Sharpen Your Skills

Sharpen your skills. This is usually meant in a very specific way, whether you are studying something technical and precise, or aimed at a specific field or job.

But as a Renaissance-minded creative, or jack of all trades, or generalist, as you might call me, I see that it can apply to anything, which can make it hard to decide which skills need to be sharp.

Creative uploads pencil sharpener sharpen your skills

You can sharpen all of them. not all at once. But if you choose tasks and interests that you like, try to pick one where related skills overlap. This lets you sharpen the same skills but with more bang for your buck. Plus, that efficiency will help when you need to work on a skill that is more specific to a required task. Especially mentally, having covered several areas already reduces the stress of having to focus on one thing and make other things wait.

If you’re trying to build your muscles or exercise more, you should have a regular exercise program, but you could substitute helping people move furniture or rearranging and reorganizing your house and garage. Any excuse for lifting things is using your muscles right? *

Just make a habit of it. Being aware of what you’re doing and how it can affect your other desired skill sets.

I can type, I play piano and guitar, and I’m good at massages. All of these things use my fingers and hand muscles, and I try to improve my dexterity by changing angles, styles, or even switching to my weaker hand when doing simple tasks, which has improved my left hand bassline playing on the piano, for example.

When I quit my cubicle-based job to be a stay-at-home father for my daughter years ago, I joked that I was leaving a tiny workspace with randomized duties and a diminutive boss who would yell to get his own way, always decided he was right, and didn’t listen or care what I was saying, to take exactly the same job but with no commute.

I have used my corporate skills throughout her childhood, from organization through quality control, presentations and conflict resolution.

If you’ve been a stay-at-home parent and are reentering the business world, or joining it for the first time, realize that you can use those lessons that you learned at home with no commute everywhere else.

We are all children at heart, and the ones with less heart show their childishness even more.

The only thing missing (unfortunately) is the opportunity to call a timeout. But you can chuckle inside at the silliness of it all anywhere you go, and your sharpened skills can cut through anything.

—–David.

P.S. I miss regular pencils and that cool wall sharpener. I miss the smell from sharpening, the texture and feel of the pencil, the shading you get from holding it at an angle, and having an eraser that takes away your mistakes. I do like the convenience of mechanical pencils, until they run out of lead and you realize that you can’t just get up from your desk, walk to the wall and grind them for a few seconds so that they work right again, especially when you’re out of lead refills.

* Full disclosure: Currently recuperating from a car accident, I am taking any excuse for not lifting things. But it will come back to haunt me, as I have gained 5 pounds already.

Sharpen Your Skills was originally published on Creative Uploads

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A Lullabye For Waking Up – Slept In

Click To Listen: Slept In – improvisation by David Watson

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/track=1651546660/size=small/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/transparent=true/

Sort of a reverse lullabye, for those times when you want to be awake, but not very, and the tendrils of almost-forgotten dreams are floating around you and you don’t want to turn on any lights or move fast or grab caffeine.

An improvisation — I began with the main phrase and had an idea where the first 8 bars might go, then I plugged in my electric piano to Garageband on my iPad and followed the music. Post-production involved a little bit of editing to tighten some timing lost through MIDI transmission (or perhaps my langourish playing) and removal of just two bars in the middle that were fine but unnecessary.

It’s a great way to start the day when you can. Relaxed. S-l-o-w-l-y. From one non-morning person to you.

—–David

P.S. Conveniently on my Bandcamp page for your solid free streaming needs. You are welcome to buy it too, of course, or hire me to come to your house and play it, but not in the morning.

 

 

 

 

A Lullabye For Waking Up – Slept In was originally published on Creative Uploads

Capture Creativity Quick

So one of the difference between successful people and — let’s say less successful people? — isn’t the ideas. It’s sharing them. It takes a lot of work, but we can take the first step very easily.

If your goal is producing creative content, jokes, stories, music, art, whatever…. the trick is to capture the inspiration when you have it even if you can’t devote time to it when it first arrives. It doesn’t have to be finished; you are writing a note to your future self. It can be a sketch or fragment, it just needs to last long enough that you can work on it more, or remember enough to build on it, even years later!

I’m going to talk about musical creativity, but this works for all sorts of inspirations. ’80s pop star John (Cougar) Mellencamp wrote the lyrics to one of his hit songs on the shower door with soap. Who knows how many books and businesses have been built on the backs of bar napkins? I’ve chanted things to myself all day while avoiding just writing them down, kept a notepad by my bed — though now I’ll actually write notes to myself on my phone with a stylus –- which may or may not be better than my previous habit of just getting up for an hour in the middle of the night to write whatever song started when my head hit the pillow.

Countless songwriters have sung into tape recorders over the ages or scribbled down notes . With my first camera capable phone, I would record one-handed the melody that had come to me in 15 second video clips. Sometimes, like this example, I angle my iPad on my music stand so that I can see where my fingers were later.

The improvement on this is that now as soon as I’ve come up with the fragment of a song on any instrument, I turn on the electric piano and record the phrase and following improvisation via MIDI direct into a computer. (GarageBand on iPad works pretty good too in a pinch.) Not only does this give me the exact notes I played in the very improvisation I am building on, but it means that I can edit them, fixing glitches in my spontaneous phrasing, or creating a complete arrangement on top of the original sketch and eventually moving the first take out of the mix completely.

So much easier than my early attempts with cassette tapes. Heck, I once spoke the first chapter or so of a book I never wrote into a cassette recorder while hiking, that’s hilarious to listen to. (You don’t know if I’m pausing because I needed to breathe or I didn’t know what to say next.)

