Tag Archives: how-to

Half Birthed Brain Sludge

29 Mar

You know, the pressure of not posting for a long time never gets easier. And every time I write a post after there’s been a lull, I wonder if I need to recognize my time away or if that just leads to a series of posts that highlight my absence and make it worse (it does).

*breathes into a paper bag*

Okay listen. I’m going to get real here. I’m writing right now because for some inexplicable reason, people keep subscribing to this blog in spite of it only featuring a new post every 6 months or so with a half-realized promise to get back to it. Today, I checked my dusty old internet folder labeled ‘blog’ to find another handful of new hopefuls, and was reminded again that today could be the day I actually publish something. And hey: I’m on my second bowl of dinner Cocoa Puffs and feeling feisty, so here I am. I’m not going to think about whether I want to post this or not when I’m done. I’m just going to agree right here that no matter what half-birthed sludge pushes out of my brain, I’m going to publish it. Just like those good old days of the first 365 when I would write about my emergency underwear collection because I just didn’t have anything else to work with and I needed to post. We’re going old school.

brains color

Illustration by John Michnya 

The fact is that I’ve written oodles of posts in the past several months, ducklings. Oodles of them. They’re all sitting on my desktop with various file names like “blogpost,” “newblogpost.” “forrealsiespost,” and “postthisyoumoron.” I’ve even done Lollipop Tuesdays that I’ve never posted about. Lots of them. Oh yes. I took a spinning class in one of those uber hip Crossfitty sorts of places with a full screen projection of a fake road and trees. And you better believe that when there was already sweat on the seat just from me sitting on it for the instructor to adjust it at the start of class – presumably my ass sweat from just existing – I thought about how much I wanted to tell you. I even GOT ON A PLANE THAT WENT ACROSS AN OCEAN. And that One Good Thing challenge I started for myself? It actually worked. I may have only posted three total times in the entirety of 2016, but I made some serious tweaks to my daily habits and I’m now a person who wakes up before work and actually cleans herself, does yoga, and reads things (whuuuuuut?) My life has been full of conquerings alongside anxiety-inducing wickedness and I’ve been keeping all the drafts of the proof on my desktop because, well, for some reason I’ve become weird about the blog.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the blog. The blog is the thing that has remedied a great many of my serious and deep human flaws. I still depend on the possibility of being able to post about terrifying and awkward experiences in order to get through said terrifying and awkward experiences. 

But there has been a marked shift in my frequency of posting that aligns with my real life career.

Back when I started all this business, some of you oldest and wisest ducklings will recall that I was an overworked, overtired executive assistant who posted about a variety of work-related oddities I encountered in the corporate jungle, like work holiday parties and elevator moments. I had to wear professional, uptight clothes and do very big girl things, and having a blog to talk about how ridiculous all of that was really helped me survive those difficult years when I reported to a Gorgon. The beautiful thing about it all was that people at work didn’t know about the blog. In fact, very few people in my real life circle did. It made it really easy to get on here and blab about whatever and be my authentic, hyperbolic, anxiety-ridden self whilst maintaining a regular life and relationship with the people I actually had to encounter.

Then people started finding out. Like, real life people. Not you digital ducklings.

I used to have a very strict rule about not being friends with people I worked with on Facebook. I kept my digital life and my real life quite separate and that helped to distinguish a safe place to let the monsters in my head waddle around. That’s where I kept them: away from a real life place where I might have to talk about the blog or account for the things I’ve written in it to actual, real life people. But then I got out of the corporate jungle and started doing something I actually love: working in the arts. And I had friends in the arts. Like, lots of them. So I automatically was friends with and shared a digital presence with an enormous amount of people who were going to interact with me in my work life. Then I had to start helping with social media platforms at work, and friending people who it’s usually wise to keep some sense of decorum with. And suddenly I found myself with a hoard of posts that I would have published if only I didn’t have this filter that wondered if someone who I actually knew would read it. And if they would try to talk to me about it. Or maybe not talk to me about it and just judge me a whole lot for it and talk to other people about it. And if I would maybe defecate in my pants as a result.

I mean, I don’t really want to be running a board meeting and have a board member around the table who follows my blog so that even though I’m churning out some impressive year-over-year financial data analysis and I sound pretty confident, they know that the moment the meeting is over, I’m going to get lost trying to find the bathroom in the building and that the adventure could take thirty minutes if I get confused and anxious enough and that eventually I’ll have a blog post about it…which they will read.

