How to avoid writing

I avoid writing. I always have. In grade school, I drove my teachers crazy. In high school, it was worse. I openly rebelled at any suggestion that I was a good writer. I had a journalism class in my junior year of high school and really connected with the teacher (I am not naming names to protect the innocent from my poor memory). I enjoyed the class and the teacher must have brought something out in me, because I ended up writing for the school paper. However, without that teacher’s influence, things didn’t go so well.

My relationship with my senior English teacher was a bit different. I clashed with him constantly. It always seemed like this teacher had it out for me and I never understood why, despite the fact that he pretty much flat out told me: I didn’t try hard enough. There were other students who would get worse grades than me on tests and assignments, but had better averages. He told me that I didn’t perform up to my potential and he would hold me to a different yardstick.

Now, I knew I was lazy. Admittedly, I had fallen behind and when I met with the teacher near the end of the year, he painted a grim picture of my chances for passing his course. If I failed senior English, I wouldn’t be walking down the graduation isle with my class. He told me that it all rested on the grade of my final paper, a historical biography. He made it clear: I needed an A. I pulled out all the stops and spent hours at the library doing research on my subject, Ludwig van Beethoven. He gave me a B+ … I flunked senior English … didn’t graduate with my class. What a jerk!

The summer school teacher that I had while missing senior week and most of that summer couldn’t believe that someone with my writing ability had flunked high school senior English. Most of his students were drop-outs, so he didn’t generally get many good writers coming through his classes. He was teaching competency in English. I was much more proficient than most of his GED and tutoring students. In the crystal ball of hindsight, I view my senior English teacher’s strong-armed tactics in a slightly different light. I truly think he was trying to wake me up. He was still a jerk about it, but I think he was trying to tell me something. I know my mom will disagree with that point.

Fast forward to college, where I never did poorly in English. It was one of my stronger subjects throughout most of my start-and-stop college career. I had an English professor early on tell me that she thought I was a pretty good writer. I ended up with a B in the class and she told me that I may have even gotten an A, had I bothered to read course material. Ahem. 

Fast forward again – post tech school Associate’s degree … post dropping out of music school … post dropping out of Penn State (yeah, I have history). I decided to take some online courses with the intent of finishing my Bachelor’s degree. I was pretty motivated at the time and was really focused on getting good grades. In tech school, I preformed well and I got used to excelling in my studies. I carried this enthusiasm through to my first formal class in a long time, English. I ended up just crushing it. Every paper, every assignment, class forum discussions, team assignments – everything. I just poured myself into it and was rewarded with top marks and encouraging feedback from my teacher. On top of that, I was having fun writing again. Go figure.

At the end of the course, the teacher contacted me and told me that I was one of her best students ever and wondered what my career path was. I told her that I was pursuing a degree in technical management. She responded that she felt like that was a huge mistake and urged me to consider a career in teaching English and writing. I was a bit shocked at the time. I had never really considered myself a “writer”. I mean, I could write, but not “write”, right? Besides, what would I write about? I mean, I always had a lot to say, but who would want to hear it? I dismissed the idea of writing and instead chose to continue to focus on my Information Technology career. Or to try to focus on IT is a better way of putting it. Unfortunately, the more time I spent working for large corporations doing non-creative things, the more I became convinced that I had no place in that world.

So, I toyed with doing something creative with my life for years, and sometimes, my thoughts turned to writing. I thought about trying blogging, the new journalism, but I had trouble settling on one topic, so I just never started. That is the trouble with starting new things: You actually have to start. Oh, I had ideas for fiction that I did move on, but they didn’t exactly come out as prose. The first was a comedy scene about a tough guy who finds his girl in a compromising situation and ends with someone getting shot with a bb gun. I originally imagined it as a movie scene, but I wasn’t going to start mailing out scripts or anything. So, I did the next best thing. I turned it into a blues song. Hence the title Big Black BB Gun. Here it is, if you’d like to hear it. Parental warning, this is about an adult theme, but the only “bad word” is the grown-up word for “butt”. It’s really pretty mild, but just thought I’d give a heads up. If you listen to the words, you can hear the kernel of fiction writing in there:

Later I came up with an idea for a novel. No. A trilogy! I know. Ridiculous. Well, I already told you the rest of that story in my second post, which can be found here – How did I get here? if you need to read it.

That brings us up to speed. At least it brings me back to my current excuse for not writing, which I started alluding to a few posts ago: I am easily distracted. No, that’s not quite right. I am easily waylaid by the highwayman of creativity. A good example of this is what happened when I started writing my last post, An Overdue Update; parts 1 and 2. In the midst of writing, I decided to check the recording of Ride one last time before putting it online. That one action sent me careening down the rabbit hole. Six days later, I finally emerged with fresh mixes and masters of both Ride and O7O. Then I got back to writing those posts.

