Abysmal Rejoicing

I’m not going to be so bold as to say Valentine’s is one of the most musically productive times of the year. In addition to lovesick lovers, there’s also FAWM. You can’t always wait for inspiration to strike, but there’s something about the strong emotions caused by love that just… triggers something.

Use that inspiration when it occurs. But don’t limit yourself to spontaneous inspiration. Here’s three ways you can use your emotions to make music.

Channel Your Emotions

When something emotionally intense hits you, the only thing to do is to release it. Yes, you can bottle it and stuff it and all that other socially-acceptable nonsense, but I’m pretty sure you understand that emotions need to be shown. Even if it’s in the safety of your room with a guitar or piano, let it out.

You have artistic inclinations for a reason. Let ’em loose. Don’t hold back. Do something ridiculous to express the depths of your heart.

It’s good for you. It’s also good for your productivity and creativity.

Create Your Emotions

Your emotions are triggered by external events, but you can also manipulate your feelings. Contrary to popular advice to follow your heart, you should actually be leading your heart, because you get to choose your actions, thoughts, and yes, feelings.

Emotional manipulation usually boils down to abuse. Don’t do that to yourself – when you read “create your emotions,” you should get the sense of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes for creative purposes. Again, you control your actions and thoughts, which determines your emotional state.

Creating music can’t just happen when you’re inspired. Otherwise you’ll never hone your skills to the point where you want them, and you’ll never make enough bad music to recognize it for what it is.

So if you’re not inspired, make up some intense emotion. Create your own emotionally intense release.

Speak on Behalf of the Voiceless

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that if you’re reading this, you’re quite privileged. You have access to a computer. Probably also to clean water, 3 meals a day, and a bed at night.

You lucky bastard.

Whereas creating your own emotions asks you to put yourself in hypothetical and imaginary circumstances to generate the emotional inspiration to creation, this is asking you to look at the injustices around you and use music to speak to the gap. Your one voice as a lucky bastard is much more likely to be heard than the hundreds of thousands of voices of the less fortunate. 

This is a challenge to invest in something wrong with our world. Let dying children break your heart. Let the gunshots of blind faith boil your blood. Let the survival of one more person fill your soul with boundless joy.

Get up and speak so that someone may be heard. You are more than just an individual. You belong to the family of the human race.

Is there something I missed that is guaranteed to inspire you to write? Sound out in the comments! If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. You can always send thoughts, suggestions, and questions to justanotherhalfling@gmail.com as well 🙂 Thanks for reading!


91 Things to Boost Your Creativity (aka 91 ridiculous ways to kill time)

Sometimes your creativity kicker just stops kicking. When your mind is empty and you’re pounding your head against a wall of uninspired bulldust, it might be time to take a break and give yourself permission to do something else. While you might have a couple ideas of something else that you know you want to do, here’s 91 other things you can do to stop choking your creative mind:

