Living… for fun and profit?

Long story short, I wasn’t able to enroll in composition lessons this semester after all. I was upset for a while, but then I started thinking about what I could do. Maybe I could find a private instructor elsewhere, for example. Someone not tied to an academic schedule. Who might be willing to do, say, 6 lessons over the next month and a half, ending by Yule, for a fair price. So I could make some progress between now and next semester. I sent the composition program coordinator an email updating him on the situation and requesting a referral – 5 days ago. Nada.

So I decided to go all-in.

I’ve brainstormed a business plan for being an independent composer / content creator – drawing on what I’ve learned from the EP, actually (I’ve been enjoying my role in that, by the way). What platforms do I want to be on? What do I want and need for a professional website? How do I copyright my music? Do I want to let people use my music in their works, and with what stipulations? (Generally speaking I have no problem with individuals as long as they credit me – tbh I’ll be honored! – though I do need to make money somehow. I just don’t want corporations profiting off my work without my consent.) What should my Patreon reward levels be? Etc. There’s still a lot that needs to be worked out, a ton that I need to learn, but it feels good to be moving in that direction. People have been super supportive. And Fox even agreed to be my webmaster!

Which so far has been good for our relationship, as we get to talk about and plan something that’s meaningful to both of us. I’m a bit torn between relying on his skills as a web developer to create something custom but without the bells and whistles of, say WordPress… and going with a platform that will let me post and edit all my own content directly with fancy widgets and SEO tools and all that, but with limits on how much I can customize the precise look and feel. (None of the themes I’ve seen quite fit.) The thought occurs that if Fox is managing the website for me I will have more time to focus on composing. He’s willing to learn new skills to accommodate my needs. And I think WordPress costs money, whereas Fox is willing to do this for… well, we share whatever money we make. Plus he’ll be able to include my site in his portfolio. Win-win!

So far I have the possibility of composing for the EP, though I need to meet with my friend (the CEO) to work out details. Ron’s running for public office, so ze asked me to compose the music for zir campaign video(s). And another friend (jokingly?) said he might need me to help him come up with a song. So I already have multiple potential projects that I’ll be able to point to as examples of people using my work. But none of them are in progress yet.

After a while brainstorming – and struggling to focus on, you know, actually composing – I now have a specific project in progress. It’s an arrangement or orchestration of a traditional Christmas song, but I’m writing my own… I’ve been calling it a ‘countermelody,’ not sure if that’s the correct term… to weave with it. My goal is to have it ready by December. Ideally I’ll be able to post it and a couple other songs, so folks looking for holiday music will find my channel. Maybe they’ll share and subscribe, possibly even support me on Patreon? I dunno, right now it feels like a bit much to ask, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Right? Everyone’s gotta start somewhere.

And where I am feels absolutely amazing! I’ve been brainstorming like crazy. found a piano score online. orchestrated it for strings. experimented with different sounds. put all the instruments I like the timbre of in one score omg I hope I can narrow that down! scribbled all over the front and back of a page in my giant sketchpad, sorting out the feel I want. figured out what steps I need to take. came up with what I want the structure and story to be. suddenly sang a gorgeous 2 minute countermelody! which I interrupted notating to write this post. Because I want to shout it from the rooftops: I feel fantastic!

It’s kinda like being in love, only better, because it’s not focused or dependent on someone else. I feel fully alive, in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. Alive and whole and powerful and happy. This deep wonderful contentment. Like everything’s right – in my personal bubble at least. I don’t mean to discount what’s been going on in the world, but right now I’m writing about me. My internal state of being is one of joy and creativity!

About 7 weeks ago I wrote about putting my portfolio together for that initial application to the composition program:

It felt so good starting with something I was already proud of, seeing how I could make it better, carefully patiently meticulously caressing it like a sculptor working with wet clay, and then the magic when it sounds right… oh, by the gods, to do that for a living…

That would be living…

and I ended the post with:

If composing is my idea of living then I should live, and have fun with it.