There are two Jackies at war behind the scenes here. One is the Jackie who needs this blog to live a real, human life where she goes places and does things and has a place to talk about it – who needs it as her defense system against her natural, hermity, video-game-addicted state. The other is a Jackie who is hyper-aware of all the actual people with real faces that she’s seen who will read it and think about it and maybe ask her about it or have a different opinion of her for it and who can’t separate the difference between an online persona and a real life person. One of those Jackies has written a whole lotta posts and one of them never pushes publish.

So anyway, that’s what’s going on, friends. And because my brain is now wired in this MUST DEVOUR EVERY FEAR blogosphere persona, it’s simply impossible for me to hang on to these admissions too long without staring them in the face and figuring out how to beat them into submission. Since I’ve always brought you along for those sorts of rides, I thought I’d go head and continue that trend. At least I know that if I’m in a big important meeting and some big scary professional character makes mention of my little blog, I can come back to you guys and tell you all about how I soiled myself in public from anxiety. I mean, that’s what you’re here for. That’s why we’re here.

So I’m going to get over this hump, and in classic JackieBlog fashion, I’m going to create a challenge for myself to force it and pledge to post every single week for the rest of the year.

The shriveled up creative force in me wonders how I’ll possibly have anything to post about every single week, and the Jackiepants on me remind me that this whole damn thing was founded on writing without something specific to say. And hey, if I feel like I need material, I can just go hunt down a big juicy Lollipop Tuesday

If you’re a writer of any kind and you’ve got your own slump to get through, why don’t you hop on board with me and pledge to write and share something every week? Challenges are my favorite. 

Talk soon, ducklings. Thanks for sticking around. ♣

12 Tips for Not Completely Sucking at an Open Mic

7 Jan

I’ve been spending a lot of time at open mics lately.

Let me rephrase that.

I don’t really ever go out, but when I do, it’s usually to an open mic.  Mostly because I have a musician for a boyfriend and an apartment that chucks a hippie in your face upon entry and my life has just sort of developed into this strange, artsy, music-y strangeness.  Yes, I said strange strangeness.  It’s technically legal to say that.  Just one more sign that English is failing us.

So because I tend to harbor unnecessarily strong opinions about things that I have little or no expertise in, I’ve decided to stay true to my nature and compile a list of tips for Open Mics.  That is, if you want to play at them.  If you want tips for being in the audience – I only have one: drink.

So here I give thee,

How to Not Completely Suck Playing an Open Mic

1)   Don’t have an expression on your face that is more intense than your song.  It’s a one-way ticket to douchebaggery.

2)   Tune.  And not into the mic, doofus.

3)  Try to avoid “jamming.”  There are few people in this world who can bring anyone joy with jamming: people who are already rock stars, and grandmothers.

4)  Pay attention to the sets that are played before you’re up.  Don’t follow a cover of  “Closer” (originally by Nine Inch Nails), for example, with an original song entitled “Lollipops, Babies, and Kitten Kisses.”  Which brings me to…

5) Consider your venue.  Consider your genre.  If they don’t match up, stay in the audience.  It will save you 10 minutes of performer’s hell. 

6)  Know when it’s your turn and have your big sack o’ stuff ready to go.  There is absolutely no excuse for lugging your guitar case up front in a crowded bar, unlatching it all the way around, taking out your guitar, and (ugh) tuning  [refer to tip 2]. 

7) Get to know the other folks playing up there.  Like their stuff or not, they’ll be your biggest supporters.  Even if you suck really, really hard.

8 ) Do not, I repeat, do not get drunk before you get in front of the microphone.  If this proves difficult for you, show up earlier and get higher on the list.

9) Write new songs.  People who go to open mics enjoy hearing fresh music from up-and-coming hopefuls.  Chances are you’ll get a group who comes every week, and after the 4th week in a row of hearing your working rendition of “Lollipops, Babies, and Kitten Kisses,” they’re going to get tired of your face.

10) Tell the audience if it’s an original.  Sometimes….rarely… but sometimes, someone actually writes an original song that’s really good and the audience will chalk it up as a cover unless you tell them otherwise.  If you’re lucky enough to be able to write something people want to listen to, make sure you take credit for it.

11)   There’s a difference between good musicians and good performers.  People want to watch someone who is both.  So make that happen.

12)   If you like something you see someone else do, figure out what it is and make it your own.  Sometimes, that’s what seeing the up-and-comers is all about.

So there you have it: my list of how-to’s, written from the perspective of someone who’s never done it.  But hey, I watch it a lot.  And I have a public medium with which to express my uneducated opinion.  And I’d like to think that counts for something. ♣

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