  1. Build something awesome
  2. Turn off your phone and go for a long, long walk
  3. See how many dogs in your neighborhood you can get barking at once
  4. Go for a color walk and try to find an object in every color inside or outside of your home
    Bonus points: Make sure your colored objects are something naturally occurring, like a plant or animal
  5. Challenge a random pedestrian to a dance-off
  6. Challenge a driver at a stop light to a dance-off
  7. Learn a new instrument like the drums, guitar, or piano (no affiliate)
  8. Teach yourself a new skill
  9. Teach someone else a new skill
  10. Prepare a GTFO bag
  11. Work on your everyday carry EDC kit
  12. Learn how to and practice walking like a ninja
  13. Show up at your friend’s house without telling anyone
    Bonus points: Make it a friend that lives at least 3 hours away from you
  14. Track down a friend you haven’t had contact with in years
  15. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in the past 12 months
  16. Call your Mother / Father / Sister / Brother
  17. Call your Grandma / Grandpa
    Bonus points: show up at your grandparents’ house without telling them
  18. Ask your family for their favorite stories about other family members
  19. Ask your parents for hilarious stories about yourself/your siblings as toddlers/children
  20. Start a rhyming text battle with someone
  21. Start a rhyming battle with a random stranger
  22. Give someone $20-$50 without them noticing (don’t forget to use your ninja skills)
  23. Ask homeless people to tell you their best stories
  24. Go through your closet and donate crap you don’t need
  25. Go through your house and donate crap you never use
    Bonus points: Try to sell some of these things to neighbors and/or strangers
  26. Play bigger and better
  27. Set up a Fiverr or Etsy account
  28. Create a 5-20 page children’s storybook, including illustrations
  29. Go to the library and try to find the most ridiculous book cover ever
  30. Go to the bookstore and try to find the most and least expensive book in the store
    Bonus points: Try to haggle with a manager to increase the price of the least expensive book, and / or lower the price of the most expensive book
  31. Read up on the latest psychological discoveries
  32. Sell your body to science
  33. Take a nap and DO NOT SET A TIMER
  34. Write a motivational speech for someone you know is having a hard time
  35. Research the details of a religion you’re not familiar with
  36. Rewrite 7 alternate endings for your favorite book series / TV show / movie / video game
    Bonus points: Tell someone who hasn’t gotten to the end of the story your alternate ending. When they see / read the real ending, you will get to laugh and laugh and laugh…
  37. Go to your local university’s free speech zone and ask students to tell you the most interesting thing they learned that day
  38. Make a plan to build a new habit
  39. Replay a game from your childhood
  40. Start a blog or Youtube channel
  41. Make a stop motion animated video
  42. Write a 3-5 page script and send it in to your local News Station
    Bonus points: Challenge them to actually use the script in their newscast
  43. Offer to babysit for a friend so they can have an epic date night
  44. Plan and run an epic date night for your friends who don’t have kids
    Bonus points: Set up the date between two of your friends who aren’t dating
  45. Go door-to-door and collect donations for a charity
  46. Call your mayor and ask him about the city’s plans for prosperity in the event of a nuclear fallout
  47. Download a free-to-play Steam game and play uninterrupted for at least 30 minutes
  48. Talk like a pirate for the rest of the day…
  49. … after making a customized paper pirate hat
  50. Learn a new language
  51. Make a friend from a foreign country
  52. Research and listen to music from a foreign country
    Bonus points: Ask your new foreign friend for their favorite band
  53. Listen to music from a genre that you can’t stand for at least an hour
  54. Try to write a song in a genre you can’t stand
  55. Learn some really long words
  56. Ask a guy to teach you some manly skill (like changing your oil)
  57. Ask a girl to teach you some womanly skill (like folding bedsheets)
  58. Play your instrument upside down
  59. Invent a new board game
  60. Invent a new card game
  61. Invent a cardboard game
  62. Build a snowman
    Bonus points: Build a snowman without any snow
  63. Read a comic book
  64. Write / draw a short comic
  65. Write / draw a satire
  66. Do a drawing tutorial
  67. Watch a kid’s movie and consider its political meaning
  68. Daydream about the perfect kids movie
  69. Daydream about the perfect video game
  70. Investigate career paths that you could take with your hobbies
  71. Plan a global adventure
  72. Take the lyrics of 2-12 songs and mash 3-7 word phrases into one song
    Bonus points: Mash genres together (aka metal mashed with dubstep, pop, and country)
  73. Take the characters of one story and imagine what would happen if you plopped them into another story
  74. Imagine how your favorite story would have been different if the villain was the hero and vice versa
  75. Learn a martial art
  76. Research a single year in history
  77. Browse random articles on Wikipedia
  78. Create alter egos for yourself and your family / friends
  79. Read a self-help book for something you don’t need help with
  80. Make a thank you / birthday card from scratch
  81. Create a scavenger hunt for someone
  82. Make a plushie for yourself, and a matching one for a friend
    Bonus points: Personalize the plushies so they reflect your personalities
  83. Genre-mash movies (Western + Superhero + Mecha)
  84. Watch an anime
  85. Write uninterrupted in a journal
  86. Make paper airplanes and see how far you can get one to fly
  87. Make the most delicious paleo (insert any other diet) meal you can with items already in your fridge / kitchen
  88. Sign up for a free trial of a game (Runescape, World of Warcraft; something of the like)
  89. Go to the park and see if you can Disney Princess a squirrel into your hand
  90. Play on a kid’s playground (when kids aren’t on it, of course)
  91. Come up with a list of 91 things to do with your best friend / significant other / brother / whoever

That’s it. 91 ways to beat your creative block and come up with awesome ideas. Have any more suggestions? Let ’em rip in the comments!

It’s What You Do That Matters

Dreams are great. Without desire, you’d never go anywhere, do anything, or strive to become something more than yourself.

