Barry Power

Offical Site of Melodic Indie songwriter Barry Power.

Filtering by Tag: #résolutions

033. Killing it.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren’t enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.
— Viggo Mortensen

There is a certain way of thinking in the modern zeitgeist that is about being so busy and so productive so as to be almost superhuman. In fact super humans are so pervasive in our culture now that our role models can literally do impossible things. Even the word super has infiltrated our language way more than it should. I’m superbusy at the moment or this coffee is superstrong. We now have a world of go hard or go home and all the new buzzy adjectives that go along with it killing it, crushing it, owning it.

There is an ever increasing pressure to be busier and more productive. Always on top of your game grinding in those extra hours that all your rivals are not doing.  A fight like mentality, where success is some sort of aggressor to be overthrown and the only way to do it is to lay everything you have on the line constantly regardless of how this effects you and your life. Living in a perpetual state of stress. Caffeinated and adrenaline wild, making sure all these slightly out of reach deadlines are being constantly met and you are killing it everyday. I don’t think it really matters what kind of job you do either because the pressure to be always on it is a myth perpetuated by the modern age that no-one is immune to. 

I have found that conversely to this, in trying to become more creative in my life I need to be in the total opposite state of mind. I need to have the space, the quiet and the calm to let my mind wander and dream up ideas. I don’t mean in a vacant daydream kind of way. I mean in a flowing stream of consciousness kind of way. Like when you go for a walk and the solution to a problem pops into your head out of the blue. The more I hold on to deadlines and self imposed pressure to get things done the tighter Im gripping my creative flow and consequentially the less productive I am. 

Don’t get me wrong hard work needs to happen but this all pervasive attitude to be turned on all the time just seams so unbalanced and unhealthy to me. If I try to follow the chain logically then the burnout would negate any good work that I think I would be getting done. 

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032. Raw Footage

When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.
— Stephen King

Sometimes the best solution to a problem is by simply changing the angle at which you view it from.  As if someone turns on a light in a part of an overfamiliar room to illuminate your missing shoe. You knew it was there all along but couldn’t quite remember where exactly until that flick of a switch. 

Over the past few months I have been working through a book called The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. For anyone who is interested in getting a bit more creative in your life in general, I would highly recommend it. There are countless lessons to be taken from the first reading. Although, I suspect I will be revisiting this book again many times in the future. One of the most valuable I have found is the idea of creating from a place of abundance as opposed to scarcity.

I’m going to use songwriting as my example but I feel it could be applied to whatever your chosen field is.

From when I first started writing I only really saw one way to go. If I had a verse I would write the six or eight lines that I needed and then move on and write the four lines for the chorus then move on. I only ever wrote what I thought was necessary. This made the writing far more challenging than it needed to be because I was always only trying to find my best four lines. 

It never even occurred to me to write any more than what I felt I needed. Before I even put pen to paper the line had to be great, otherwise I would discard it and move on. It was this throwing away that was really my biggest mistake. It left me with almost nothing to draw from, not only this but I was totally dismissive of 99% of all my work. If it wasn’t a killer line; Bang, gone, never to be heard from again. 

The angle from which I viewed my problem changed completely by doing the very first exercise from The Artists Way. It’s called morning pages and its premise is quite simple; three pages of stream of conscious writing every day where the only goal is to write. It doesn’t matter about what, just whatever comes into your head even if that is the repeated line, “I can’t think of anything to write” or “all work and no play makes Jack a something something”. 

At first its seems so pointless, pages and pages of disparate ideas and random thoughts, but, over time it becomes something else. It’s like opening up a dialogue with yourself where you start to tune into subtle ideas and thoughts, that, had they not been written down, would be gone forever. 

I have found that part of the function of these pages is to help unblock any creative obstacles and it does that in sometimes uncomfortable ways. It was only after a few months that I found I had pages and pages of writing, way more than the brief sketches and outlines of songs I used to put into my notebooks. 

This may seem really obvious but It took me a long time to get into my head that writing and editing should not be done simultaneously, they need to be separated. The time to judge your work is not as you do it, but after the fact, when it’s done when it’s written down when it already exists. The way I work now is by fishing through all of the collective work, all those scraps, half thoughts and throwaway ideas until I can find my best four lines from that. I mean you cant have hindsight for something you never wrote down or you can’t remember.

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031. Going Deep

The conscious mind may be compared to a fountain playing in the sun and falling back into the great subterranean pool of subconscious from which it rises. 
— Sigmund Freud

So its been a while, my last blog was August 15th. What have I been up to for the past two months? Well, I made a semi-deliberate decision to unplug for a while, also I just got out of the habit a bit. It stemmed from the influence of two books in particular. The first of which is The Artists way by Julia Cameron Im currently going into week eight, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you have an artist living inside you, this book will help you express it. Its not really a spoiler to say that the main method used in the book is to keep a morning journal, three pages of stream of consciousness writing. Through this process you gradually uncover obstacles and self-resistance to your artistic self. This process has been a real game changer for me in terms of my mindset towards writing and creating in general.