It’s not that I intended to do that. It’s just what happened when I went in to tweak one thing. That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “Art is never finished, only abandoned”Leonardo da Vinci (I mis-attributed that quote to Van Gough for years). I will tweak and adjust things almost obsessively. Experimentation is part of the process, which is why I get so lost when making music or doing graphics, but I still need to work writing in. That is why I decided to start writing daily.

Besides the fact that I need the “exercise” of daily writing, it has become apparent that I need the routine to write at all effectively. That seems to include blogging and writing fiction. Without structure, I will make any excuse not to write, including distracting myself with things that are more immediately satisfying. I have been telling myself that it’s been ok to focus on music and graphics because it will be easier for me to make a living sooner with those two pursuits, but I have been neglecting writing because of that. I can’t do that, because writing is an essential piece of my puzzle. It ties everything together and will help me market myself, and my other skills. It’s also pretty therapeutic.

Writing fiction is a whole different set of challenges for me. I do need to get back to the long form stories that I have started, but I also need to figure out how to integrate writing fiction into my routine without sapping too much energy away from freelance creative enterprises I am starting. The problem with creative writing, especially since my story ideas are novel length, is the same one I have with music and graphics. I throw myself into it. I get lost in it. Especially when I write fiction … when I am outlining a plot, or sitting down and writing scenes, time has no meaning. I think it may be even worse than music. Well … its close. The other thing is that as far as generating income, writing long-form fiction is as effective as hopping up and down on a rock in the forest on one foot all day. In the rain.

So in order to balance my creative endeavors better, Not only am I going to try to make writing part of my daily schedule, I am going to try writing first before I do anything else (besides research). No, that doesn’t mean I will be updating my blog on a daily basis. In fact, this article has been written over two days (and edited and proofread over a third and forth). However, I should be making more regular updates. Feel free to hold me accountable if I’m not blogging.

So that’s the latest plan. I am reviewing my outlines to determine what fiction project I want to pick up first. In addition, I will also try to finish writing for the day by noon, then move on to other work. Of course, that plan could go right down the drain when I get into a story, or a song, or … Well, I have to allow myself some time to be obsessive.

In the mean time, I’d love to hear from you. Please drop me a line and let me know what you think so far. Any comments are welcome, please use the comment section below. Even if you just want to tell me that I use italics too much, or that you hate my use of parenthesis, or to tell me that I have no clue about colons, drop me an email (jackmathers01@mac.com). Also, if there is a particular topic you’d like to see me write about. Let me know!

An Overdue Update (part 2) Design

Welcome to Part Two.  If you missed part 1, Music, you can find it here. In this post, I am going to tell you about SylverWyrm Designs and my first two T-shirt releases. First, I feel like I should address the dragon in the room. This name … SylverWyrm. What does it mean?

Let’s take the second part first – wyrm. It is a word for dragon, usually associated with the European variety. The term wyrm usually implies adult or mature dragon. I guess you could say that dragons are my spirit animal. The first bit is because I always liked silver better than gold as a metal. In D&D, the gold dragons were more powerful, but I always liked the silver ones better, and they could shoot lightning! Wow, letting my geek cred show, yo. But I’m not the only one, because using “silverwrym” as a user name was almost never an option on any web site, even back in the early days of the inter-web. Instead, I borrowed “Sylver” from my favorite D&D character, Sylverious. Sylverious is a high level Mage/Ranger who was raised by wood elves … so sorry. I may have to write a story about him some time.

Anyway, when I decided to use SylverWyrm as a brand, I realized that I needed a logo for both SylverWyrm Productions and SylverWyrm Designs. I had always toyed around with turning the S in SylverWyrm into a dragon. I think it came out looking better than I had hoped when I finally finished it. So good, I decided to make it into a t-shirt:

SW Tee

Available in 5 colors and many sizes

Click here to purchase this T-shirt from Amazon

 

This is the version that I am selling at the moment. I may change over to SW Designs or perhaps something else in the future, so get them while they last. Xmas is coming, and isn’t it always great to have to explain what the heck your cool but obscure t-shirt is all about? “I know this guy who is a music producer.” Yeah, I am actually calling myself that. Sheesh.

Speaking of obscure t-shirts …

Remember sitting on your grandma’s back step on a summer day so hot that your Chucks were in danger of sticking to the blacktop? The only relief – ice cold rivulets of watermelon juice running down your chin. Then, the inevitable seed spitting contest started … I miss the seeds. If this doesn’t ring a bell, go play Call of Duty or something. Otherwise, this shirt may give you a chuckle:

 

Melon Tee

Available in 5 colors and Men’s and women’s sizes

 

Click here to purchase this T-shirt from Amazon

 

Well, those are the first two designs, more to come. The shirts are 100% cotton and very soft. I can have ten designs on Amazon at once and I will probably off-load to another printing company if I have any more than that, or if anyone just HAS to have a SylverWyrm hat or a Watermelon coffee mug. I have other designs in the works. If anyone has any ideas, let me know.

