Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dog and Butterfly

One of my all time favorite albums from my childhood was "Dog and Butterfly" by Heart.  It was my first Heart album to buy. I think I bought it because of the song, "Straight On", but I soon fell in love with every single song.  I listened to it over, and over and over.  I was just learning to play the guitar, and I can remember sitting with the guitar in my lap, listening to "Nada One" and pretending to play all of it. 

I then went on to buy all of Hearts albums, until they got really into the power ballads of the mid/late-80s.  Then my interest waned a little.

I still count those two women, Anne and Nancy Wilson, as huge inspirations to me. 

So today, while I was doing some work at home, I pulled out my beloved copy of "Dog and Butterfly".  I hadn't listened to it in years and years.  I still remember every word, every guitar solo, every EVERYTHING of that album.

For the first time, I noticed it only has 8 songs on it!  And two of those are live recordings. I'm not complaining about that.  In fact, I'm happy!  I've been feeling nervous that my upcoming CD only has 10 songs on it.  I keep worrying, "Is that enough?  Will people feel like I'm not giving them their money's worth?" 

But now, knowing that the album that brought me countless hours of enjoyment only had 8 songs I feel some peace.  I never once felt ripped off by the small number of songs on "Dog and Butterfly".  In fact, like I said, I didn't even think about it until just today- over 30 years after the album was released!  The album was just so completely satisfying.  It's not the number of songs an album has, but the quality of the songs that are on it.

It feels so good to revisit this album.  It brings back such memories of being in my childhood bedroom.  Full of great big dreams.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Is Criticism Constructive?

I've been participating in on online songwriting challenge (note: challenge, NOT contest!) to write 50 songs in 90 days.  I'm more than half way through the songwriting marathon.
What I'm reminded of with this daily songwriting practice, is that it's perfectly fine, and in fact good, to allow yourself to create something "bad".  In fact, with every not-so-good song I write, I know that I'm getting that much closer to a good one! I'm doing my job, just as long as I create something.  Knowing that really takes the pressure off and allows me to do anything I want and take chances I might not otherwise take.

I'm also aware of how important an online community full of encouragement is along the way.  On the 50/90 website, I've posted up videos of every one of my 31 songs.  The site encourages the participants to leave feedback for each other, just as long as it's positive.  Even though I don't  know the people sending me these cheers, they are a huge reason I keep on going even when I start to feel a little discouraged.  I find myself checking in on my comment section whenever I need a little "Yahoo, Kerri!" fix.

There is a time for criticism (I guess?), but during the initial stages of the creative process, we just need to be brave- and being encouraged sure does help.  While I'm writing at this fast pace, I don't allow my inner critic to enter into the picture.  Once I'm in editing mode, when this 90 days is complete and the 50 rough songs are written, then I can get a little more critical with myself.  And maybe, maybe some constructive criticism from others will be helpful.

Or maybe not.  I create as a form of self-expression.  So I'm sort of torn between getting advice, and just going with my own gut, my own self-expression. 

I have showed up to songwriting circles before, played songs in a very raw form, and when I'm offered constructive feedback, I find myself feeling bad and then I abandon the song completely.  So for me, it hasn't been so constructive. 

I've never been one to be criticized and then take on the "I'll show them!" attitude.  However, if someone tells me I'm doing a good job on something, I just want to make it better.  Of course, this is just me and how it works in my little world. 

I'd love to hear how you feel about criticism in regards to your creative endeavors.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I thought I had at least thumbed through most books written about creativity, but somehow up until now, I had missed this one called "Creating a Life Worth Living" by Carol Lloyd.  It was written in 1997, so it isn't new.  Just new to me.  (And I am sure that there are others out there I have missed!)
I can't tell you that it's a great book yet, because I'm really only on the first chapter.  And I know how these "self-help" type books can be.  The first few chapters might be great, but then it becomes very rendundant, and what sounded so fantastic in the beginning loses it's steam when it's repeated over and over.

But so far, so good.   I  liked the first chapter, and I like the way all of the chapters are set up.  There are 12 chapters, meant to be read over 12 weeks.  What I'm most interested in, at least so far, is the interview at the end of the chapter.  In the first chapter, she interviews a painter, David Lloyd, about his creative life.

Here was the specific question and answer in the interview I found so thought provoking:

Q: Where did you learn self-discipline?

A:  I don't know if I have self-discipline in the traditional sense: paying your bills, doing the dishes, going to the studio every day and working a certain amount, doing everything you're supposed to do because you're responsible.  I don't know that I am.  A lot of artists aren't that self-disciplined.  It's kind of bullshit.  What happens is an artist gets interested in something and then they get very selfish about it and they're willing to push other things aside in their life just to follow something that they find interesting.  It's more of an obsessive quality where you want to see what happens with something.  You just keep doing it and everyone says, "Oh, gee, you're so disciplined."  Forget the fact that you have no money or the landlord's p.o.'d.  It's a matter of following what you're interested in.  Because it doesn't take any discipline to do what you're interested in.  It's a funny thing.  It takes a lot of discipline to do what you don't want to do.  And that goes back to doing what you like, doing what's fun.  That's one of the secrets to making art.  It's this weird paradox that people seem to think it's supposed to be hard and not fun and then they don't do it and they wonder why.  Well, who ever does anything they don't want to do unless they have to.