But here’s the thing – and I don’t want to harp this point too much – without work, dreams are nothing. They’re just wishes that your heart makes. And if you’ve had any experience wishing on stars, you know that you won’t get your wish unless someone puts in the hours.

By all means, dream on, dreamer. Just remember that it doesn’t matter how big, all-encompassing or thorough your dream is if you don’t do anything about it. Because in the end, it’s what you do that matters.

What Have You Done This Year?

So you probably had some interesting, humongous, awesome dreams a month ago. What have you done about them? How much closer are you today than you were yesterday?

It doesn’t matter how small that difference is. If you took a single, tiny tiptoe closer to your dreams, you’re doing it right. Tiptoe a little closer today. And a little closer tomorrow.

It also doesn’t matter if you haven’t taken a single step closer to your dreams. Today can be the day that you finally start walking.

Do Something That Matters

… to you. I don’t care how busy your day is, or how small that “something” is. We all have to start somewhere – just do something.

You’ve only got one life to live. Please, don’t squander it doing something useless and ultimately meaningless. Create 8 bars of new music. Listen to a new band. Listen to your favorite song on repeat – it doesn’t matter what you want to do, only that it matters.

It doesn’t matter how you feel. It’s what you do that matters. Today’s your day. It’s on.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. You can always send thoughts, suggestions, and questions to justanotherhalfling@gmail.com as well 🙂 Thanks for reading!

Permission to Dream Big: Granted

Maybe it’s just me, but the culture of us average people tends to drag dreamers from their visions in the clouds back down to earth. If you say you’re going to be a millionaire in five years, they scoff at you. If you say you’re going to be a musician, movie actor, or author, the average person smiles on the outside and rolls their eyes on the inside.

Even if that’s not your common reaction, you’ve probably been told before to tear down your dreams, be realistic and lower your expectations. And there’s a time and place for that – if you’re waiting for a perfect guy or gal, you should probably open your eyes and look at the great one right in front of you.

But low expectations breed low results, and that’s awfully dull throughout most of life. So here’s an alternative:

Instead of quashing your dream, plan out how you’re going to make them happen and then start working.

Dreams don’t fail for lack of vision, dreams fail for lack of planning and hard work.

Three Paths to Success

I’ve found three camps that people fall into when it comes to actually doing something with your life.

  1. Do something small that you are guaranteed to succeed at. Then try something bigger, and work your way to the big stuff. Eventually, you reach your original impossible dreams.
  2. Do something so ridiculously big that you aren’t sure you’ll actually be able to do it. Get as far as you can – it’ll probably be further than you think – and even if you fail, you’ll still have achieved more than you would have sitting at home in camp 1 or camp 3. (Probably.)
  3. Try to come up with a foolproof way to do something perfectly the first time. You’ll be lucky if you do anything at all.

You’ll notice that the camps that actually manage to reach their goals are the ones that involve actually doing something, whether they fail or not. (Hopefully you’ve also noticed my taint of sarcasm. I’m going to try and drop it now.)

Instead of giving up on the dreams that matter to you, do something to realize them. If you want to end world hunger, you don’t have to go to Africa and feed a whole country – carry an extra $10 in your pocket when you go out, and buy someone a meal if it looks like they could use one. (Alternately, for $10 a month you can feed one child for a month. For transparency: the link goes to a religious charity.)

I know a random voice from the Internet doesn’t have much authority in your life, but because it might be the only voice that you hear say this…

Dream big. Work hard. You may have boundaries, may have limits, but you can overcome many things before you get stopped for good in the cold ground.

Rock hard! \m/ If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. You can always send thoughts, suggestions, and questions to justanotherhalfling@gmail.com as well 🙂 Thanks for reading!

Limits =/= Boundaries (and vice versa)

Over the past two years, I’ve spent a lot of time pushing my limits in recording. If you listen to some of my stuff, you’ll notice it’s nowhere near studio quality. But to me, that’s not what’s most important.

The most important thing to me is that I can see growth from where I was to where I am. And as long as growth is happening, then I’m doing it right. Maybe I’m not using EQ “right,” maybe I’m not doing mic placement “right,” but as long as I’m trying to better each new song sonically, I’m on the right path to getting to studio quality.

Paddling Upriver

Life is a process, not a destination. You are always moving forwards or backwards, depending on your perspective and what your goals are.

You should always be pushing your limits in areas that you want to move forward in, because that’s the only way growth happens. If you stay where you are, in your comfort zone, then you’re going to stagnate and die. Living creatures operate on this principle too – if they don’t change and adapt, then they die out.