Another recommended method in the book is to take a week off from all reading material, so considering the book was written in 1992 I took this to mean in the modern age taking break from all media, social or otherwise a kind of low media diet. This one took me a few weeks to warm to, and to be honest, is still very much a work in progress. 

My second book recommendation is Deep Work by Cal Newport, another amazing book. This book argues that we are in an age where the majority of the work that we do is shallow and arguably unproductive. The reason for this are all the distractions which are not only prevalent but often encouraged. Faster email response, good social media presence etc. The problem with this is that it keeps us on the periphery, in the shallow waters.

Think of all your very favourite works of art, I mean the really influential ones, the stone cold classics. A common thread for all of these was a clear focused concerted effort to apply laser focus to the task at hand. Now try to imagine creating one of these yourself with your phone in one hand and the desktop open with all notifications turned on. How deep do you think you could go?

Ok going a little bit outside here now, but bare with me, I have a point…….I think. There are two sides to our minds the conscious and the subconscious. The conscious mind is awesome at problem solving and completing tasks, the emails, the spreadsheets the minutes for a meeting etc; The so called shallow work. The subconscious mind is where the deeper existential, artsy, bigger picture problem type thoughts live. So lets get binary and look at these two states of mind as tools i.e. one of these tools will be better at a specific task then the other. Then it would make sense to deploy what ever tool would suit best for whatever task you are currently doing, right? Well it makes sense to me anyway but I know for a fact that I am hugely imbalanced with my states of mind. 

My artistic self loves to live in subconscious mindland you know, like when you’re out for a walk and an idea or solution pops into your head, out of nowhere, without you actively thinking about it. Well it wasn’t out of nowhere, it was out of your subconscious mind. The subconscious mind loves to be free to roam, untethered to the shallow work it just does its own thing and gives us whatever we are prepared to listen too. The problem is with so many distractions I don’t prioritise giving the subconscious enough space to breathe and tend to the jobs it is best suited for, namely creating things and generating ideas.

I like to assign all my tasks to my conscious mind, to think out everything in a linear fashion. I have realised over the last few months that this approach is fine for the business, marketing organising things side but it’s kind of a disaster to my artistic side. So how do I bypass my conscious mind and access this all-knowing subconscious creative behemoth living within…..erm I don’t really know Im still figure that one out. 

But here are some of the methods I am currently trying. Turning off my phone more, not just the do not disturb button; Walking more; Meditation; Less TV; more boredom, basically denying all the cool distracting stuff. Deep work sessions, ninety minute blocks of total immersion. No email open, no phone on, just the exact specific task Im working on Songwriting, writing, whatever. Its harder than it sounds, give it a go. We are so hardwired now to be constantly engaged with our conscious mind, checking things and channel surfing, like digital magpies finding shiny stuff. Give the other half some room see what happens.

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030. The inner game of isolation or the importance of others.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.
— John Donne

I spoke with a good friend on the phone this week.  He is one of those people that really props you up, gives great advice and is incredibly enthusiastic about what you're doing. We talked about organising gigs and getting out there to play music for people. I found myself agreeing with but also strangely resistant to the idea. Every suggestion he made I had a slight counter for “I’m not quite ready yet,” “the albums not done,” “I need to round up musicians”. Now Playing gigs is not a foreign concept to me in fact to the contrary I have probably played in the thousands at this stage. But these are mostly cover gigs with songs pretty much guaranteed to connect with people straight away, not original music where you are trying to put across your own thoughts and feelings.

So why was I reacting like this?  I thought about it for a while and I came up with two main reasons. The first one was easy to figure out, fear, for all the neurotic musciany reasons which, if you have read a few of these blogs, you will be aware of.

But the second reason ran a little deeper than just, sing your songs and get over it. It was isolation. I am about to sound very narcissistic for the next few lines but hey it is my blog and I can say what I like (see what I did there?). Over the last year or so I have been mainly focused on establishing all my online infrastructure, photos, website, youtube this blog, social media. All with the express purpose of launching my first album and with it hopefully a sustainable music career.  When I was making all these things I had full autonomy, full control I could make it any way I liked and happily tell everyone what I was doing. In a way, I had created a little isolationist bubble that I could hang out in and was easy and safe, the online version of me which is easier to manipulate and to show.

But talking on the phone about organising the gigs and the upcoming actual release of the album hit me with a reality check that I was going to have to put my head above the parapet, to pop the bubble.  

