I've had many moments this past month or two in which I have felt exhausted by just the thought of how much I have to do. Putting out an independent album takes a LOT of work, with very little payback financially (if any) and a huge investment of time. It starts with dreaming up a program that you love enough to live and breathe for many months, or even years. And then it takes a good amount of searching to find the talented and affordable people that will help you make the project a reality. Then comes the recording, producing, and mastering; the overseeing of the graphic design; the taking of new headshots; getting the thing duplicated and shipped on time. And then on top of all that, you gotta sell the darn thing.
I love dreaming up a cohesive package to give to people that represents a piece of why I love the music that I play. I love that some of the pieces on this new album have never, ever been recorded before. I love finally getting to that point of feeling ready to kick some ass in the studio. I love that there is a tangible, physical result to all the work that goes into this project. And when I think of all the room that these CDs are going to take up in my storage closet, yes, they are tangible indeed!
On the other hand, there are things I don't enjoy about the process. The fact that I must fundraise, publicize, practice, create, imagine, edit, produce...well, that's an awful lot of verbs for one person. A friend of mine who is an actor/comedian empathized with me over lunch today. Anybody who makes their living as a creative person is hence their own publicist, advocate, producer, and agent all in one (unless they hire someone for any of these jobs, which many people do) while having to constantly work on artistic content as well. That's like five jobs in one! Oh yeah, and did I mention that I have a nine-month old baby at home? And I have fifteen students. But that's besides the point.
I could just not do this, but yet I can't. I believe too strongly in this project to call it quits or just leave it be. So I was reading a book by an author that my sister got me into - Anne Lamott, a Bay Area writer who writes about writing in her book Bird By Bird. It struck me how much I could identify with her description of the process of writing because it sounded an awful lot like the process of practicing. You just have to start with something. In consolation to anyone overwhelmed by writing, Lamott describes a moment from her childhood where her ten-year old brother had left a school report on birds to the last minute:
"He was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"
And that's where I am. Bird by bird, I have 9 tracks done and 5 more to go. I'm reminding myself that little by little it is getting done and there will be a finished product. Someday. Someday soon. And I look forward to sharing it with you.