Thursday, February 26, 2009

FAWM: 13 songs written

February Album Writing Month (FAWM) is winding down.  I have 13 of the 14 songs written and have started the 14th song.  Several important things have happened this month as a result of attempting to write 14 songs in one month.  

The first and most important is that my wife, Sònia, has noticed that I'm a lot happier guy this month.  Apparently something about writing music makes me feel good.  

The second is that I have gotten a lot better at coming up with songs, figuring out harmonies for them, and recording them.  The time pressure is the thing.  I think I normally try doodling with the guitar and singing a little, then I realize that what I'm doodling with could go off in four different directions.  So I get flustered trying to decide between the options.  When you have to write a song every two days, you just go ahead and develop the first idea that comes into your head.

The third is that, of the 13 songs so far written, I have three that I really, really love and another four that I think are good enough that they should be developed further.  There are a couple that I am actively embarrassed about.

The fourth is that I am absolutely exhausted.  The idea of getting up at 5 am tomorrow to go write music makes me ill.  Part of me wants to give up at 13.  Except I won't.  I actually have *two* days to complete that last song.

Monday, February 16, 2009

24 Miles - 4:06

I'm ramping up my long run mileage some to get ready for the HAT 50K in March.  This run was a little different in that I tried out my race strategy after about the first hour of running: I ran a mile and then stopped to walk for 45 seconds.  I'm glad I practiced.  It had some good things about it-- I was able to sustain a 7:50 - 8:30 mile pace much further into the run.  And it was pretty damn hard to start running again after walking in the later miles.

The last two miles were just garbage.  I was just trying to tack two more miles onto my normal 22 mile run.  It was pretty unsatisfying.  I just felt like I was running in circles for the last two miles, just waiting for the mileage meter on my Forerunner 305 to click over.

That said, I was satisfied with the run overall.  When I finished I thought honestly: could I now go on to run another 7.1 miles?  And I think I could have.  It would have been painful!  But I woud be able.  Cool.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

22 Miles/3:22: War of the Worlds

The HAT Run 50K (31.1 Miles) is coming up on 21 March 2009 and I'm signed up for it.  It will be my first (and perhaps last) ultramarathon.  I say it might be my last because Sònia's just made it clear that she doesn't want me to disappear for an entire day while I'm running a race.  Sigh.  I can still run my 22 milers on the weekends, which I love doing.

Except that the last 22 miler I ran was the one I ran right at the beginning of December, a week after the Northern Central Trail Marathon.  So I was due to run another.  I finally made it work-- I got out of bed at 4:30 am this morning after DVD marathoning with Sònia until almost 1 am.  Yipee.

I normally do not like to run with an MP3 player.  It's all part of my drive towards experiencing the moment I'm in, "when running only running" etc.  But for some reason I strapped my MP3 player on my wrist and listened to stuff while I was running.  Most of the run I ended up listening to Jeff Wayne's musical version of "War of the Worlds".  This thing is a classic-- it came out in '82, but I only heard about it when I was in my Junior year at the Academy.  I bought it on cassette tape at Harrod's in London just prior to spending a semester at Edinburgh University.  It brought back memories of that time-- my first time overseas, smoking Dunhills and dating this French girl from Centrón named Gabrielle Jouet-Pastre.  We spent the summer skipping class and knocking the cork into wine bottles with a ballpoint pen.  It never occured to us to buy a corkscrew.  Frankie Goes to Hollywood had just brought out "Welcome to the Pleasure Dome" and we had matching "FRANKIE SAY RELAX" t-shirts.  I read Alasdair Grey's Lanark for the first time and found it to be pretty disturbing.

All of this was swirling through my head when my cell phone rang and Sònia told me I had to be home in an hour.  I was at mile 15 now... I had to make seven miles in an hour and my legs were pretty dang beat by then.  Reality hurts sometimes.  So I tucked my chin in and ran as hard as I could.  And I made it.  It was actually pretty good, I need that ability to find some speed when my legs are really pounded.  But I'm not sure where I found the speed.

Overall I felt good about getting my long run going again.  I'll try and extend it a bit next week, maybe to 24 miles.  I want to have a 26 miler under my belt at least before the HAT run.

Friday, February 6, 2009

FAWM: Three new songs written

I've written three songs so far for February Album Writing Month (FAWM). I'm pretty happy with them and have posted them to the music player on this blog.

FAWM is pretty similar to National Novel Writing Month, in which I've participated two years running. The idea behind FAWM is to write (and ideally record) 14 songs in the month of February.

I know this is all crazy-- I try not to be so naive that I think that I'm creating an actual "album", any more than my two "novel" manuscripts are anything more than first drafts.  But there really is something that simply feels nice about having a couple of songs completed, songs that no one else wrote.  And it's a lot more writing than I've done recently-- before last year's FAWM, my last song was one I wrote to get Sonia to marry me (it worked) and before that my heaviest production time was when I was in Peace Corps.  In 1992.  In Seychelles.  That's too far back.

The point of all of this is simple: like most things, the only way to get better at writing is to write.  The evidence is clear.  My second novel manuscript is a hell of a lot better than my first.  And the songs I've written so far this year are just better than the ones I wrote last year.  

Most people have trouble writing because they are so ashamed of their first attempts.  They write something, then the next day they read it and realize that it's not perfect and then they hide the thing and never try to write again.  I have an advantage here because I lack what my wife Sonia calls el sentido del ridículo: the sense of the ridiculous.  This probably would best be translated as "I have no shame".  I don't get embarrassed easily.  Or rather, I do, but somehow I have the ability to swallow hard and press on.   This also made learning Spanish easier.  I'm pretty sure I left a sturdy swatch of laughing Spaniards in my wake when I first moved to Spain (ask me about the cone of chocolate ice cream some time, I'm amazed I ever lived that one down).

As far as the novel, I actually found someone to edit it, a West Point grad (I try not to hold that against my editor).  I'll get a look at it when the editing is over and see if there is anything to be done for it.