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January, 2013

"New Year's Resolutions"

by Webmaster

There are people who don't believe in new year's resolutions. Some say the best new year's resolution is to remember to write "2013" instead of "2012." I used to resolve to not steal cheap pens.

I think the most common resolutions are to lose weight / get in shape. Most memberships in gyms and health clubs are purchased in January. As I told a friend of mine, "It isn't enough to join. You actually have to GO there AND work out."

Last year I resolved to learn more about songwriting. I bought 3 books that were highly-recommended. I read one. This year I resolve to read at least one more.

Recently, I bought a beginning drumming kit on sale. It includes book, DVD, drum sticks and drum pad. I resolve to work my way throught that and get new rhythms I can play on the guitar.

For musicians, or aspiring musicians, a common resolutions is to practice more. That sounds great, in theory. But I think it's not specific enough. It's hard to figure out how much is "more" and how to measure when it's enough.

Instead of resolving to "practice more," try resolving to learn a specific song that's been giving you trouble, or add 10 new-to-you songs to your repetoire, or set aside 30 minutes 3 times a week to practice, or come up with a set list and work on those specific songs till you can play them flawlessly. Once you've done that much, then keep it going. Tackle another tough song, learn 10 more songs, make up another set list, keep up the 30 minutes 3 times a week.

I resolve to practice 30 minutes 3 times / week on 20-minute set lists (for open mics). I'm also going to practice my origninal songs so I can do them flawlessly when I get back into the studio. I'm going to practice with a drum track so I get my rhythm steady.

I'm writing a book and writing songs and poems for my next CD. Last year I resolved to get both of them finished by the of this year. That didn't happen. And, I'm okay with that. I'll tell you why.

My mentor on the book met with me last spring and gave me a whole new direction to go with the book. It meant a lot more research and a lot more writing. Since the book is about my family, I dug into the piles of boxes of papers and photos that are piled up in my office. I went off on a tangent, scanning documents and identifying photos. I got in touch with a cousin I'd never met and we started swapping photos our our mutual great-grandparents. More cousins were contacted, I built a family web site, and we've been sharing photos and stories. It certainly wasn't what I resolved to do last year. I cleaned a lot of boxes out of my office and reconnected with cousins I haven't seen since I was little. I'm amazed at how much we have in common. I may even plan a trip east in the Spring to see them. My life is much richer because of my connections with my cousins, and I've learned a lot about my family, which will help me write the book.

I attended a lot of songwriting workshops and song-critique sessions last year. I got help from a wonderful cowboy poet on how to write better cowboy poetry. I'm glad I didn't record my CD last year. I have more and better material for it now. I've been working on my guitar playing and on my singing. When I get this CD done, it will be better than it would have been if I'd rushed through it.

Any time-management course will tell you to work on the big things, the important things first, then use the remaining time for what's left. Any book on how to accomplish your goals will tell you to work toward your goals, to the exclusion of as much that isn't goal-oriented as possible.

If I had done that, I would have written the book about my family, but it would have the depth that I can give it now. I would have recorded a CD that wasn't as good as it will be.

And I would have missed out on getting acquainted and reacquainted with my cousins. I might have accomplished my goals, but I would have missed so much along the way.

I spent much of my life designing and writing computer software in a cubicle. I needed to be linear and goal-oriented. I needed to meet deadlines.

Life isn't always linear. Life is full of tangents, of paths that haven't been explored yet, of gold nuggets that have been overlooked by people too busy to take the time to look closely, of fragile connections that need time to develop. And sometimes deadlines are just dates on a calendar. Sometimes deadlines are what you need to get started, but then they turn out to be arbitrary.

Last month, I wrote about public speaking as a part of being a musician, to enhance the entertainment value of the show. I mentioned that it could lead to a whole new career. If you're a musician, public speaking could seem like a tangent. But it could enhance your shows, and add to your income. There's no reason why you can't do both.

So, make your new year's resolutions. Do your best to stick to them. Remember, they are more than just a to-do list for the first week in January.

And, leave yourself open to the wonder and joy of what other opportunities might come your way.

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