The thing with following your dreams. The thing we never document when we encourage people to strive for and pursue their excellence, is the pain that comes with it. When we document the journey, we want the world to see our triumphs and we post our pictures online with smiley faces, living a tremendously joyous existence. We proclaim, we hashtag, that we are “#livingthedream” and we tweet about the people we’ve met, the places we’ve gone, and the many wonderful things we may have done. Somehow we happen to miss out the heartache, tears and the loneliness that can come with it.
While all that we share is no lie, those who read, or look at these pictures always forget that this is only a part of the whole story. A truth nevertheless. I am reminded of a movie called ‘Just Married’ that starred Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy. The lead man (played by Kutcher) was being advised by his father about marriage. He pointed to pictures in a photo album, and he spoke of those joyous moments. Here’s the quote from that scene:
“Some days your mother and me loved each other. Other days we had to work at it. You never see the hard days in a photo album… but those are the ones that get you from one happy snapshot to the next.”
I am caused to think on the quote above. A while ago I wrote a blog about making it a year in Berlin. I’ve had a number of months that were more than a little difficult. These are not documented in pictures, or with tweets, or even Facebook updates. In time to come, I will look back over many of these tweets and status updates and think on all I lived through between those pictures. When I look at those tweets or pictures, I will remember vividly the difficult times, without need of documented words or pictures. I will remember the tears that came during the absent updates. I will remember the fears and loneliness only too easily. So why, oh why do I need to document them physically? Their emotional toll is clear for me to see.
A close friend of mine messaged me a while ago, having read my blog post ‘Letter To A Friend‘ and I found myself touched by her message.
The message was simple:
“I just wanted to tell you that whatever happens, don’t lose hope….Even when/if you lose yourself…Even when/if nothing means anything anymore. I know you know this, but I still wanted to let you know.”
This is part of what helps me to continue moving on when things get difficult, as they tend to do.
In more recent past, I attended my sister’s wedding in the UK. I am happy to tell you I was beyond proud. I was asked a few days before I left Berlin, if I would cry at the wedding, I of course proclaimed that there was little chance of this happening. I am far from ashamed to tell you I cried as I watched her walking down the aisle. It has been many a year since I last shed a tear, so I didn’t anticipate it. But, seeing her walking down the aisle, with tears pouring down her face was too much for me. Later at the reception, I had cause to tear up once again when the time for the first dance came along. I recollect querying what they would be dancing to, my sister’s response was that it’s a surprise. I presumed twas a surprise for the audience, so I was happy to wait and see. They took to the dancefloor and the song began. I remember all too well, recognising the guitar intro, but uncertain as to the song itself, then the voice…and it was my voice! My song Weathervane, was the song they used for their first dance. I was beyond surprised! I looked to my other sister, in utter shock. I couldn’t believe it. Both were singing along. I hugged her and wept like I haven’t wept in forever, as she told me
‘Never doubt yourself. Ever’
The reason I share this? In time to come, as you go about pursuing your unknown end, you will go through what can only be called trying times. These are a part of our lot. I see them as almost a necessity. These help us to decide exactly how much we want whatever it is we are chasing. Whatever this unknown end may be, the trying times are an essential part of the journey. It is at this point that we ask ourselves if we really want this thing we seek. These trying times have the ability to break many. You have to ensure you are not one of those many. Reach back to something that will help to sustain you. For me, hearing my song at my sister’s wedding, for her first dance to boot, will stick in my mind for many a year. For me, this is a huge achievement. I intend to achieve more in my little life, but I’m uncertain that anything else I do will top that. Hold to the ‘little’ achievements. Let these encourage you as you move forward. I have come to learn that everything I want won’t come all at once. It may seem an obvious thing to many. But if you’re anything like me when it comes to dreams, you want it all at once. And you want it now. And with every little setback, we wish to curl up and die. But you always get back up, you will always keep going, because you simply have to seek the unknown end.
I was looking through my Dropbox folders, and came across this video. It’s one of the last rehearsals of the last song I wrote while still in the UK.
I have been so busy in Berlin with singing at events etc, I’ve not done much by way of writing. Though, if all goes according to plan, I will be able to rectify that within the next few months. Anyway, here’s the most up to date version of ‘On My Mind’
I often get asked about my writing process, and how I write a song. What is your process? I’m often asked. As each song is different, I always try to look at it in retrospect and write from there.
This time around, as I’m in essence still writing the song, I will try to give you a more play by play description, if I can.
A few weeks ago at the end of a band rehearsal, the guitarist I’m currently working, started playing the beginnings of what he tells me is an old Brazilian song. The first 4 – 8 bars were some simply chords, played in arpeggio with a flattened fourth or fifth, giving it a very modal sound. I latched onto that with a simple melody and lyrics that came to me on the spot:
This is a new song.
