Sunday, January 25, 2009

briefer: introductions new and old

I decided to tighten up and consolidate the introduction and various explanations of this blog and the daily songwriting projects that make up the bulk of its content. The new introduction is here.

For the record, here are the original introductory and explanatory essays:

Let’s begin again (posted 7/18/06)

In 1998 I was in a very strange band called Tao Lepton, and as the ostensible chief lyricist I found myself struggling to find the inspiration to write. I decided to start a project of writing a lyric each day, and after a couple of false starts, I started daily writing in earnest on April 11, 1998 with the song "Huntress Moon."

Maintaining this sort of practice is very difficult, so from the beginning I decided that if I missed a day, I would allow the project to continue as long as I made up the missing lyric. In my own draconian viewpoint this is cheating, but I knew that if I demanded 100% on-time delivery, the project would not last for long, and if I allowed myself to simply skip days and not make them up, I would just end up skipping more and more, defeating the central purpose which was, after all, to do more lyric writing.

A little less than three years later, the band was long since history and I questioned my motivation for keeping the project up. It felt like work for work's sake and I was doubting whether the practice was really doing anything for my ability as a lyricist... indeed, whether I was a lyricist at all. I decided 1,001 songs was a nice figure and on January 5, 2001 I wrote the last song of the original project, "My Masterpiece."

Over the next four years I got married, bought a house, worked a couple of jobs, and became a father. From time to time I paged through some of the old song books, I wrote a handful of fragmentary new lyrics, and didn't think all that much about it. Then some train of thought I can no longer remember made me decide to start it up again, and on May 4, 2005 I wrote the aptly titled "First Song," with the stated intent of writing 10,000 consecutive songs - a project that (if I persist) will take over 27 years, at which point I'll be around 61. As of this writing that project is up to date.

During the first project, I had a fairly strict system for recording and tracking whether a song was written on its designated day or not. I never crunched the final numbers, but I was averaging a little over 80% of the songs written on their designated day. With the new project, I decided to not bother with this. I keep no record of when the songs are actually written, though I continue to aspire to write them on their designated days rather than later. One rule I maintain with both projects is no writing ahead. But the slacker guidelines on the new project have unquestionably made it more vulnerable to procrastination: on several occasions I have gotten seriously (as much as a month) behind, requiring some marathon writing sessions to get back up to the present. Thus the most likely cause of the premature demise of the new project will be not consciously deciding to give up the 10,000 song goal, but rather falling so far behind that catching up becomes functionally impossible.

(Note added later - I've since added a couple of elements to the song blogging that captures the status of the current project in terms of whether I'm getting behind, described here, and how I'm doing with writing songs on their designated days, described here).

Getting the songs transcribed (the vast majority exist solely as handwritten entries in formerly blank hardcover journals) has been an ongoing goal I have trouble keeping up with. Probably less than ten percent are transcribed to a digital format. Part of the motivation for deciding to blog the songs is to encourage this (boringly clerical) effort. My current plan is to post a song a day, every day I can. Of course, on this schedule it will be years until I even get to the second project, and if I were to keep it up (and not abandon the second project, and not die, and if modern society does not collapse into a plutocratic technological dark age, rendering the internet obsolete) I would not catch up until several years after the 10,000th song of the second series was written, finding me about ready for retirement (except retirement age will probably be about 75 by that time, but that's a whole other blog).

When you make a commitment to a project like this these kinds of speculations are inevitable, but they aren't really what it is all about. It is about one day at a time, and creating something concrete that reminds you that yes, those days do keep going by, and my, there are a hell of a lot of them.

I started this blog a while ago, publishing both old and new songs without much structure, but I didn't like it so I decided to delete everything and start over, preferring instead the one-at-a-time presentation most true to the original project. I also decided to eschew making comments and asides about the songs, and just let them stand as they are. If anyone is curious enough to ask about something specific, they can leave a comment in the relevant post and I will try to respond to those. I may inject the occasional aside relating to projects that utilize these lyrics - for example, one of my (very few) recordings of one of the song lyrics is on the playlist of a compilation CD of musicians who are members a community website called Metafilter, and I will probably make a small post about this when the CD is available for sale.

A final note: I have engaged in a few collaborations with better musicians than myself on some of the songs and I've been happy with the results. So if a lyric happens to capture your fancy, my email is available on my profile page: please feel free to contact me about setting my words to your music.

And so on to the songs.

the fairly secret song of the day blog: now with weekly drama (posted 11/19/06)

I've been wanting to bring the current song of the day writing project into this blog in a small way. I don't want to introduce any new lyrics: I want to preserve the flow of the daily writing from the original project. But I'd like to have a small reminder that I am doing this now, it's not just something that happened 8 years ago.

So: each Monday, prior to the day's actual song, I'm going to post a little status report on the ongoing project. It will consist of the number of the current project's song, and an icon that represents how well (or poorly) I'm actually keeping up with the current writing. Here's a key to the meaning of the icons:

Songs are current. There is no backlog of work to do.

Songs are less than a week behind schedule

Songs are between one week and a month behind schedule

Songs are between a month and three months behind schedule. So far, the worst it's been. It was very difficult to get back to current.

Songs are more than three months behind schedule. If it ever gets to this point I think the project will be in severe jeopardy. Aren't you feeling anxious just thinking about it?

At first I was going to use a "threat level" graphic in the style of the whole Homeland Security Terrorometer thing but I decided I was sick of all that shit.

I have another motive for this small window into my day to day. As I mentioned in the original project explanation, unlike the first daily writing project, I am no longer indicating in the actual writing whether I wrote a song on schedule or as a catch-up on a later date.

While I've never felt it was realistic to expect I'd never miss a day, with the old project I followed the simple expedient of writing late songs in red ink. I don't know if it is the lack of this crude psychological goad or just a more complex life, but I've been significantly more lax in the current project with allowing myself to get behind schedule. I figure a little public accountability couldn't hurt.

As for "drama," I'm a behind right now, as Monday's post will show. As these things go, I have relatively good reasons for having gotten behind, but I'm not going to get into the reasons here or anywhere else. I'll just let the numbers speak for themselves. Hold on to the edge of your browser as my aspiration to write 10,000 lyrics in less than three decades surges forward with all the dramatic tension of an encroaching glacier!

Weekly status, now with continuity tracking (posted 11/12/07)

I explained my original intentions behind the weekly status report here. I've decided to add an additional marker that indicates how long a string of songs I've written without missing a day during the ongoing project. By way of example, today's status:

926 : 1 ?


Icons indicate if I'm running a song backlog and if so how much.

926 : 1 Songs written in the current project : Songs written without missing a day

(Whenever I'm running a backlog the latter number will be zero)

The question mark links to this explanation. I'd like to say that I've only written one song without missing a day because I purposely skipped a day to officially start the public count. But that would be a lie. Although I've been avoiding serious backlogs, I'm still missing a lot more days than I'm satisfied with. As usual, increasing the amount of status data I'm publishing is an attempt to motivate myself to better performance.

Including the 1,001 songs written in the original project (the one I'm currently blogging) I'm nearing 2,000 daily songs written so far.
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