To use a modern metaphor I spent a long time creating the perfect selfie and now I have to let everyone see my bed head. So in a lesson to myself, I will try not to disappear up my own isolationist bubble and try to remember there will always be two worlds we live in, Selfieland and Bedheadland. 

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029. The revolution will be live streamed

Like art, revolutions come from combining what exists into what has never existed before.
— Gloria Steinem

This is for musicians, how much of the following do you believe is true for you?

There is no way to make a living from making your own music. You have to be really lucky to get a break. You have to gig every tiny non-paying pay to play venue at the bottom of every bill to pay your dues. To release music you send it to your online distribution company who delivers it to iTunes and Spotify, you send a couple of tweets, post it on Facebook and all your hard work and effort in making your art gets boiled down to sheer luck. 

Imagine you wanted to open a coffee shop. Coffee was your life you loved it and you knew that your coffee would make people so happy. Now imagine that you decided you would set up your shop next door to ten other coffee shops. Now imagine that you only opened three days a week but you didn’t tell anybody which three days it would be. Next, imagine that you hired someone to sell your coffee for you and instead of charging your regular price they charged people a tiny fee and gave you back .0000009 of a cent on each cup. Now picture yourself going to the bank and trying to negotiate a loan for your coffee business. If you were the bank manager how do you think it would look.

Now I can only speak for myself here but I have a strong belief I am not alone. This was exactly how I thought about being an independent musician. The music will win if its good enough it will connect. If I am lucky a song will explode and go viral, whatever that even means, exposure? opportunities? money? fame? 

If you are reading this thinking, you didn’t really think like that did you? let me add this caveat, the way the music industry evolved was unlike any other sane business model, it is too long to get into it here but suffice to say that thinking your career could suddenly break overnight and propel you to fame and fortune wasn’t outside the realms of possibility.

What polarised my view from fantasist to pragmatist was how the next generation of independent musicians were leveraging that great leveller, the internet. In particular, a company called Indepreneur their overarching philosophy is simple, autonomy in your career. Running it with the same efficacy as a small to medium-sized business. Still making the best coffee, but instead of letting it go cold on the table, finding the perfect people who will enjoy it most and pay you the right price for it. Not because you want to be the next Starbucks but because there is a real and tangible sea change for indies.

Now imagine a world where more and more musicians take control of their own destinies. A new generation making art not to let it slip into the ether but delivered thoughtfully and deliberately into the hands, ears and minds of the people who will appreciate it most of all.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me. There will be access to bonus content and a free song! 

 

026. You give what you get.

Creativity requires input, and that’s what research is. You’re gathering material with which to build.
— Gene Luen Yang

I am a diarist, a very inconsistent one, but for some reason over the years, I have kept diaries of some kind. Occasionally, I end up going back through them and I start to notice the repetitive trains of thoughts and ideas. I tend to move in cycles where I swing from being totally committed and productive to the exact opposite where I let things slide for a few weeks and convince myself I’ll never get back to being productive again. For me, it's a little bit like being on a diet where I eat healthily for a few weeks, then one weekend gorge on delicious things and when Sunday rolls around decide, “well there goes the diet so I may as well not even try anymore.” and so the cycle continues. 

When I am on the bad side of the sliding scale, I’ll often turn to things that influence me more and more. I’ll stay up late watching movies or youtube videos about music theory or listen to podcasts about composing or songwriting in general. Anything to regain that spark that motivates me into action. But what if the inaction is as important as the action? What if there needs to be time and space to absorb and let the life experience strain through the mind sieve? 

The way I see it, being a creative person is like being a chef trying to make a new dish, every now and then you need to hit up the market and see what new ingredients are available. But when you have nailed down what you want to use, you still have to make it into something that is worth eating and that takes time. Unfortunately, it has its own deadlines. I can’t really decide when its a time for input or a time for output. I just try to be more aware of which time I'm in and work with that, diaries definitely help.

It is so easy to see these fallow times as being frustrating and ineffective when in reality they are a hugely necessary step in the process, well in my process anyway. 

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me. There will be access to bonus content and a free song! 

025. Subjective matter

An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight... the truly wise person is colorblind.
— Albert Schweitzer

How do you see the world? I have often been asked this question and not for the reasons you may think, I get asked this because I have colourblindness, nothing severe or life-threatening or anything like that, it just means I'll probably never fly a plane but thanks for the concern. I have a hard time defining colours like brown and purple. I find people are so fascinated by what I see or in this case what I don’t see. I don’t really have an answer, I tell them I see the way I see. It is purely subjective to being me, just like the way you may see yellow or green is purely subjective to you.