That I’m writing right now
It’s a new melody
And it’s not quite the blues.
I told Joao (guitarist) that I didn’t want to hear the rest of the song, and just to let me use that beginning as a springboard for the rest. Walking down the road that night, I started singing it, adding to it, trying to let the melody flow by itself:
At the next rehearsal, we started working it. We started by listening to the above audio and going from there. In trying to find the rest of the song, I kept the first few lines and made stuff up to work with the chord progression that was being created. I added words as the melody was coming to me. The words were just filler, so that I could nail down the melody. Though, the chorus worked as it was, so I knew that was a keeper. I went away, worked on lyrics some more, to fit the melody. And by the end of our last rehearsal, this is what we had:
From the above you can see what we kept from the little audio snippet and what we threw out. There is still a little way to go, work things in properly. Some words I still wish to change, and I will allow those to come to me as and when. Tis just a little glimpse into what is sometimes my writing process. Sometimes, I bring a completed song to the band to work through. While other times, like with this song (still undecided whether to stick with ‘On My Mind’ or the original title of ‘New Song’) it starts with the tiniest bit (4-8 bars) and the song comes from there.
Then I saw a status update by River Ram Press run by a friend of mine. And it said something along the lines of ‘Just write!”
So, here I am writing. As I begin, I haven’t a clue what I shall actually write, but write I shall nevertheless. Walking home from work and my randomised playlist started playing a song I very much love ‘Details In The Fabric’ and it got me thinking. It’s one of those songs that encourages you by evoking the tears if they need to come out. When you’re feeling a touch melancholy it can sometimes help to listen to an emotive song. It’s one of motivated me to write my song ‘Sunrise’
I’ve a friend who tells me it’s song that helps her feel better when she’s feeling somewhat morose. It always makes me happy to know that I’ve been able to write a song that actually comforts her when she’s feeling bad.
I somewhat amateurishly created a little video for it. I shared it an age ago, but here it is again:
I hope you enjoy it.
As I write this just after 5.30am. I’ve been off work ill over the last few days and the joys of being ill mean I can be at my laptop now trying to write a blog. Of course, the good thing about being ill is the alone time and the time to think that I have. I remember writing a while ago about my my best songs/poetry coming from honesty. Well, I think I shall give that a try now with this blog entry. I generally don’t talk to people much about what’s going on in my mind. I think I shall use this blog for that. So I ask that you indulge me for a while, as I work through one or two things going through my mind.
It’s been over a month since my last written blog. I’ve been trying ever so hard over the least few weeks to write something, and on Facebook I even got friends to give me suggestions as to what I should write about. As I walked home from work about a fortnight ago, I started thinking about it. In trying to understand where I am now, I considered the last number of years and my progress.
As soon as I finished my undergrad degree, I started work as the President of the Students’ Union. The very day after that finished, I traveled to work in Italy for 4 months. On my return, also the very next day, I started studying for my Masters degree. Recently finished that and I haven’t started something else that’s quite as all encompassing as yet. I have a good job, I’m comfortable. And that’s the problem.
I’m itching for another project. Itching isn’t quite the right word. Desperately seeking else I drown in comfortable, might be a better description. One of the reasons I left the 9-5 life many years ago was the feeling that has recently returned to me. The living for the weekend, the ‘loss’ of creativity. The hunger for something beyond the monthly paycheck or the occasional gig with the band.
I like my job. I love meeting new people and doing what I can to help them. I love the people I work with. Everyday I tell them that the only other place I’ve worked at that mixes the same blend of insanity and professionalism is the Kingston University Students’ Union. It’s unlike any other office I’ve worked at prior to coming to Kingston. That’s one of the reasons that I wanted to work at the International Office in the first place. Despite that, it’s not enough. I’m glad I will only be there until the end of July. I don’t regret taking this job. In truth, I’m happy I did. It’s reminded me that the 9-5 life is so not for me. I managed it for almost 10 years before coming to Kingston, only because the jobs were mundane enough, that my mind could be elsewhere all the while. I wrote my book while at work and I dreamed dreams of grandiose achievements while there. 10 -15 years later, and I have managed to scale some of the heights I had my eyes set on.
