Friday, September 12, 2014

Random Musings From A Friday

Recently I "celebrated" ten years at my current job. Ten years of doing pretty much the same thing over and over and over. As we are a small satellite office of a massive corporation in another state, there is excruciatingly little in the way of a career path unless you want to move. Want to do something different? Get a different job somewhere else. The problem is that my home life is packed to the point that if I tried to start a new job where I had to learn everything new I'd probably end up in a padded room. At this point I need a job that can be done mostly on automatic and is flexible with the hours and my current job fits the bill. They say you are supposed to do something you are passionate about, something that gets you excited. I remember years ago, at another company, being excited about programming but now I'm lucky if I get work that challenges me mentally more than once a quarter. For now that's just the way it is.

Periodically this gets me down and I feel like I'm not adding to this world, that I'm just a paycheck. I know this isn't the case, that reading books to my kids will one day turn them into readers and that time spent with my wife, even if we're both exhausted at night and just watch reruns of Good Times, is good for our relationship. But if I go too long without creating and adding something new to this world that didn't exist before it just seems like so much treading water. Lately I've been trying to focus on writing as this is something I can do over lunch at work because, as I stated before, my home life is busy to the point that an entire weekend can go by and I'm only able to squeak in fifteen minutes of "me time." I'm not complaining (right now at least... I just got over a big ol' pity party), that's just the season that I'm in.

For whatever reason I recently recalled a chapter from The Dilbert Principle where Adams talks about how he writes an outlandish goal fifteen times a day and eventually it comes true. I'm a big believer in prayer but also have done enough research into parallel universes and string theory to know that however God made this universe, He expects us to have direct input. He also appears to like it when we ask boldly. Not for a new car or McMansions, doofus, but for the things He wants for us, chiefly that our character becomes more like His. So although I'm not sure how prayer works and if it's supposed to be, for example, 60% for God's benefit and 40% ours, but I do know that as He promised, we don't have because we don't ask (provided you are asking for things that are in line with His character). One of the things God is is a brilliantly creative creator.

Back to Dilbert. I went to the library and returned instead with the book Write It Down, Make It Happen which seems a lot less New Agey than the name-it-claim-it fifteen repetitions of Adams, though in some ways it seems more New Agey. Like usual, keep your brain in gear and evalute the silver from the dross. What I came away with is that I ended up writing down a number of (in my mind) outlandish goals. No, I don't want to visit Mars but I do want to visit Europe with my wife, among other things. The good thing is that I didn't have to write them down fifteen times a day every day until they happen. While the author spends some time evaluting why this process works, the one the connected with me is that it kind of primes the brian to be ready to take advantage of opporunties that are in line with your goals. For instance, she observed that when you get a new blue Honda van and you never owned a Honda before, you'll suddenly start seeing scores and scores of blue Honda vans on the road. They were always there but your brain was never tuned in to seeing them.

One of the things I wrote down as that I would write and record a proggish power pop album that would not only be good and worth listening to but would be one that my writing/music pal Adam would enjoy. This is outlandish because A) I haven't written and recorded any songs in over three years B) If I can't squeak out more than thirty minutes on a weekend how can I find the hours it takes to write, practice, and record even a three minute song, let alone an album full of 'em and C) The songs I have written are They Might Be Giant-esque silly ditties, usually about animals and usually two or three minutes long. Nothing proggy. Possibly power poppy but definitely with strong kid-appeal.

But I wrote it down anyway earlier this week. Maybe it's a goal for ten years in the future. Maybe it will take me ten years after that to complete. Who knows? Except that this morning I woke up twenty minutes early with a melody and lyrics in my head. I used to carry around a digital audio recorder and would sing or speak in ideas and melodies and bass lines and whatnot. It's been four or five years since I had such an idea and carried that recorder and yet, here was an idea. I tried to go back to sleep and forget the stupid song idea but no such luck. So it was off to the basement with me, grabbing my acoustic guitar and turning on my keyboard. It was just two lines but I quickly wrote down the lyrics and the melody along with a few notes on the bass line. Surprisingly the guitar chords were easy folk chords and I reflected that often when I go to learn a song I enjoy I find that they use basic chords instead of those fancy expensive ones (F#aug6, anyone?). I therefore gave myself permission to use simple chords. After twenty minutes there still was one guitar chord I couldn't figure out but I needed to get ready for work so it will have to wait.

That's it? Just two lines of a chorus? Often that's all I need, just a hook. Those two lines set a kind of tone for the song and I already have a vague ideas for a slightly proggy musical bit to follow the chorus that will lead into some kind of verse that has yet to be created. Would this idea have popped into my head had I not written down the bit about writing an album? Would I have gone back to sleep and ignored and ultimately forgotten the melody? Laying there unable to get back to sleep I thought "Well, this is the album you asked for so you'd better get up." Did I just need a goal? Who knows! The sad thing is, at this very moment I can't remember a thing about the melody and only remember the subject of the lyrics but it's all written down for me to decode later. Maybe this weekend, maybe next year. In the meantime, I'd better get packing for my trip to Europe.

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