That’s exactly what I’ve been doing! and I love it!

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Exhales slowly

Potential crisis averted, I think. I had some concerns regarding the code of ethics that was posted for the entrepreneurial project (EP) this morning. But when I shared my concerns in the group chat (which is currently our official means of communication), it didn’t go over so well. I didn’t respond so well either, at first. Then someone wrote something that, to be honest, I found mocking and offensive… but I decided to focus on their last question: “why are you still here?”

I answered that I think the EP is a great idea with a ton of potential and I appreciate the creativity my friend brings to it and I’m proud of what it’s becoming – all true. I want to be a part of it – in particular, part of what we’re working toward. I have to admit, what we’re doing now appeals to me considerably less, and I want to find a role that will help us get to where I want to be, that isn’t the thing I’m not enjoying so much, you know? So I tried communicating with my friend about this, didn’t get a response, felt forced to bring it to the group chat so folks would understand what I was trying to address in my comments on the code of ethics… and yeah, explosions.

The problem I had this morning was with the HR person basically slamming me (I felt), instead of there being the mutual understanding dialogue I’d hoped for when I raised my concerns in the first place… I mean the ethical standards say let’s resolve this amicably, using terms like “collaboration” … I don’t think saying “no you’re this now do the thing you just said you don’t want to” is particularly amicable or collaborative. And then one of the board members basically said “if you don’t think you’re a fit for this company, leave.”

Excuse me? Tempting as it is to say “good bye and fuck you” I… I dunno, maybe I’m just being too stubborn for my own good, but I do want to see this endeavor succeed. I’m trying to challenge them to be less butts and I dunno, develop some people skills or something. I’d say maybe I should be the HR person but that sounds too much like emotional labor, and it’s not what my friend pulled me into this project for. The HR person was kind enough to remind me what that was, so I said “well if you need me you might want to refrain from driving me away” and wished everyone a good day.

Basically I feel like my options are 1) shut up, put my head down, and accept that this will be that soul-crushing job I’d hoped to avoid… oh, except that I’m not currently being paid 2) invest enough capital to be on the board and then I get to tell everyone else what to do mwahahahahaha!!! 3) tell them I don’t want my current position, but they can hire/contract me later as what I want to do… who knows, maybe by that time I’ll have found a better job! 4) walk away.

This is really pointing me toward “I’d much rather just dive in and be an independent content creator,” but I don’t really know what I need to do in order to make that remotely sustainable. To be honest that’s the thing I need from this company, possibly the main reason why I haven’t walked away: if I’m part of the company I benefit from my friend’s business knowledge and the sponsors he’s reaching out to and the equipment he has or plans to acquire… Though most of what I lack is stuff I could learn…

But I’m not even sure it’s something I’d want to do on any kind of regular basis… or if I can do anything on any kind of regular basis, considering my mental health and trying (failing) to be a good offspring / significant other (x3) / family-type person / friend. I think to make content creation work I’d need to be part of a team, so it’s not all on me to be whatever form of entertaining I’m going for… especially if the goal is to post every day. I mean, look at this blog. 😛

But when I think about composing… yeah, there’s gonna be stress in a profession like that, there’s stress in every profession. There will be times when I sign on to a project and things don’t go the way I’d hoped and I have to work with (or under) people I butt heads with… but they’ll be paying me, and I’ll know I’ve been hired as x, not think I’m gonna be q and find myself relegated to z without any kind of meaningful discussion and agreement. I hope. Right?

And I mean everyone needs a day off from everything, but I think composing is something I can do full time and be happy doing. I think. I hope. Though I thought writing would be and to be honest it’s not. Part time maybe. Or maybe I need something that involves a variety, some writing some composing some video-related stuff and something that’s not creative at all because as much as I love being creativity sometimes that needs a break, too.

(Yes, I wrote “being creativity” and decided to keep it because it makes sense in my brain.)

