rajskub/Day” (which has a working title that I’m not sharing yet) trudged along this year. The trudging was no fault of the project—I’m still jazzed about it, and made some sweet breakthroughs—but mostly just the result of my state of mind, which was not great most of the time this year. The fact that the physical pain I mentioned at the beginning of this post was mostly associated with sitting at the computer didn’t help. Writing when you have pain shooting down your leg that can only be relieved by getting away from the computer is hard. :-(
Dragon NaturallySpeaking (voice recognition software, mentioned in upcoming part 4) will help with that problem. Just in time, too!
I made some other gains in the writing-for-film space: I came up with a sweet, affordable “high concept” workplace sitcom idea, which I can make on my own eventually if I don’t get a chance to sell it, and I drafted (via voice recorder) a pretty solid outline for a short film called “Garage Man”, which will make a nice weekend project once I get with a few filmmaking collaborators.
These are just the highlights that come to mind. I know there are a lot of other things that have crystallized at various levels, but I think those are the main ones worth mentioning. Except for a key late entry…
My first real concept for a musical!
Musicals (and plays for that matter) aren’t a part of my world very much, and trying to come up with one has been pretty low on my priority list. There’s the whole issue of me having no formal musical knowledge or training, and the fact that I haven’t seen a play or musical in person in probably 20 years…you know, little stuff like that. Contrasted with the 1700+ voice recordings I have logged so far under “movies, shows and screenplays”, my “plays, musicals, and related snippets” folder contains a paltry six files.
But that’s changing, thanks to the awesome new idea I had recently for a social satire musical about the justice system. I don’t want to say any more yet, but this one is a keeper—I’ll be coming back to it over time until it’s done. Which, realistically, will probably be at least a couple years from now, and probably more (and which may have to wait until I meet a like-minded composer). But it will be worth the wait. Based on early returns, this is looking to be one of my all-time favorite projects. Definitely in the top 100! ;-)
I posted a (measly single) The Little Things comic
It’s tough to think of this as an accomplishment, given how far short of my intentions I fell, but it did happen within my extended year. (Dec 2012, during the “fiscal cliff” crisis.)
The rigors of production are the main thing keeping me from cranking this comic out on a regular basis. Each one usually takes a few hours, from conception to final digital draft. I’m trying to work it into my weekly schedule, so I can actually build an audience for it. But since there’s no audience currently, it’s hard to make it a priority over other pressing things. I love them though, and will not take them off the project list. Long live The Little Things! The Little Things 2014! etc. (He said, hopefully.)
Next up: Part 3 – Animal Stuff
Previously: Part 1 – Web/Work Stuff