One message made abundantly clear during 2020 was the blaring reminder that we can’t take anything for granted. Many plans and goals came to abrupt stop in the first few weeks and we as a country still haven’t recovered.
Yet despite the harsh year, many flowers still blossomed – people still created new and beautiful things and shared them with others. Innovation, resilience and hope persevered among all the despair and sadness that flooded the lives of so many.
Although the fact that we don’t have complete control of our future is true every year, in 2020 more people throughout the world experienced it at the same time.
I know I’m not the only one who is hopeful that 2021 will be different. Along with the renewal a new year often brings, there’s also a determination to take any lessons we learned from 2020 and put them to use in the new year. To reflect on what aspects of our lives are the most valuable to us and focus on those and try to fight all the distractions that lead us to losing our vision.
Even before I knew what 2020 would bring, I knew that 2021 would be an emotional year for me. I’ll be turning 52 that year, which is the age my mom was when she died from pancreatic cancer a mere six weeks after diagnosis. For the past 23 years, it’s been in the back of my mind that 52 was creeping closer and closer every year and if there were things that I wanted to get done during my time here, I better get started.
Have I made any progress? In some areas, for sure. I’m very grateful for my family and living situation. I haven’t quite traveled the world as a travel writer like I thought I would when I was younger, but for most of my working life, I’ve done work I enjoyed.
One overall theme of my life has been writing, whether it was poems with melodies in high school or newspaper articles and blog posts – and songwriting. Never professionally for songwriting, but as I’ve described on this blog for the past two years (perhaps excruciating so?), songwriting has been something I’ve done for as long as I can remember.
This year I’ve been much more intentional about it. In addition to the Arizona Songwriting Association meetings I’ve been attending for about four years, I started the year in the midst of Cathy Heller’s Six-Figure Songwriting class and since then have continued learning through the many generous organizations and teachers out there:
- A studio recording class and a music business class at the local community college (online since March)
- Online guitar lessons through the Fender app
- Cari Cole’s “Step Up to the Spotlight” community
- Kris Bradley’s “From Voice Memo to Demo” course on music production
- Cyber Monday specials on Udemy for classes on Ableton Live Lite 10 (so I can translate Kris Bradley’s lessons on Logic to the DAW (digital audio workstation) that I have) and songwriting
- Inspirational podcasts and webinars
- Turbo-Charge Your Life sessions with author and creativity coach Bob Baker
- Learning materials from successforyoursongs.com
- Regular meetings with a co-writer.
There is SO much great information out there and so many generous people sharing their knowledge and wisdom and I’ve been immersing myself in it in whatever time I have left after family time, work duties and home responsibilities. I should be an expert by now right?
I wish. If only I could soak up the songwriting, producing, singing, guitar playing and music business information then wake up tomorrow able to write, produce, sing and play amazing songs then pitch them for use in TV and films or to performers. But there is SO MUCH TO LEARN and I’ve only tipped my toes in all the above resources and never truly dived in.
Like with most things, the best way to learn is to take action. Although I’ve been writing songs throughout this year and trying to apply the different information I’ve learned, every aspect has its own learning curve and what takes 8 minutes to watch in an informational video about music production can take 2 hours trying to figure out how to get through the first step.
Anyway, back to 2021. I’m planning to embark on a new project, “52 Weeks in 2021,” in memory of my mom and all those in 2020 whose plans were cut short. What I plan on doing is sharing one song for each of the 52 weeks in 2021.
Here are the guidelines I plan to follow:
- The songs can be new or older songs, but each week I need to share one or part of one.
- The songs can be shared in video or audio format.
- I will attempt to implement all the tips and advice from all the above sources as I move forward.
- I know the songs won’t sound perfect but I need to share one each week, even if I don’t end up with a version where I hit all the right notes, don’t like the way I look on the video or can’t get the production to sound demo quality.
- I will remember that it’s all part of the process and I may not even get to a demo quality recording by the end of the year, but that’s OK.
- I will keep learning because there’s SO MUCH TO LEARN.
Why am I doing this?
Songs have been an important part of my life – they’ve lifted my spirits during challenging times, brought joy to my day and played a major role in my life. Whether it’s the lyrics that bring me to tears, rhythms that make me dance around the living room or melodies that lead me to belting the songs out in my car, songs are essential to me.
I hope that some of my songs will touch other people as well, lift their spirits or entertain them (even it’s only for a one-time listen taking up three minutes of their life). I’ve written songs for nearly four decades now, although most of them remain unheard in spiral notebooks or on cassette tapes. I always thought that someday I’d record them and send them off into the world and 2020 was a harsh reminder that there’s no guarantee of “someday.”
But why write about it in a blog, why don’t I just do it? Well, one, I’m a writer and I can’t help it. Also, one of the things that Cathy Heller (whose podcast “Don’t Keep Your Day Job” is one of the inspirational podcasts I mentioned above) always talks about is that you just have to be willing to get messy (in other words, my voice may not have the perfect pitch or my guitar playing may only consist of limited chords) and not worry about getting things perfect. I hope that by sharing my journey, others will be inspired to start doing something they’ve also wanted to do, too, even if they feel unqualified to do so. (Except of course if it’s something that would lead to harming themselves or someone else if they do it without the proper training.)
Ideally you will join me on my journey – and maybe you’ll even share your own journey with me!
Wishing you a happy, healthy and successful 2021!