I just… I don’t know. People have told me I tend to latch on to one thing and that becomes my identity and my world and when it falls through or is over or moves or dies or whatever I fall apart. Completely. and I need to not do that. This isn’t worth risking that. Composing isn’t really, either. Nothing is.

“It’s not you, it’s not permanent, it’s not going to solve all your problems and make you happy.” So what is? Is anything? Is it possible to find a something – like a higher power – that can fill that role? Or is that just an illusion… kind of like how the ‘Self’ is the psychic embodiment of never truly being one whole coherent entity, if nothing else because there’s always the person and their concept of their Self, co-existing as two different things. (Jungian something-or-other, I’m not studying psychology anymore.) Maybe I’m just not meant to have one profession or identity or whatever; maybe I need more fluidity than is allowed by typical understandings of careers and whatnot in the U.S. I don’t know, I just have this weird urge to go make something and post it on YouTube.

Bullet Journal Day – 1 Year of Bullet Journaling!

I’ve been using my Bullet Journal consistently for a year now and I absolutely love it! It’s part planner, part to-do list, part record of what I’ve been doing and focusing on, part continuous work of art. Sto imparato l’italiano, così scrivo i mesi e i giorni in italiano. Anche, penso i numeri in italiano quando li leggo o li scrivo! – bene, fino a 31… 😉  [I’m learning Italian, so I write the months and days in Italian. Also, I think numbers in Italian when I read or write them! – well, up to 31…] I was never able to accomplish that with any language I studied before, but with this it just kind of started happening naturally on its own – to the point where I’ve been about halfway through counting something before I realized I was counting in Italian! I love it because it helps me practice at least a little bit every day.

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Bullet Journal Day

I got to spend an awesome weekend with Banji – reconnecting, playing duets, enjoying wonderful food and excellent company, the works. I’d been missing my friends from college and earlier; this was just what I needed to feel whole again.

It seems whenever I hang out with Banji I end up learning about a new arts-related thing they’re doing; this time it was bullet journaling. It’s basically creating a customized planner using a notebook, pen, and ruler; you can add colors, drawings, quotes, anything really. People use bullet journals to keep track of appointments and tasks, make note of things they’re grateful for, track habits they want to develop (e.g. exercising regularly), brainstorm, any number of things. A whole community has emerged around it with people sharing their ideas, layouts, artwork, etc.

Video: How to Bullet Journal

Video: Beginner’s Guide to Bullet Journaling

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with life, and I liked what I saw in various videos, so I decided to give it a try. I ordered a journal with dotted pages; it was supposed to arrive tomorrow, but instead it arrived today!!! So I decided to start setting it up with components I’d learned about from various videos (an index, symbol key, “future log” – kind of like a year at a glance, August calendar, list of appointments & goals for August, and my very first daily to-do list!).

I also did a kind of custom thing: I dumped all the to-dos that have been stressing me out on one side of a spread and got so stressed I felt the need to write “Fuck it all!” at the bottom. But then I re-organized (re-listed) everything into four categories: Personal, Green Party, Academic, and House. Each category has its own color. Separating everything just made me feel so much better; now it makes sense in a way it couldn’t before with everything jumbled together. It inspired me to draw a butterfly – something I definitely hadn’t planned, but I loved getting to draw and color with some awesome colored pencils.

Video: A Dude’s Bullet Journal Walkthrough

I sent Banji a picture of the spread; they told me that it’s Bullet Journal Day – the anniversary of when this officially became A Thing and the website BulletJournal.com went live. How amazingly cool is it that I get to start bullet journaling on the anniversary of its launch – particularly because the primary item I needed to make it happen arrived early?!

I think my favorite part of my journal so far is my August monthly spread. The left page has a typical calendar with appointments filled in, and a note about this past weekend being awesome. The right page is separated into four sections: Personal, Academic, Green Party, and House. Each section has a list of the tasks I want to complete by the end of the month: my goals for the month, you could say. I feel so much more focused now, having it organized like that. I was feeling stressed out about the House category so I added a quote by Agatha Christie: “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” My hope is that will help me re-imagine chores not as a monumental life-stealing task but as smaller opportunities to invite creativity. … Whatever the actual result, I have the name Agatha Christie in my journal now and that makes me happy.