While I have indeed have set some new dreams/targets for myself, my current life means I have nothing left of myself at the end of the day, to create. The part of me that creates seems to be blunted, and try as I may to ‘sharpen’ it, I come up with naught. Now, as I sit at my laptop, I can feel things percolating again inside this little cranium of mine and I remember that I used to do my best writing at night. When all around is still, the sky is dark and number of those walking the streets counts in the single digits. Once or twice I would take a walk around Surbiton at stupid o’clock and breathe in the air. Walk to the river and watch its calmness and come back home to create. I would know it was time to stop writing when it started to get light out. My aim now, is to find a way that my optimum hours of creativity can be used to create, instead of trying to sleep. And my weekends need to be used on more than just trying to relax and recuperate in time for the week to come. Which means that when this job is done at the end of July I need to grab the bull by its proverbial horns and hold on tight. A new project is beginning to form in my mind. And this is good. I hope this will quell the gnawing feeling of disquiet and dissatisfaction that has been plaguing me these last few months. And that gives me cause to smile at 06.53 on this Wednesday morning.
Syfy am always consists of Smallville, then Buffy. Smallville’s just finished. Buffy next, then sleep. I’ve decided I shall return to the office tomorrow. Things to do etc. So, until next time people, have a great day!
I was taught a number of things when it comes to dreams. Here are but a few of them:-
1. Have dreams bigger than you
2. Write down your dreams.
3. Guard your dreams. Protect them, be very careful with whom you share them as not all you meet will aid you in bringing them to life.
4. Let some people know about these dreams. those that will encourage you and drive you, push you never to let go of them. they will keep you on course.
With that in mind, last week I sat down and decided to finally write down these dreams of mine. Here are a few of them:
- Sell my poetry. (Frames, on mugs, in cards etc)
- Write a few more books.
- Open a music venue, where known artists can come to perform, as well as promoting local talent.
- Continue travelling to perform.
- Nurture local talent, in local schools and other educational establishments and give them to opportunity to perform on stage at the venue. Thus improving on their performance technique and helping to further inspire them to keep with what they’re doing.
- Motivational speaker
- All of the above would be under the umbrella of MusicTJ, which I’ve begun to cultivate in the last year or so. One large organisation which will include a number of different facets/departments. Educational (dance, music, writing etc), Events, Performance, Poetry, Speaking etc.
- And remain open to other opportunities that may come about.
The fortunate or unfortunate thing about having a lot in your ‘box of tricks’ is that it’s hard to pin down a single thing you want to do. I’ve therefore decided not to stick to a single one. The REALLY hard thing now, is deciding what to start with. One thing I know with absolute certainty right now is that I do not wish to remain in the UK. I’ve been here most of my life and it’s time to move elsewhere. What I now need to do, is put together a model that I can pick up and take with me wherever I go.
There are still a number of things I haven’t put on here. I haven’t mentioned anything about my music as yet. And you know I love my music. I’ve a lot in mind for that. My mind has always been exceptionally full of things, and for such a long time I never actually believed I could do any of it. In the last seven years especially, I come across people who seem to believe I could do absolutely anything I ever set my mind to. It’s absolutely amazing how liberating that is!
I could afford it, I would have bought the MusicTJ.com domain name by now, just to make sure it’s mine at least. I still need to get the MusicTJ logo designed. So much to do, so little time.
Do not tread on my dreams. If you do so, I promise you, I will tread on you.
Give me something precious to lean on.
So I don’t fall apart when it’s dark for too long.
Give me something precious to lean on.
So my heart doesn’t seal, close and hide away from the world.
Give me something precious to lean on.
So when the darkness closes in I’m not found wanting.
Give me something precious to lean on.
My island is gone, submerged beneath the sea.
Give me something precious to lean on.
The question is always asked of songwriters, what inspires you to write? In truth, it’s sometimes a hard question to answer as there are so many things that can inspire. But I feel that some songs must be written from truth.
On Wednesday night we played an Acoustic Night at The Grey Horse in Kingston. When I say “we” I mean myself and Rogerio, the guitarist from my band “Number 39” It was great fun as being on stage always is. And it was the first time I played original material at an acoustic night. I was being filmed for a University video, so it made sense to use original material.
Nevertheless, people seemed to enjoy themselves and told me thus. As has been normal, the favourite song of the set was ‘Weathervane’ a song whose melody and lyrics were written by myself. But whose theme was certainly not my own.
Rogerio had asked me to write a song on his behalf, for his wife, to celebrate the birth of his son.
Now, when I write something true, I have to connect to it. I must imbue it with emotional content. This is why I don’t write love songs, it’s not something I’m very familiar with. Melancholic songs are easy. My poetry has always been more poignant when written with a melancholic tone. So writing on a friend’s behalf for his wife was always going to be difficult.
I asked him to tell me exactly how he felt about his wife after so many years together. He protested, as is he doesn’t speak this way. So with some coercion, he gave me his words. They were raw, but I saw his meaning clear. I then simply had to internalise and then find the right words and melody for the song.
I do love the song very much myself. I feel I have never written anything truer. One day I shall write one and the emotions will be my own.
I was recently in the studio to record this song and when it is ready you shall hear it.