2017 has been a very creative year for me, I have made some great music – but surprisingly, my creative muscles have also been busy grinding away at odd topics like motorcycle repairs and other workaday concepts than I would not have anticipated being important to me. Strange, I know, but it has all been for purpose and things are tracking well. But what have motorbike repairs got to do with anything? Allow me to explain…
Business is Creative
OK so … late last year I was having a lot of fun: I was fresh back from China, making music and pumping out blog posts here about how to unleash the creative beast within like there was no tomorrow – but there was an elephant in the room: I was going backwards financially. This would be bad enough if I was a single man but being the father of two awesome school-aged kids, it just wasn’t ok.
I mean, I wasn’t broke – yet – but I had been neglecting my bread and butter gig (digital marketing) chasing good times and the trajectory was clear: I was headed for Brokesville unless something happened quick!
Thankfully it did – and for the better. It started when I read a quote by Joanna Penn (from The Creative Penn podcast) that “business is creative”. This just resonated with me for some reason, I guess because I have long had a duel interest in these two subjects (creativity and business) but have often found myself believing that unfortunately, business is more about grinding it out like a robot to get that sweet cash than about being creative. I no longer think this is correct.
It got me thinking and I remembered a conversation I had been having with a colleague in the digital marketing space. You see, for a long time, I had found it very difficult to make good money being a digital marketing freelancer, but a very amiable fellow called David was explaining to me mid-late 2016 his business model for making better money out of ‘the game’. And it had really interested me at the time, but then I got distracted going to China and everything and it fell by the wayside.
So I gave David a call and he very generously explained his model to me and it was a revelation that really got my creative juices firing – AND promised to rectify the less-than-desirable trajectory I was on.
Long story short I got busy reimagining my own business, riffing and jamming off of the ideas David had presented me with. I rebranded the business and went out there and started hustling. And it worked! OK I am not a millionaire yet but it has been a good year and things are on the up and I have found the business very creative and rewarding to run – even if I have had to spend a lot of time thinking about things that I would not normally give a stuff about, like “motorbike repairs Melbourne” and other random topics like that (in order to help my digital marketing clients).
Meantime, have I been making music? Yes. Yes I have.
Execution is everything
OK the music … the music … you see, the OTHER reason I flipped from last year’s focus on talking “about” creativity was because the more I looked at it the more I realised that the most important thing is the execution of creative work. Execution is everything. Actually doing the work is more powerful (and sometimes a lot less pleasant) than talking and writing and thinking about doing the work. So I decided I would not do any more blog posts until I had something to show, that I would stop waffling and execute.
And execute I did – I got the songs done for the chinese TV show (still waiting to see that come out of production yet, time will tell what the result is) and I have a new song which I’m stoked to present today.
Now, I say “got the songs done” like this was nothing but the truth is it was a big deal. It took a lot of time, frustration, hustle and a steep learning curve because I did not know how to record music myself nor did I have anything resembling a home studio.
My old laptop was not up to the task and I needed simple software to help me to the music rolling without having to spend massive amounts of time learning the hardest, most complicated software skills going.
So I hustled the money to buy a relatively inexpensive mac laptop (not a new one) and I set about learning the very basic (but surprisingly excellent Garageband application). Now the problem was still that I did not have the studio engineering know-how nor the production (mixdown) skills. So I had to badger my friends into helping me, while not really having much to offer them for their trouble other than production credits and a few beers.
Great Artists Ship
But … we got the songs done – and dealt with the sometimes challenging aspect of doing creative music work and sending it off to the animation company only to have them come back with a bunch of reasonable (yet sometimes hard to comprehend) requests. In the end it took months – MONTHS – to get those two songs finished. But finished they eventually were. I personally was not 100% happy with them, but the client was and eventually you have to draw a line under your work once you reach the point of diminishing returns and ship the damn thing.
The cool thing was that along the way I started to get ideas for new songs (in fact I wrote many on my guitar as release from the frustration of tweaking the same two songs endlessly) and of course I learned some production skills and so, Chinese songs in the can, I began a new recording. This time I was able to complete the recording much more quickly. I still strong-armed a mate (thanks Tony) into helping me with the mixdown because I’m not really an audiophile as such. For me it is more about the song structure – the melody, the lyrics, the dynamic of the song journey, the mood and aesthetic – than about whether the mids are too muddy or the lows to brown or whatever. However, I do know that these skills are important to the end result, so I did get some help and then get the song mastered.
I am very happy with the result and now am happy to release it to you to listen to (see above).
THAT is why no blog posting for so long – because I did not want to come back to this blog about creative output without any new creative output to show. And it took WAY longer and was WAY harder than I anticipated. I am pretty sure that with the responsibilities of my adult life as a father with all that entails, I would not have finished any actual art if I had been using up what creative time I had available writing more guff about “how to be a more productive creative”. So maybe the lesson is – stop thinking, talking and writing so much about being creative and JUST DO IT.
Anyway … enjoy the song. I hope it helps you in some way somehow…