My next favorite part is today’s daily. I blatantly stole the layout from Boho Berry (video), including the adorable little weather indicator in the upper right corner. I added a quote: “You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens” ~ Mandy Hale. It might seem a bit ironic to include a quote like that in a tool for planning, but one of the things I love about bullet journaling is that the journal itself isn’t (or at least doesn’t have to be) planned in advance. It’s a continuous creative work-in-progress – kinda like life.

But my favorite part of today’s daily is that I only listed the specific tasks I intend to complete today. One of the items will “migrate” to tomorrow, but the point is that today I only have to focus on today, and I actually can accomplish the (other) tasks I set for myself today. No worrying about tomorrow. No feeling guilty about the stuff I’ve been procrastinating forever, no being distracted by the things I “should” be doing everyday (those will go in a tracker on a different page, if I decide to do that. Maybe starting next month? That’s the beauty of this system, I can do things differently each day/week/month/etc. as I figure out what works best for me!)

It’s so empowering! I only have a handful of things to focus on today. They’re totally doable. It feels really awesome to check them off; little things I can celebrate. Even the color coding and the little cloud in the corner make me happy.

So, I guess we’ll see how this goes …

Do you bullet journal? What are your thoughts on it? Do you have any tips, designs you want to share, etc? Please share in comments! ❤

Spring – er, Late Summer – Cleaning

Today was positively gorgeous. A tad chilly, with a very invigorating wind, just a handful of clouds in the sky. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

I wanted to get outside; while I was out I took the opportunity to clean up the plants in our garden. Most of the leaves on the basil have turned white, so I cut them away. This allows more resources to go to the healthy green leaves near the tops of the plants, and allows more sunlight to reach the newer, healthier-looking sprouts that have emerged. When I was done with the basil, I similarly cleaned excess, dead-looking stuff off the cucumber plant.

Once I was done pruning away the dead or sickly stuff, all that was left were (mostly) healthy plants, full of life. I thought, I wish I could do that for myself. Get rid of all the dead stuff, the clutter, and just keep what fills me with vitality.

So I went back in the house, opened all the windows so it would be full of fresh air and sunlight from this beautiful day, and proceeded to clean. I started with the bathroom and cried as I scrubbed the bathtub. I fought the mean voices that told me I was either in my rightful place as a woman (on my knees cleaning) or that I was demeaning myself by doing housework. I reorganized items so the sink looks presentable and the contents of the medicine cabinet are useful, not past their expiration date. I got that picture I don’t like off my wall, and cleaned up the stains it was covering (using white vinegar diluted in water, a paper towel, and some elbow grease).

When I was done, I moved to the kitchen. I started by reorganizing all the plastic containers we keep for storing leftovers, so they’re mostly on one shelf, sorted by shape and size with lids readily available. They look neat and there’s most of a cabinet free for storage of additional items – which is good, because the house as a whole is still intolerably cluttered. Soon after Fox got home he took care of the dishes, while I sorted through trash and recycling, found homes for items we wanted to keep, and cleaned surfaces. Before long we were sitting together in a very pleasant, relatively clutter-free kitchen, sharing a simple but delicious dinner. It felt so good to finally be at peace with my environment while in that room.

I did a lot of good work – quite the accomplishment, especially considering I didn’t see much point to getting out of bed this morning. But I’ll admit, I’m a bit disappointed that the only cleaning I got to in the living room and bedroom was trying to remove the dirt from the windowsills. (Seriously, how does dirt get on windowsills? It’s not dust, it’s dirt, like the stuff on the ground with grass growing in it outside! And it’s thick and hard to pick up. Gross!) I really wanted to change this space, make all of it more liveable. But I guess I just need to be patient with myself. Patient, and persistent.