He goes on to say, "...One of the secrets of supporting yourself as an artist, whether you're young or old or anytime, is don't get too involved in a day job.  It's a rare artist that can work 40 to 50 hours a week at a demanding job and then go make art. Most people are just too burnt.  I say live as cheap as you can.  Time is better than money.  If you can figure out a way to get by, work part-time.  And most people don't believe they can do that.  They say, "Oh, you have to work 40 hours a week plus benefits and stuff..."Maybe, maybe not.  I know a lot of artists who have gotten by."

I like the way he seems to encourage taking the path of least resistance.  It's always good to be reminded of that.

If you have a favorite book on the topic of creativity, I hope you'll share it in the comment section!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Heat is On

I've lived in Texas all my life.  Many years, that is.  So the sweltering summers we have here are no surprise to me.  And although I sort of hate the months of July, August, and September because of the extreme heat, I also know it brings some good things.

Such as:

*Very funny weather reports on the news.  I can't stand watching the evening news because of what a downer it is with all it's negative stories, but watching the weather guy stretch out his forecast into a 5-7 minute segment when all he really has to say is "It's really hot, and it's going to be really hot as far out as we're able to predict" is pretty good entertainment.  The weather men on the channel I watch are very animated when dealing with the weather map/green screen.  I don't know how they stay so excited about so little change going on. But I love them for it.

*I run as early as I'm able to get up in the morning.  Which isn't really that early, by the way.  But I know the earlier I get up, the less painful the heat will be.  By the time I've run only about 5 miles, I've sweated enough that it looks (and sometimes feels) like I've run a marathon.  And oddly, I enjoy that!

*Afternoon naps on a summer day are so luxurious!  And around 3pm it's too hot to do much else anyway.

*The clothes for sale in the stores right now are really meant for fall.  And fall in Texas won't be here until late October.  So it's easy for me to save money right now!

Monday, August 16, 2010

This Is The Life

I am at the half way mark of writing 50 songs!  I've got until October the 1st to write 25 more.  So I am just slightly ahead of schedule which feels great.

Here's song #25!

Oh, this is the life-
floating downstream and avoiding the strife
It feels good to me
Sitting around under the shade of a tree

When I don't think about what could  come or look back with regret about something that I've done
Then I am better off

Oh, now is the time
so I'll stay here in this moment cause it's really all that's mine
I've got all I need
When I don't hold on too tight, love grows around me like a weed


I know enough to know that I don't know nothing

oh this is the life...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Gift From the Sea

While I was watching my neighbors pool (otherwise known as my blissful summer vacation!) I was trying to read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.  The book is 938 pages and weighs close to 50 lbs.  That's what it felt like anyway, as I tried to hold onto it while lounging at the pool.

I made it to page 371.  But I think that's as far as I'm willing to go with it.  I figure if I'm not loving this book by now, I may never- not even by the time I make it to page 938.

One of my fellow book reading friends recommended this to me, so I feel so bad to abandon it. But I'm abandoning the book after all...not her!  She was reading it and told me how much she loved it.  But it just wasn't the thing for me right now.   And more than likely- never.  If I picked it up a few months from now, I'd have to start all the way back over at page 1.  Whew.  So yeah, NO.  Never.

(this was the kind of manual labor I had to do)
Today, my neighbor friend, the one with the fabulous pool!, gave me a little gift she brought me back from her trip. For all the hard work I did at her pool over the past two weeks!!  It's a book called A Gift from the Sea.  It sounds good, and it's only 120 pages long, which also looks and feels very good right about now. 

What have you been reading this summer?

Thursday, August 5, 2010


My friend's mom is a beekeeper!
want some of this??
Fermin and I got to go over to her house and watch her in action the other day.  We both took our cameras of course, but all my shots were taken from inside, behind the safety of a window, and they turned out a little murky.  The pictures below were all taken by Fermin since he was much braver than I was- although not nearly as brave as the beekeeper, Mimi!
these are just a few of the bees...
and a few more!
Mimi said there are something like 80,000 bees living in there.  Wait.  Is that right?  I think that's what she said.  Anyway, many of them are coming out down  at the bottom of the white container to get a little fresh air on a hot summer day.  And can you believe one queen rules the whole thing?  Queen bees are so cool.

Here is song number 19 of 50 for my summer songwriting challenge, called "Honeybee".

there's no place like home
it's where i want to be
our quiet little honeycomb
me and my honeybee

i buzz because of you
i'm here b/c i'm sweet on you

i think you were heaven sent
and i'm glad you landed here
and that you could make a beeline
b/c your path was clear

now i buzz b/c of you
i'm here b/c i'm sweet on you

you share all your nectar with me
oh you make me feel like a queen
my one and only honeybee

now i buzz b/c of you
i'm here b/c i'm sweet--
i'm here cuz you're so sweet
i'm here b/c i'm sweet on you

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summer Vacation

My neighbors went out of town for their summer vacation, and I've got the big responsibility once again of "keeping my eye" on their pool and checking in on their dog, Opie.

Opie and I have established a great routine.  After my run each morning, I immediately change into my swimming suit, grab my book, and head over to the pool.  I let Opie out and she runs around spastically for about 5 minutes. 
Once I get in the pool, she stands on the shallow step and drinks the water while I swim around for a little bit.

Then we're both calm and cool and we relax for about half an hour.  Okay, I'm lying.  I'm there at least an hour each day.  Hey, but it's summer vacation!!!

I know Opie misses her family, but I think we've got a pretty good thing going on.