My Year in Art, 2016

Each year I try to look back and figure out what I actually got done that year, since my default thinking is, “I didn’t get shit done this year!” which is not always true. Plus it helps to set specific goals for the next year, so I don’t just wallow. Anyway, here’s 2016:

Shit I wanted to get done in 2016 / Shit I actually got done this year:

Revise AVS – Done! This novel is fucking great, but see below.

Write draft of Novel H. – Nope. Again, see below, because this is weird.

Release H&S Salvage album – Done!

Learn set with the band, play 3 shows – Uh, I played 4 shows, but not with the band. See below.

Record, mix, master, and release electronic album – Nope. Recorded all backing tracks but did not complete guitar tracks.

Send ye old new short stories out to 6 places each, unless they get published first – Done! One, “A Better Place” got picked up by Bourbon Penn. The other is still out in the world.

Keep working guitar chops. Specifically, be able to play clean, picked 16th notes at 173 bpm, the speed of my fastest song, so I can lay some tracks down for it. Also improve improvisation in general. – Sort of done? Actually, this goal suffers from a lack of specificity. I can pick some things at that speed, but not others, and even the ones I can pick, unless they are on a single string, this is right at the limit of my ability. Still, that’s good progress…. But see below.

Ear training. – Did this, but this goal also suffers from a lack of specificity.

Drum practice. Specifically, be able to lay down a simple track that doesn’t sound like ass. – Nope. I learned a bunch, and got better, but honestly I don’t practice enough.

 

Surprise shit I got done this year

Wrote a surprise short story.

Began writing Novel R with Evan.

Started voice lessons (wtf? See below).

Started guitar lessons (wtf wtf? See below).

Played a solo show.

The lowdown

This year has been, um, tumultuous. Take the writing stuff, for example. SACRIFICES got published, yay! But pre-orders from bookstores were so poor that the publisher didn’t print physical copies of the book, just made ebooks. So my series wrapped up that way and is basically dead as a fucking hamburger. Boo!

On the other hand, Evan and I finished AVS, and my agent, who was initially hostile to the premise, loved it and agreed to represent us. Yay! Then she retired from agenting before putting it out on submission. Boo! Then we sent it to a million other agents and got no joy. Double boo! Also, now I have no agent for individual projects, let alone solo ones. Triple boo! Actually, just straight up fuck on that one.

As for band stuff, we slowly cobbled together a set or two. Yay! Then the singer quit. Boo! Then we found another singer. Yay! Then the drummer had day job troubles and scheduling became hard (read: impossible) and the singer and Darren couldn’t really see eye-to-eye on the song selection and the whole thing became a huge source of stress… so I put that whole thing on ice. Boo! Then the first singer contacted me to play some shows with her, so I did. Yay! Then she left town. Boo!

Somewhere in there with the singer drama, I started taking voice lessons, reasoning that I like to sing and that I’ve fronted bands and done solo stuff in the past and that that would be a viable option in the future if my voice didn’t suck so bad. That has gone pretty well, actually.

Also, with respect to guitar stuff, I started the year frustrated with my improvisation. I thought the problem was that my picking hand wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the flow of ideas, so I set last year’s goal with that in mind. But that turned out to be like pulling on an endless piece of string – yes, the picking hand needed work, but it wasn’t a simple matter of practicing. I had to reinvent my picking technique entirely. And even with the picking cleaned up, the actual improvisational ideas weren’t coming very quickly or smoothly, and I found myself stuck in lots of ruts. So I went through a couple of not-very-helpful teachers and finally stumbled on a guy named Bruce Arnold, who is amazing. He knows tons of stuff about music and improv and has something like 40 years of teaching and performing experience, and he ties theory, chord work, scales, AND ear training into a coherent program that has been incredibly helpful for me and put a bunch of structure into a lot of disparate shit I was trying to figure out on my own. That has gone amazingly well and has already improved my technique, the range of music I can hear and appreciate, my comfort and ability with various theory bits, and my ear.

 

Goals for 2017

Get AVS out to publishers. If we don’t find a taker, publish it ourselves, because this book is badass and it would be a shame to bury it.

Finish writing Novel R with Evan. This thing is odd, and I basically pillaged Novel H for some of the component pieces, but it is a very cool, very unusual work, and I dig it.

Submit my two short stories to at least six places each, or until they get published, whichever comes first.

Continue guitar lessons.

Learn the 22 scales and modes I’m working on in all 12 keys.

Get through all four levels of Key Note Recognition at 80%.

Complete Harmonic Analysis workbook.

Complete Music Theory Workbook Volume 1.

Get picking up to 200 bpm 16th notes on single strings and adjacent strings. This is stupid fast and will likely not see a lot of utility in day-to-day playing, but ensures that I will not struggle with picking in any normal context. Plus, some of the flamenco shit I like actually requires picking at this speed. Jesus.

Continue voice lessons. This year, I’d like to get to the point where I have control over nasality and my pitch accuracy doesn’t make me cringe.

Get that damned electronic album finished.

Write the ISW album with Darren. Probably not reasonable to get this recorded, but let’s get it written anyway.

Play at least three shows.

Bonus: Build looping hardware using Bela/Beaglebone. Write software in C++. This is a stupid project and I shouldn’t be doing it, but that’s what happens when I get frustrated with the available tools. I should know by now that “build my own!” is a long, involved, painful process… But this has been interesting and fun to start, so we’ll see if I can follow through.

Bonus Bonus: Record Salvage Operations album. Now I’m just being ridiculous, but I would like to do this at some point…


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