The best way I’ve heard to understand this idea is to pretend life is a river, and your goal is upriver. You have to paddle against the flow of the water to get to your goals. If you paddle hard enough, then you move forward towards your goal. Any time you’re not spent paddling, the river is taking you back to where you were.

Doing something is like paddling at pace with the river. You’re not moving backward, but you’re not necessarily moving forward either. If you want to move forward you have to be pushing your limits, finding ways to overcome the obstacles around you.

Limits are not Boundaries

I feel that it’s worth making this distinction for your benefit. Too many people look at their limits as boundaries: something that they can’t move, can’t change, can’t get past.

But your limits are not boundaries. Limits are only permanent if you don’t push against them. When you’re trying something new and paddling upriver, what you’re doing is breaking whatever permanence your limits had.

A good example of this in recording terminology is your digital audio workstation DAW. Garageband may not have the capacity that Logic, Pro Tools, or Cubase has, but that doesn’t mean it can’t produce music that is just as good as music made in Logic, Pro Tools, or Cubase. Because it’s a free, dumbed-down version of Logic it’s assumed that it can’t produce anything good.

That’s a limit that people push all the time – just check out Sunshine Superman or Daniel Hemingway’s work with Garageband. If you gave a beginner a $30,000 studio, their mixes and songs would still sound amateur. *90% of the time it’s not about what your tools are capable of, but what you do with those capabilities that makes the difference.

Boundaries are not Limits

With all that being said, there are boundaries that people mistake for limits. Like a beaver dam in the river of life, you just won’t be able to get some places with the tools that you have.

Boundaries are not meant to be pushed, shoved, or changed unless they are precipitated by something drastic. Take relationships as an example – you can push the limits of a relationship and still be friends, but if you cross boundaries then 9 times out of 10* you will lose a friend. That doesn’t mean that boundaries can’t change – if your girlfriend/boyfriend says no sex before marriage, then the marriage precipitates the boundary change to having sex.

From an artistic perspective, there is no such thing as a boundary. From a technical perspective, there are tons of boundaries, but they’re a lot further out than you might expect. Some examples include:

  • The number of tracks you use in a song. There are settings that limit how many tracks you can use, and while you can turn those limits off, there may come a point where your computer physically cannot compute a certain number of tracks.
  • The frequency performance from your mics. Inexpensive microphones can be used to get great sounds, but what they cut in the price makes a physical difference in the spectrum of frequencies they can pick up. For example, my AT2020 USB physically cannot record frequencies above 20K.
  • The sound quality you get from your headphones/speakers. The headphone jack on my computer is physically damaged, so the signal that comes in my right headphone is significantly weaker than the signal in my left ear. Plus, the materials in your headphones/speakers can only physically do so much.

Push your limits until you hit boundaries. When you hit boundaries in recording, it usually signals that you either a) need to change your technique and explore new limits or b) that you need to upgrade your gear.

The example with my headphone jack on my computer is a great example of this – a) I’ve started mixing by using the headphone port on my UX1, which plays the signal evenly to my right and left speaker and b) I’m saving up my moolah and hope to get a new laptop in the fall.

It’s also a good example of doing what you can with what you have. It doesn’t matter what challenge you are facing, there is always something you can still be doing to reach your goals!

* I make statistics up 87% of the time, so don’t take my numbers too seriously, please. Also, all links are to websites/resources that I use personally. No affiliate links.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. You can always send thoughts, suggestions, and questions to justanotherhalfling@gmail.com as well 🙂 Thanks for reading!

A Philosophy for Life: Do What You Can

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that somewhere in the depths of your head, you’ve probably got some huge dreams for your life. Maybe you’ve got a novel hitting at the sides of your brain. Maybe you’ve got four full-length albums, a feature length movie, a new invention, or some other abstract piece of creativity.

Regardless of whether you want to be a celebrity or just be a part of something that’s massively successful, the time to start realizing your dreams is now. It doesn’t matter how ready you are, how much you have yet to learn, or how enormous your dream is. Right now, there are tangible things you can be doing to move towards making that dream a reality.

There is no tomorrow.

Tomorrow exists as a concept, but nothing more. You spend your entire life today – this present moment, to be precise. So unless you do something today to make your dreams for tomorrow, that tomorrow will never morph into today. Besides, your life isn’t an end product, it’s a constantly moving process. When you wake up in the morning, you’re either closer to your goals, or further from them based on what the you in the right now has done.

