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Public Declaration of Self-Education

July 19th, 2011

If you’ve followed this blog in the past, you’ve probably noticed that I just can’t get my shit together. I’m always complaining about whatever job I have, how I can’t find my place in whatever scene I’m working within and that I can’t find the time or the resources to do the things that are important to me. I’ve stumbled my way through two independent, entrepreneurial “careers,” (visual art and music) even going so far as to set up a DBA for myself as a business. I’ve persisted and juggled and micromanaged and scrounged and saved and researched and multi-tasked my way to a cluttered mind, body and soul. For years, I held at least one art exhibit per year. For years before, throughout and after that, I recorded and released at least one album per year. My health, social relationships and peace of mind plummeted the more I worked at my seemingly illegitimate pursuits. The last gasp of that phase of my life was a show that my band and I played at the Kitty Cat Klub in January of 2010. Since then I’ve written one song and recorded no albums.

I can’t say that it should be any other way. I’m not going to bitch about how my “career” fell apart, because it had to. I don’t regret all the time and energy I’ve put into it, and there’s nothing to say that some part of it won’t re-emerge in the future. I can’t complain that I’m 32 and delivering pizza. I can’t complain that I’m living in a rented room. I can’t complain that the contents of what was once a live-in recording studio are now boxed into a south Minneapolis storage locker. My energy, identity and creativity are not contained in my career, belongings or any particular location. They don’t go away at a certain age and they don’t demand any particular activity. The events that make up my life all happened for a reason, and there can be no “should’s” about it.  After all I’ve gained and lost, I have to move on.

I have work to do, and what I’m publicly declaring here is that I’m putting myself through school — in my own way. I’m not applying for grad school or getting an online degree – I’m setting out on my own self-directed program. It won’t cost anything and I won’t be graduating in the traditional sense. What I’m committing to right now is taking my education as a priority. After my basic needs – making money, eating, and my physical and mental health – my education is the most important thing: studying, learning, developing my thinking and exercising my mind.  I’m starting small, and I’ll focus on it for at least a year and then reassess myself. Somewhere in between the stacks of books out there and the synapses in my brain, there are ways that I can connect with the world and maintain my existence in a positive way. There’s something pulling at me — which I haven’t really felt since I was like 22 — and I know this is the way to find it.

I started this in a different way this last January. I designed a very systematic structure, and I had two pretty ambitious “courses” I designed. It was an experiment. I kept at it, but I veered off course quite a bit. Then in the spring, life happened and I decided to “drop my classes.”

I’m starting small this time. My unwritten goal for July was just to get back into the habit of reading every day. Now my goal for August is to stick to a schedule, no matter what. Tired or hungry, happy or sad, inspired or not, I’m going to make sure I build the habit of keeping to a study schedule:

  • Everyday: write in my journal for an hour, uninterrupted. This is the first thing I have planned every morning after I get my routine out of the way.
  • Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday: study from Noon to 2pm. This means reading, writing, taking notes, working on problems, doing exercises – it depends on what the subject is. The point is to make a habit out of dedicating time and focus to the task of learning, beyond just sitting somewhere and reading.
  • I’m keeping my habit of reading every day as well. For now, I’m not focusing on any particular topics. I’ll do that as the need arises.

The last book I finished was The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta, author of the Zen Habits blog. He’s one of a number of sources I’ve been mining for inspiration on the philosophy of living a simple, minimalist lifestyle. In The Power of Less, Babauta stresses starting small, taking one goal at a time and making your intentions public, both as a means of motivation and accountability, and also as a way of sharing and connecting. I already know what pushing yourself to the limits can do, so now I’m taking something that’s important to me and I’m building it carefully from the ground up. Self-education and minimalism will likely be frequent post topics here on Quelquechose, and I’d like to spend some time tweaking the blog to better track what I’m doing as time goes on.

You can follow me on Goodreads where I post books I’m reading, wanting to read, abandoning, and just considering.


January 4th, 2009

I’ve been trying really hard to hold on to something positive from the nervousness and restlessness I’ve been feeling lately.  The fact is no matter how much I go out and interact with my surroundings, I come home feeling empty.  I don’t know why I think I can reverse the path that I’ve been on all my life, which is a constant state of alienation.

I hate being by myself, but it’s usually better than trying to be someone I’m not, which is what I feel would have to happen for me to have a normal social life.  I like making music, and making art, but there comes a point where the solitude is too much and you have to stop.  People don’t understand that.  The fact is, if I have people close to me in my life, than I can be productive while I’m alone.  But if I’m alone all the time, I lose myself.

I read Wikipedia’s article on loneliness again.  I wonder if what I keep referring to as depression is really just social isolation.  I go to a bar and I see a crowd of people who can communicate with one another.  Sure it’s not on a deep level, but they’re all keeping themselves and each other sane by doing so.  Meanwhile I’m in the corner with an art magazine drawing snake tongues coming out of everybody’s mouths, and I’m the only person in the place who’s by himself.  And although I look around at the couples, and the friends laughing with each other, and I despise the whole thing, I really just wish somebody would say something to me without it being their job.

The more alone I feel, the less motivated I am to be creative and the more motivated I am to try and go out and have fun.  So I go out to be around people, who paradoxically make me feel more alone, and then I get depressed.

I think maybe I was on to something last year at this time when I was just drinking beer at home and drawing circuit diagrams.

Restraint in Art and Life

December 19th, 2008

So I have this idea, and it involves incorporating art into your everyday lifestyle, as opposed to the other way around where you build your lifestyle to make room for art.  I guess that means throwing out your preconceived notions about the creative process and letting the circumstances of your existence dictate the details like when, where, for how long, what materials to use, etc. It’s not my natural line of thought, but over the years I’ve come to realize that you can’t discipline creativity.  It’s best to approach the creative process on it’s terms, not yours.  So many tracks for Exits + Obstacles, I would run my wheels into the ground working on them only to find that the song was uninspired to begin with.

So with a new approach to the division between art and life, I’m beginning to exercise my visual muscles again.  I decided on one simple rule as I create new pieces:  whatever you do, limit it.  If I decide I like newsprint, make one drawing and put it away.  If one photo looks really cool photocopied, it doesn’t mean I should gather ten of them and then go to Kinko’s.  My new idea is restraint.  When you really like something, it’s best to take a few steps back from it whenever you can.  Let it breathe and be itself.  Anytime you try to overuse something, it’ll become something it’s not.  Of course, I’m not just talking about art here!

Anyway, there’s theory and practice.  We’ll see where the line is drawn on that one.  There’ll be a running set of images on my Flickr page as this progresses.

Fourtrack Hibernation

December 5th, 2008

A new song inspired by days long passed:

These tired days of silent dreams twitching awake
I found myself peering into what I made

it makes me nervous, it makes me fall down in my sleep
and I’m not sure about this, but what the hell, it’s good for me.

I lost myself in a window-framed picture of snow
covering a field of roofs and trees obnoxiously

with the radiator on, turning my thoughts into steam
you got me marking up my mind, you got me picking at the seams

these tired days and six pack mess with fourtrack tapes
magnetic awkward to stay inside of a backwards place

and I put myself out for my broken slice of economy
and I just reach inside somehow, still unsure what’s left of me