It drives me nuts that unless we make a constant, conscious effort to maintain this, it’s just going to get intolerably gross again.

I don’t know how to assess my depression. Fox thinks the SAM-e is making me more irritable and anxious; I think he has a point. Last night I almost cried myself to sleep because I saw no point in living, no reason to care about sleep, waking, no point to even trying to do anything … and I felt trapped. I can’t end it, there are too many people who would be hurt. The thought of just going on, suffering horribly, my whole life pointless, just so my loved ones would be protected from the pain my death would cause … it was too much to bear. I couldn’t help crying.

Fox heard me, of course, and asked what was wrong. I started telling him all this stuff and somehow the conversation turned to composing music. I said, “I really like exploring different sounds. That could be a good reason to live.” Next thing I knew, I had a melody in my head that wanted out. I got up and started writing; a few hours later I had the melody written down, a list of instruments with timbres appropriate to the mood I want, some ideas for harmony and counterpoint, and the beginnings of a composition in Notion. It felt so good to be intentional in making choices that created the effects I was looking for, while also allowing for spontaneous creativity (e.g. a second melody that practically wrote itself).

So I have severe symptoms of depression and anxiety – including some suicidal ideation – alternating with incredible energy that I can consciously direct: last night into a new piece of music; today into improving my environment.

It doesn’t make any sense. It seems horribly contradictory. … or is it?

Unpleasant as they may be, those intense emotions are overflowing with energy. At their core is an intense desire for (possibly mixed with a fear of) change. “I can’t live like this anymore!” really amounts to “I want all these things – maybe even everything – to change!” And what greater change is there, than death?

We have to admit, looking our fear in the face and accepting it, taking direct action to cause such a huge change – THE huge change we are wired to do everything in our power to avoid – that is an incredibly powerful act. Not a good or desirable or advisable act, mind. But a powerful one, nonetheless. Like Voldemort.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate. I’ve had the support and force of will to take that power, that immense energy, and channel it into something less self-destructive than suicide. Even something creative. Last night, for better or worse, a new musical being entered the world. In the past I’ve sculpted and drawn and improvised music. Today I removed a lot of gross dead stuff that was standing between me and the life-giving sun.

If the price of such power is suffering, well, I guess I’m willing to pay it – as long as I can still have my moments of joy, which I do. I’ll take this power and put it toward making the world a better place. For myself by cleaning my house, and beyond by doing Spock knows what. I have the power – the raw energy – to do it. I just need to get better at using it instead of feeling overwhelmed.

Virtual Mansion: Escapism, or Canvas for Creativity?

Depending on your perspective, I was either entirely unproductive, or extremely productive over the past couple of days.

The case for unproductive: schoolwork, household chores, errands, organizing all the stuff that was displaced in the move, training for the overnight walk, even updating this blog, etc. – EVERYTHING ground to a halt. If it is at all meaningful in the “real world,” then I took no part in it. (Am I proud of this? No. But I think I needed a break.)

The case for extremely productive: I built a mansion from scratch … in The Sims 3. Okay, so I had a very strong sense of what I wanted to do going into the project, but I did everything – from clearing the lot I wanted to build on, to moving in the family that’s going to live there and placing a few last-minute items – in 2 days.

I built this 4-story mansion in 2 days!

From left to right, the mansion includes: a 2-car garage with a game room on the second floor and grilling/party space on the roof; a barn capable of housing up to 6 horses; an art studio; a garden for fruits and vegetables; a gorgeous 2-story entryway and banquet hall; a giant library with multiple rooms; 7 bedrooms; 2 kitchens; a state-of-the-art gym; a very large, gorgeous bathroom multiple sims can use at once and still have privacy; a hot tub and pool with grilling/party space; and a children’s play space.

