Halfway through #NaMuCoWriMo!

Pointless photo included solely to make this more visually interesting and to provide a thumbnail. 😂

Pointless photo included solely to make this more visually interesting and to provide a thumbnail. 😂

As you may know from my recent blog or my social media updates, I started a thing this month called NaMuCoWriMo (National Music Composition Writing Month). Basically, all that means is that I'm challenging myself to compose every day, no matter how crappy the output is. 

True to form, I have a zillion thoughts about this already, but I'll reserve the bulk of my reflection for my follow-up post at the end of the month. At the end of the month, I'll also post a list of what I worked on every day.

But I wanted to do a little check-in now that the month is over halfway over! It's been a GREAT experience so far.

My work has really been all over the place this month, and I mean that mostly in a good way. Because of the "rules" I put in place for myself (mainly not to stagnate in perfectionism), I've been a lot more willing to go outside of my usual boundaries. This means I've done more in Ableton, done more with visuals and space, worked on text, started things that didn't have a clear direction or destination. 

Some trends that have developed. I don't want to judge myself for them yet, instead choosing to (attempt to) focus on observing them neutrally. 

  1. Some days, I "finish" a draft. Other days, I do not. So far, I haven't gone back to fix or finish a lot of my compositions started this month, thus I have a lot of new incomplete things. This makes me slightly anxious but not nearly as much as usual.
  2. I really, really love working with text. I mean, I already knew this, but damn. I really really really do. 
  3. I am liking Ableton Live 1000% more than expected, and I actually think it'll be be a bigger part of my future. Here's a song called "Lament" that I made in there. I assembled the lament on the night of the devastating election, which also happened to be the day of my grandfather's funeral. 
  4. Writing myself etudes and beginner pieces has been really fun! I started learning marimba recently, so one of my compositions was an easy marimba etude to work on some 4-mallet intervals that I suck at. I'm actually totally into the idea of writing more beginner pieces for myself. Not even just beginning-level things. I'm going to start doing this for myself more with violin too, to work on specific things that crop up. Why didn't I think of this sooner?!
  5. It's been an interesting struggle figuring out the best way to notate experimental things.
  6. One piece I'm totally jazzed on is a collaboration with my friend Arthur Breur! We have never met, but we are "composition" friends online, and he is a fellow Patreon creator. I don't know too many composers on Patreon, so it's rad to have him there. We are writing a sonata for violin and piano together, sort of like the FAE sonata except totally different, of course. I want to collaborate with more Patreon artists in the next year, since there are so many creative, cool people on the platform, and Patreon is where I have the most fun with things creatively. So far, I've worked on initial melodies, and Arthur is in the process of coming up with harmonies.
  7. Related to the above point about my sonata collaboration with Arthur: Because he exclusively uses MuseScore for his composition notation, I downloaded it and will be using it for our sonata too. It's easier to share things that way, since it's an open source program that has easy online saving options. We tried sending back .xml files, but it was too clunky. I'm nervous but up for using this different platform (I'm normally a Sibelius person). In the past, I probably would have stressed about changing my routine in any way, but this month has freed me up a lot. 
  8. NaMuCoWriMo has made me even more obsessed with Patreon, to be honest. Since I've been trying a lot of new weird things this month, it's nice to have a safe place to share half-finished and vulnerable works. Most of the things I've done this month are definitely not polished enough to share with the public yet, haha. So if any of my patrons are reading this, thank you for being so receptive and in for this ride! (If you want to be one of them, you're of course welcome to join at any time! It's literally just $1 a month for the the secret updates.)

Stay tuned to hear my further developed thoughts and the day-by-day breakdown of what I actually worked on every day this month! 

Anyone wanna do NaMuCoWriMo with me?

This post is for my fellow composers and creatives who feel the unbearable weight of inertia as much as I do.

I'll speak for myself here: This is really uncomfortable to admit, but I have trouble working. It sucks. I'm a composer and yet I spend more time languishing, planning, fretting, troubleshooting, shooting down my own ideas, and feeling guilty than I actually do composing. It's a hard truth, but I gotta accept it. Both my greatest strength and weakness is my mastery of the art of deliberation. 

I'm tired of it, or at least I need a break from it this month. I have dozens of personal projects and pieces in progress, a lot of great opportunities scheduled for the next 6 months, and more commissions lined up right now than I've ever had in my life (YAY)! -- These are all blessings, of course, but, I have to (get to) actually do them.

I'll get to the point: A lot of writers I know participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) every November, and I would like to do a composer-y spin-off of that. NaMuCoWriMo, if you will. (That's National Music/Composition Writing Month, if that wasn't obvious.)

I'm sure someone else can come up with a better title, but NaMuCoWriMo sounds generic enough to be flexible. I want to use the month of November to do one composition per day. It doesn't have to be an epic, big, real thing. I'm thinking little exercises, various challenges and prompts to get me out of my comfort zone. If I have a week-long project in mind, that's fine too, as long as I'm making sufficient tangible progress every day. I'm posting this blog for accountability. If I write the intention, it becomes more real, right? 

***This post has already changed 3 times, from NaMuWriMo to NaCoWriMo, and now NaMuCoWriMo, due to it being uncharted territory on Twitter, which makes it easier to hashtag and accurately check up on each other's progress.***

Here are some guidelines and general thoughts for myself this month:

  1. I must compose every day.
  2. I must produce "something to show for it." It can be a scratch recording, a sheet of handwritten paper, a page in Sibelius, a 1-minute Ableton file, really does not matter. 
  3. Nothing I compose has to be "good." 
  4. Ok, because I know I won't listen to the previous rule, I hereby give myself express permission to write REALLY CRAPPY STUFF. This will make me more comfortable exploring new territory.
  5. I'm not going to be concerned with "what is music?" and "does this count as music?" or "is this a serious work?" or any genre or other nitpicky bullshit. I don't care about weird standards like "50 bars of notation" or "5 minute run-time" or whatever. 
  6. I don't have to post my creations on my blog, but hey, I might from time to time! I think it would be really cool to document these terrible little compositions, but I also don't want to impose another ritual on myself, since I'm busy enough already. So I'm gonna go with no imposition for now. I'll just see how I feel as it goes.
  7. I'm actually probably going to be sharing this stuff on my Patreon, because I do want to share, but I don't necessarily want everything public. Become a patron here
  8. Oh, I'm allowed one day off per week. So if I really really need to skip a day, I will.
  9. Re-evaluate these guidelines from time to time and shift anything that isn't working well.
  10. I'm absolutely positive that I'm going to want to change one of the guidelines. Totally cool and good.
  11. If you want to join me, cool. If I'm totally alone in this, cool. But let me know if you do do it! Maybe we can just post on a group or thread or use the #NaCoWriMo hashtag on Twitter/FB just to say "I did my thing today."
  12. I was really back and forth between NaMuWriMo and NaCoWriMo, but idk, I guess my flavor of the minute is now Co (composition) rather than Mu (music), because I hate boxing myself into a genre too much (lol). ***edit: As you can see above, the people joining me on Twitter have persuaded me to use NaMuCoWriMo, for hashtagging reasons. 😉

The hardest thing about this will be shushing the deliberation monster that turns me into this absurd perfectocrastinator. I'm going to really need to embrace self-acceptance and "let it be" and "just let the piece go." It is in that spirit that I took the super snazzy photo of myself at the top of the post. Literally me now, just looking oh so fashionable and put together as I write this blog. I hope my mini-compositions this month espouse the vibe of that photo -- unpolished, unplanned, and unedited, but at the end of the day, totally fine.