The impossible goal is to always be moving towards your goals. But too many people sit and wait for some perfect set of circumstances tomorrow. Your excuses are no reason to stop moving forward.

Think you’re too young/old/tired/busy to work toward your dreams?

It doesn’t matter how insufficient you are: you have what you need to do something, right here, right now. And even if you don’t reach that end product you have in your mind, anything you do to reach that goal is worthwhile.

I haven’t sold a note of my music since I started recording, but I’ve recorded over 100 songs. That’s 100 more songs than I’d have if I had said that my tools were too shoddy, that I didn’t have any good music in me, and that I was too young to actually do something.

Do what you can with what you have.

Want to write a novel? Open a Google Doc and starting typing. Want to become an actor? Check out your local theaters and audition for a role. Want to start a business? Open a Fiverr, Etsy, or Amazon account. Or start gathering your products.

If you want to start making music and still have excuses, allow me to attempt to refute them:

  • I don’t have a digital audio workstation DAW! Download a free one, or experiment with demo versions of industry DAWs like Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Reason, Mixcraft, and really, any other DAW. Just look up the “DAW name + free trial” in Google. With some of them you’ll only have 30 days to try them out.
  • I don’t have an instrument/can’t record my instrument! If you can’t use an in-DAW keyboard controller (you use your QWERTYboard to play notes) and MIDI instruments, then there are an infinite number of free sound loops and sounds you can mix and mash together.
  • I can’t use a computer! Use #9 on this list on your iPad. Or use a camera (even if it’s on your phone) to take footage of you playing your instrument, and use other programs to isolate the sound for MP3.

These days, it’s super cheap to get started recording. Heck, for the price of a mid-range guitar, you can build a small home studio. All you really need is a USB mic and a DAW (if you have IRL instruments and don’t just choose to use MIDI. Then you might want a MIDI-USB keyboard and a DAW, but really, you could probably get away with just a DAW like Garageband).

I can guarantee that no matter what your dream is, there is something that you can do here, now, today, in your village to make it a reality. The only thing left is to get out and do something. So what are you going to do today? What do you have, or can you get for free to get started?

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. You can always send thoughts, suggestions, and questions to justanotherhalfling@gmail.com as well 🙂 Thanks for reading!

Your Skill Gap

I’ve got some good news and bad news about human nature, especially in context to doing something new, like recording music.

The good news is that you’re pretty awesome. The music you listen to is great, inspired, well-produced music. You know what sounds good, and what doesn’t. I talked about it in the mixing article a bit, but your ears are tuned to know what sounds good. You have great taste, and can critique a song, someone’s playing style, whether or not they’re in time or tune.

Unfortunately, the bad news is that your brilliant self can often be undermined by things outside of your control. Your ears fatigue naturally, and you can’t hear the nuances between tones. Your love for a project sweeps you up with it, and you stop seeing its weaknesses because love is blind.

Whether or not these facts that I’m spouting about you are true objectively or only subjectively, I know objectively that you can make great things. Think I’m blowing self-empowering fairy dust all over you? Check out this video.

Ira Glass talks about storytelling, but the same is true of all creation. The gap that you have between the song that you hear in your head and the song that comes through your headphones isn’t caused by the fact that you’re a dumb, worthless git. It’s a gap in your skill. You haven’t yet mastered the art of taking the music in your brain and putting it into MP3 form.

You can’t close that gap unless you sit down and make something. If you don’t give yourself the opportunity to fail, you’ll never find the opportunity to succeed. I’ve recorded over 100 songs, but I’ve shared only 6 of them with a human being who isn’t me. I can guarantee that if I had given up on song 35, I never would have made it here today.

6 songs isn’t something huge to boast about, but it’s 6 songs more than I would have made if I had given up after my first pitiful attempts. Do your MP3 sound horrible today? That’s fine, as long as you try to improve with each new recording.

You can close your skill gap. Remember, your skill is a process not a product – you will always be able to move forward and improve yourself. There isn’t a ribbon that you tear or a line that you cross that tells you you’re proficient, successful, or a master. There’s just tomorrow, another step you can take towards or away from closing that gap.

Keep walking, friend.

I’m here a step or two ahead (or behind…), walking the same road of improvement. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. You can always send thoughts, suggestions, and questions to justanotherhalfling@gmail.com as well 🙂 Thanks for reading!