Best of all, I got to listen to some truly awesome music while doing it! 🙂

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Harnessing the Dark Horse

On Wednesday I had my first music therapy session in nearly a month. I told my therapist how stressed I’ve been about moving back in with Mom, including the changes, mess, and decision-making involved in fixing up the house.

Our conversation came to the difference between merging and bonding with another person.

Merging is becoming too emotionally involved, to the point where there aren’t really two people relating to each other any more, but rather a “blob” as I tend to put it. When I’m merged with someone I can’t tell whether what I’m thinking and feeling are my own thoughts and emotions, or the other person’s. I feel pressured, imposed upon, like I’m losing myself and have no control over my actions. I get very angry, but it’s hard to focus that energy into anything other than lashing out.

Bonding is sharing a special connection with someone, but remaining separate and able to relate as a unique human being. When I bond with someone I feel very happy. I’m aware of my own thoughts and emotions and can express them fully. I can appreciate the other person for who ze is, including the things ze does that annoy me.

My therapist, who I’ll call Wakana, asked if I felt merged with her, and I said, “sometimes.”

Wakana: What would help?
Ziya: Just listen.
Wakana: You want to play alone? And I’ll listen to you?
Ziya: Yes.
Wakana: Okay.

She sat back from the drum she had been playing and watched me. I picked up two mallets and started playing on a cymbal. I love crashing the cymbal, it makes such a sudden, loud, complex sound!

I played different rhythms and volumes. I hit the cymbal several times, then took a mallet and rubbed it gently along the top. One tone emerged from the chaos, which varied in pitch depending on how close to the center I rubbed. I mentioned this to Wakana and she shared in my enjoyment of the discovery.

Then I started playing again, hitting the cymbal very, very hard. It rocked on its stand so hard there were times when it was almost completely vertical! The tip of one of my mallets flew off, but I kept playing. The loud crashing sound filled the whole room, to the point where I yelled something to Wakana and I don’t think she heard at all – I could barely hear my own voice! It felt so wonderful, just to let all that energy flow. I felt like I was in complete control.

When I stopped playing, Wakana observed that I had a lot of anger. She described it as a fire that can burn down the house, or be contained in a fireplace for warmth and light, or be harnessed in an oven to bake pottery. Anger is necessary for setting boundaries. It can be channeled into creativity. It can be an impetus for change. It’s great that I have it.

But my anger, energy, emotions, life force, creative energy, etc. are a dark horse, wild and untamed. The horse rampages around inside the prison where I have suppressed zir, snorting and kicking and crashing into things; trampling and biting and otherwise hurting me. When ze breaks free, ze destroys things and hurts other people.

Wakana said that if I tame the Dark Horse, ze can be a powerful ally. The Dark Horse will fight to defend me, or help me flee from danger. If I can take control of the Dark Horse, I can run free with the wind and go wherever I want.

I’m not crazy about the word “tame” because I think part of taming an animal – especially a horse – is breaking its spirit. I have suppressed the Dark Horse for far too long, and I fear what might happen to me if I try to change any part of hir nature. I can harness the Dark Horse, however – come to understand zir, bond with zir, form an alliance, and eventually take the reins so I can guide zir where we want to go. This is ultimately a part of myself, after all, so I have more to gain from working with it.

I resonate so strongly with this theme, I’m tempted to make it the focus of this blog. I’m considering changing the blog’s title to “Harnessing the Dark Horse,” but I’d want to change the URL to match and I don’t know if that’s something I can do on WordPress. Whether I change anything about the blog or not, I will definitely be writing about this topic again. This is not a process that can be completed overnight, but it is key to my recovery.

I wanted to draw the Dark Horse, but I couldn’t get a firm enough image in my mind’s eye to feel comfortable trying, and there were many distractions. I decided to make a horse in The Sims 3 Pets – who, by the way, is Aggressive, Ornery, and Untrained. This picture of my sim horse will represent the Dark Horse for now, but in time I hope I’ll be able to draw (paint? sculpt? etc) other satisfactory representations.

sims-dark-horse