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things are easy*; let them be

*AKA sometimes things are easier (than we think they are)

Mid-last week, I made a commitment to post on Monday morning. I said I’d write during free time throughout the week, and even scheduled in advance a last ditch effort, wrapping-up writing session for Sunday afternoon.

Instead, I spent all that time & more feverishly reading and journaling about my goals and intentions. How do I want to use this platform? What type of content do I want to create, and why? What do I want to contribute through a blog? What is better said in a blog vs. on TikTok?

This particular brand of distracted procrastination single-handedly made college exhausting and stressful for me. Imagine burning through final study hours wire-wrapping a pearl necklace, feeling like you’re not in control of the “choice” you’re making, yet also not renouncing it. I struggled to study and start assignments because I couldn’t see why I should do them. When I don’t know the “why” behind something I won’t do it, can’t convince my brain to focus on it. Good grades managed to motivate me when I was younger and had less possibility at my fingertips, but as an older student with more fights to pick with “the system” and a box of tools and findings in my desk, it always seemed like a partially sensible idea to make whatever was on my mind and “study later”. When I’m making a necklace, I have a clear end goal (the necklace) and a reason for making it – to complete certain outfits that I’m picturing in my head. It’s also time sensitive because I either really want to do something or don’t want to and can’t do it at all. If I didn’t take that moment to make the necklace, I might never have wanted so much to make it again and I wouldn’t have it today.

I don’t feel guilty about how I spent my time on Sunday. My constant need for “why” means I prioritize purpose and doing something for some reason instead of mindlessly following rules and conventions, even when they’re my own. Whatever reflection my brain decided it needed that day was infinitely more valuable than churning out a post that I don’t want to write and no one wants to read just to meet a random self-imposed deadline, AND it was the right time to do it. I couldn’t have waited until after writing this week’s post, because these exact thoughts wouldn’t have occurred to me in the same way any other time.

Still, I wanted to post something on Monday anyway because I felt it was important for me to get in the habit, plus I really need the practice when it comes to working with deadlines. If I didn’t post this week because I couldn’t find the perfect thing to write about, who’s to say that perfect topic would come to me next week or anytime after?

I had multiple drafts I could have run with, mostly how-tos for songwriting, but I think TikTok is going to be a better platform for those. And I never want to post something just to post something; quality over quantity. I didn’t have an entirely non-musical topic because I spent the majority of this week doing music (which I’m so proud of; it has definitely not always been like that), so this is going to be about music – that is, the amount of time I’ve been able to spend learning and creating music without feeling burnout recently, all because I realized – better, decided – that Things Are Easy.

First case in point: I learned to play and sing the beginnings of “Armor” by Sara Bareilles and “Playing Games” by Summer Walker.

Usually I learn what I can by ear, but this week, I began learning straight from scores that someone better than me has already taken the time to transcribe professionally. I started musically as a classical pianist, so I’m used to reading complex scores. Transcriptions of pop songs blow my mind with how “simple” they look, because they don’t sound that way to my ears. I matched my first ever melody by ear just over a year ago. (I also always turn on subtitles on movies and videos, and learn better from a textbook than a lecture, which adds up to being pretty hopeless in the whole auditory department.)

I know that it’s good for me to develop my ear; I do that already and plan to continue. (The latest thing I did was learn to play along to this jazzy run, 15 minutes a day for a week.) But it can be really frustrating to spend so much time matching pitches and only learning a few notes at a time.

I didn’t want to learn these songs for pure ear training. I was interested in studying the way the vocals and instrumentals lined up rhythmically and the composition of the instrument parts. It doesn’t make sense to waste time deciphering notes by ear when I can look at the first page preview of a score and immediately understand what’s going on. Why work against my brain when I can instead give it what it needs to thrive? Besides, the more scores I look at, the more songs I’ll understand, and the better I’ll get at hearing it… right?

That’s my working theory for now. I want to simplify things to give myself my best chance to keep going. What’s the point of anything if I don’t enjoy it?

Second case in point: I wrote a lot of music this week.

The biggest block for me with creating music for a long time was (is) my tendency to overcomplicate. I thought I needed to learn complicated production techniques to make songs that sounded a certain way, so that they could be “real”. But I really love voice memos. I love shifting clothes and the shuffle and thump of stopping the recording, faltering tempo, pitchiness. I love these things because I see so much beauty in process.

Maybe “socks” (below) would come across better if I played and sang it better. Maybe I should have waited another day to record it and played some Hanon in the meantime. (It’s embarrassing how the repeating eighth note passages are so uneven. My hands were so cold. Ideally there would be a fluid, steady build-up.) But there’s a magic like no other in early process recordings because I’m in love with the song here like I’ll never be again.

I’ll keep playing it, maybe post a perfect performance of the intro on TikTok and record a great live performance for YouTube. But to me, “socks” is done, finished, it doesn’t need anything else, and I have the green light to move on. It’s freeing not to chase perfection, to create and share as soon as I possibly can. I’m learning to let go.

I think you already get it by now but the point is, things can be easy. They ARE easy, they WANT to be. The challenge is in letting them be easy. It can feel like cheating, looking up the chord chart or transcription of a song. I could force myself to do it all by ear; that would be the birds-eye route to a version of me that could pick up songs instantly. But if it’s slow, painful, hard, and intimidating, and most importantly if it doesn’t serve exactly what I need in this moment, I’d rather take the scenic route. I’d rather learn lots of songs with a little bit of help than a few entirely on my own. I’d rather upload voice memos than fully produced demos so that I can spend more time creating more songs. (Right now, at least. If it’s right for me, some day I’ll learn to produce, but for now I’ll stick to admiring what others do and work on my own craft.)

This Monday morning post is a late night post instead, but a victorious Monday post all the same. It isn’t what I’d intended… it’s better. Pulling it together last minute meant being open to share what was already on my mind, drawing from the writing I already did all week in my Google Keep “notebook.” This wouldn’t really be my blog at all if I didn’t post feverish writing like this.

Funny how hard it is to learn that what comes to me most easily is the best thing I have to offer.

Are you over-complicating something in your life? What could you accomplish if you took the easiest possible path?

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