Whatever way my genes and biology decided to organise themselves is my reality. It is how I view the world. This translates fluently into being an artist. Your view of things and how you see the world as an artist is totally unique to you. Try as you might to explain it to someone you always fall short. Just as my blue is my blue your blue is your blue. 

The only way to even come close to explaining is to show it through your work, your painting photography or in my case music (insert “but where is your music? joke here”) In a way I often see being creative as a personal attempt to try to explain that colour you can’t quite see.

The artistic process is like holding a personal mirror to the world you see. What makes it amazing is that everyone has a totally unique view of it. your art is unmakeable by anyone else. Therefore if you don’t make it, it will not exist. Think about it, there could be a whole shade of colour never quite seen by anyone except by you. If ever there was a motivation to go do something that’s it.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me. There will be access to bonus content and a free song! 

024. The Why

The hardest thing is to listen to your instincts, your human personal intuition it always whispers; it never shouts
— Steven Spielberg

I sat at the piano today and I started putting together a chord progression. There was an idea I found online about changing chords in a minor key. So I put the metronome on and started cycling through the chords and singing some gibberish words over it trying to shape a melody on top. This is very typical of how I like to write. I was just about to record a little section into my phone when I realised something which may seem very obvious to other songwriters. I have even heard and given this advice before but for some reason it had never really stuck with me. I had no real Why for what I was writing other than just a technical exercise about chords. 

It is never about the how, it is always and always has to be about the Why. Anyone can put together some chords in a row, but what was I trying to say with those chords, why did I want to use them in this way. I couldn’t come up with an answer. 

The Why, in my opinion, is the most powerful element of art. There has to be the reason to see it through. Be it the unrelenting emotion bursting through or the story that you simply have to tell. What is the reason behind what you are doing and what you are creating?

For me finding the Why is the most elusive part of creating anything. Whats more it is usually the very last thing I try to do, or I mostly try to avoid it altogether.  You know sometimes when you have a really important job to do, so you make a list, and put it at the very bottom do any other job to avoid doing that one. Like, “I’ll just clean the house then I’ll do it” or “I’ll do it after I make this cup of coffee”, I’ll do it later and later and later. 

The how is easy, think about it as a filming analogy all of us have a camera in our pocket that is capable of shooting a cinema quality film. Why then are we not all filmmakers? The reason is our Why. Most of us, I would argue, would have a similar outlook to myself when I say, “but there is nothing to shoot” or “I can’t do that”. But equally look at youtube, there are millions of filmmakers and vloggers making the everyday extraordinary. They are the people that look for the story in their day, what life is trying to tell them moment to moment and shoot that.

I so often preoccupy myself with the how, because I know the how, chord structures, harmony rhythm. The Why is not so easily found and that is probably why I avoid it so consistently but that is exactly why it is so important. It gives the creedence to what you are making. It is the real truth of what you do. It the small voice of inspiration that you need to be always aware of.

Please leave a comment and let me know your WHY! and If you like this post please consider joining my mailing list here, where I'll keep you up to date with whats going on with me. There will be access to bonus content and a free song! 

 

008. Children of the resolution

The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.
— Steven Pressfield

Happy new year! I Don't know how you feel about coming into a new year, but I have always found that there is a great feeling of possibility. The air is fat with promise, like the reset button has been pushed and It goes back to zero again.

And normally, I would start making plans, resolving to do things until my list gets longer and longer, but oftentimes, the longer it gets the less likely it is to happen. I swamp myself in thinking, but thinking is not doing; it is thinking about doing. There is a certain satisfaction in making a plan, it's like having a safety net. When I write something down, it is like I have already done it. But it is an illusion of control; having a plan doesn't really mean anything, it's just a list of things that are written down. In the same way, resolutions are just a list of things written down, they are not real.

Don't get me wrong; I am not against resolutions and plans in general, this is just what I have found to be true for myself. There are plenty of people out there who are amazing at resolutions, seeing them through and holding themselves accountable; it's just I am not one of them. You know the type of shoot first, ask questions later people? That is not me. I tend to ask questions first and people would have died of boredom long before I pulled the trigger.

So this year I am making one resolution and that is to DO MORE. I find that my biggest problem is that I think too much, I analyse things, I make too many lists and I have too many plans. In a way, by even making a resolution I feel like I have already set myself back. I think of all the things that I would like to achieve this year and instead of actually going out and doing them, I make a plan instead.

To get a little deeper for a minute I think there is also a philosophical parallel, if you examine life too much you are not experiencing, you are thinking about experiencing.

So this year I am going to DO MORE, If I am thinking, I am not living. If I am planning, I am not experiencing. If I am not experiencing, I am only imagining and I do not want this year to be a year of imagination; It will be a year of experience. 

So stop thinking, stop planning, stop watching, DO MORE.