Also, just to get the word out, I will (and hope to) do commission and freelance work. If you, or anyone you know needs any help with design, logo, layout, webpage design, or most graphic arts, music production, guitar, bass, vocals, voice overs, drum programming, sound design, beat production, mixing, mastering, most other music related stuff, copy writing, copy editing, or blogging – put them in touch with me. I’ll be breaking out a separate website in a few weeks.

I’d also be willing to come to your location to diagnose and solve your computer and network woes if you are local to the Philly area.

I haven’t done any creative writing lately, as I have been concentrating on other things. I do intend on getting back to it soon, and my next post will be all about writing – blog and creative – and how I need to try to integrate it into my routine now that I have SylverWyrm Productions and SylverWyrm Designs up and running.

An Overdue update (part 1) Music

SW Banner SC Long

I know, it’s been almost two months. What can I say? I get distracted. Life keeps coming at you. Sometimes, my family life seems to spill into just about every opportunity to work. This isn’t even close to true, honestly. The real problem is that the work that I gravitate towards tends to suck me in and leaves little room for other things when I am being productive. Or even when I am not being productive. Yeah, that happens too, but I think with art and invention, the net result justifies any dead ends you may have to explore. It’s all part of the process.

But productive I have been, and I think the net results are encouraging so far. It’s show and tell time. I have spent the last two months sharpening both my music production and graphic design skills.

The time I spent making music was about work flow. I already had most of the skills in that area that I required, but I really needed to convert processes that I had historically stumbled through into something more automated and streamlined.

Ride is an older song that I decided to re-record with fresh ears and way better hardware and software than I had available in the early 2000’s when the song was originally recorded. I tracked the instrumental parts of the current iteration sometime in the spring (2017) and went back for a listen about the time of my last post (mid-July).  I messed about with the original mix, but the vocals I put down made me queasy. I don’t usually like my voice anyway, so that is no surprise. I just muted the tracks and hummed along with the instruments as I played with elements such as instrument levels, automation and effects. Interestingly as I did, I came up with another vocal melody – an alternate to the song’s original.

When I un-muted the original vocal and sang the new part with it, I knew I had something that was going to change this old song forever, hopefully for the better. I re-recorded all of the vocal parts and didn’t hate the result. What’s more, I got a very streamlined workflow going by the time I had finished tracking the vocals, and what I ended up with sounded pretty polished, and dare I say it – commercial. That result is SylverWyrm Productions first official Pre-release:

 

 

Yes, because you are special, you get to hear it first, here, for free. I hope you liked it. Heck, I just hoped you listened to it.

Because we are now such good friends (and yeah, we probably are if you are still reading along), I am going to give you a Twofer. Yes a SECOND Pre-release, right on top of the first. This is more the direction I am writing these days. It’s an Electronic Dance Music (EDM) number featuring no one in particular. This song came together pretty quickly and I tried to be efficient and organized as I worked. I wanted this song to be organic and original, so I didn’t use any presets – choosing instead to build almost all of the sounds from the ground up. The vocal samples that I used are from Apple’s loop library  and they just caught my ear as I was browsing for sounds. I suppose you would put it in the House or Deep House or perhaps Dubhouse (I may have just made that up. Nope. Thank you, Google for ruining my delusions once again) category:

 

I hope you enjoyed that as well. Please feel free to let me know what you think of either or both songs, even if my singing makes you queasy.

So, you may be wondering what releasing means and why I’m doing it. Well, it’s basically self-publishing. I am going to be paying a fee to have a company distribute my music to iTunes, Spotify and a bunch other music services. Every time my music gets downloaded or even played, I’ll get some money. What’s more, once a song is in the wild, all sorts of good things can happen. Examples of this are getting a movie, TV or commercial placement, or getting a song sampled.

As far as these two songs being PRE-releases … they are still under the distribution radar for now, BUT, Soundcloud (the current host) only has lower quality MP3s and they make you download an app if you want to stream to a device … Meh. And, I won’t get paid. After the official release you will be able to add these songs to your iTunes or Spotify (Or Amazon, etc …) playlists and when my song gets played, I get paid. You don’t even have to buy it. Neat. I am still deciding on distribution services, so stay tuned.

As a THIRD bonus, I am adding a bit of a puzzle. The second song’s title O7O has a hidden meaning. The first blog subscriber to decode it and get back to me with the right answer will score a highly stylish and soon-to-be sought after SylverWyrm Productions T-Shirt!

Oh. You didn’t know about the t-shirts and SylverWyrm Designs? Okay, well, if you want to know about them, I’ll be debuting them in the next post.You have been so nice to read and listen so far, I don’t want to overwhelm you, so I decided to make the SylverWyrm Designs post separate. Besides (spoilers!) that post is pretty much a sales pitch for selling t-shirts. Don’t worry, you can read it right away if you like.

Back to music. These are just the first two songs, released as singles. I am seriously considering releasing an entire album of undistributed material in the very near future while I work on new projects. I will most likely continue to just release singles after that as they come off the grill.

 

Look for Part 2 here