Anyway, my point is this applies to anything that you want to capture organically and move into the future as a more polished product. You don’t need to rely on your memory, and you certainly don’t need the conceit that if you forget it later, it wasn’t that good an idea. Don’t be a baby: write it down or capture it, and let your future self figure out that sometimes it’s crap and sometimes it’s not.

And if you end up with too many fragments of stuff to get to, oh darn why is that a problem? Learn to filter through it and work on your favorite thing until you have something done, then climb back on the pile and see what’s next.

—–David

P.S. For the record I often use S-Note on my aging Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for writing things down, and I love Evernote but now that it is free for only two devices at a time, I am trying desperately to use Microsoft OneNote which I find much more cumbersome and harder to search. It seems like OneNote wants you to have everything local before you can search, where Evernote searches in the cloud so you can pull down what you are looking for.

I really wish there was a reasonably priced plan for Evernote that gave me more devices but the tiny amount of monthly bandwidth that I really use. The upgraded plans are still too much of a stretch for the mostly casual user.

Capture Creativity Quick was originally published on Creative Uploads

Christmas In Your Eyes

Another holiday, another song… (well a new recording, anyway) with a little video to entertain you while you listen.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmegawatson%2Fvideos%2F10156008086025909%2F&show_text=1&width=560

From our Facebook page!*

“Happy Christmas holidays everyone! It’s time for another song (not the one I planned, but it’s sweeter….)

Your present is a song I wrote when my daughter was two. You can interpret it any way you like, but I think it’s for parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends and family who get a fresh look at the joys of the season….

It’s on Bandcamp too, especially for the free audio streaming.

 

Peace,

—–David

P.S. An experiment in posting backwards — Facebook first and embedded here. What’s the point of life if not to test things, technical and otherwise? So I learned that you can’t read the text on the embed thanks to my current theme, and it steals you away to Facebookland instead of opening a new window. But the video will stream faster.

P.P.S.  A quick recording on in Logic X with my electric piano and the MIDI function. I do not love the string sounds as much as I hoped.

Christmas In Your Eyes was originally published on Creative Uploads

“A Dying Man” Sings His Tale?

I believe in inspiration and I believe in creation and I believe in editing, but sometimes:

  • You’re inspired to just put something out without any editing and that’s OK
  • You create something without pure inspiration and you edit it and that’s OK.
  • You have an idea and you put it down and it needs more polish but you don’t get back to it
    • Quickly
    • Ever
      • And that’s still okay. Wasteful maybe, but you’ll have other ideas and enjoy yourself in the meantime.

My point is that you don’t have to have all the pieces together in a row. You just have to have some good pieces and not worry about the polish if that fits the mood. But the last step for you in an artistic process is to Share. Publish. (Unless you are making it for yourself and I certainly enjoy that too.

But the whole process is the mission statement of this blog. So I decided to record this song because I’m here to share stuff and to be brave enough to share, and silly and foolish and occasionally imperfect. Follow me!

My detailed creation process on this video:
It’s too much work I don’t have time to get it just right I guess I’ll do it later and then not do it at all — No just do it!

Also I love bootlegs, so this is a bootleg then.

I used to sing this sometimes while playing guitar at a restaurant I worked at called Bobby McGee’s Conglomeration. All the service staff were costumes, and for this song I tended to lean into an Irish accent because that’s how it feels to me, so I thought it’s St. Patrick’s Day, why not?

—–David

P.S. Apologies to Caribbean pirates for the pun title. And I sang “maiden” twice; the first time it’s supposed to be “honor of lady.” My lady is the smiling woman at the top of the post, she helps make me alive.

P.P.S.  This song is ©2017 David Watson all rights reserved. Contact me if you want to use it for your marriage proposal. Funny story, one table I sang this for was a couple and an earnest young man talking intently about something, and they tipped me $50 bucks. I think they found it helpful, but I’ll never know where he was in the song: drowning, dying, learning or awake.

“A Dying Man” Sings His Tale? was originally published on Creative Uploads

Inspiration Prog-Rocks?

I took this photo over the holidays late last year, which spawned a tongue-in-cheek post on Facebook:

If I ever do a vinyl double-LP prog-rock record, I have the cover photo.
(from the Luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden).

Luminarias and I

I was just experimenting with long-exposures that night, and while waiting for my family I decided I could stand still for a long while like they did in the old days. Realized later I had a gatefold shaped cover, so I made my silly post, which pushed me from photography into music.

I suddenly wondered what the music might sound like, especially since I sometimes listen to but don’t really  write in that style. So I sat down at the piano and this came out, and I liked it so I turned on the camera
and recorded this (click to play video)

Seriously, I just decided it should probably be in the key of Eb, and that suggested a set of related chords so I set the drum machine for a little oomph, and tried a progression and a variation and, well, it sounded like music.

Yes, you really should have a song or an album before you do a cover….but creativity is not always linear, or direct. You don’t always know where it comes from or where it will lead.

—-David

P.S. You can be creative or inspired on purpose too, but that’s for a later discussion. It’s okay to force it, as long as you give it room to grow where it wants to.

P.P.S I think I just shot this on a super long exposure without using a timer so I could take my place before it started, which is why the lights shine through me, but I liked the effect. In a more professional setting I would have shot it both ways, and edited this with some vignetting on the edges and exposure and contrast (levels) tweaks.

Inspiration Prog-Rocks? was originally published on Creative Uploads