What is it that crushes creativity? It’s gotta be rules, right? It’s interesting. I think about oppressive regimes (whether it’s a honest-to-Betsy dictatorship or a workplace culture) and you know, I wonder if those don’t almost foster or focus creative expression in some sense. You see societal oppression and the beautiful expressions that can’t be caged by it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for oppression. But I might (gulp) be advocating for more rules.
I remember a saxophone teacher of mine who was working on taking me to the next level of improvisation giving me “rules” week after week for improvising. It wasn’t intended to be a prison. It was training. Be as wildly creative as you can within these walls. In time, you’ll see what walls are helpful to subject yourself to on a regular basis and which ones are just fun to stay outside of or to bash through with broad shouldered regularity. And in the meantime you’ll discover a depth to creativity that you didn’t know existed.
Finding discipline is often a very difficult thing for those of us who like to dwell on brush strokes and brewing techniques and tube-driven nuances of tone and yet, it may be just what is needed.
I’ve had good intentions about making some sweet albums for more than a decade now. I had creative history and those songs have been about as oppressive as anything for me. What I’ve needed was to grow into disciplines surrounding writing, recording, sharing, and promoting my stuff that will foster creativity now and for years to come. Here are some ideas of what that might look like for me (cue the bullet points):
- More frequent peer review of songs. A songwriting circle I’m a part of gives an (optional) assignment each month. I think that’s a good example of some of this.
- More collaborative writing. Co-creating can be a really rewarding thing, especially among diverse styles and approaches.
- Death to more of my existing songs. I was reminded lately that your songs are not actually your children. This is a healthy discovery. *
- Regular “rules” for writing. Frequency and specific attributes (style, approach, instrumentation, subject, etc.) are on the list here.
What practices have you found to help you in your creative endeavors? While it may seem that the rules are the enemy, sometimes too much freedom is even worse. This is why everyone’s a critic but artists are still sought after. The blank page is a lot harder place to start from. Maybe it’s the couch, the TV, the blue skies, and the free time that stifle us. Give yourself some rules and let’s get to work on bending and breaking those puppies. If nothing else it would be a great experiment! Opposites attract, after all!
*I used to actually hold sort of “burial rites” for songs. I’d pull out a song or two that needed to die and play them for a show and tell everyone these were passing into the realm of “dead songs.” At the risk of playing lame songs for people, I will probably reinstitute this process. Sorry in advance, but I’m not so serious or important that I can’t afford myself a moment to say goodbye to pieces of expression that meant something to me along this journey. Who knows, those throw aways might even be meaningful to some unwitting listener!
It’s strange to me to be able to talk about things in terms of spans of years. Dreams can seem so present, tangible, and simple and then you look back and realize it’s been years since they were born and it is time for them to grow up a bit.
Nine full-length albums. This was the project I set out on. I had hoped I could bring one to the final stages of recording and mixing, get some crowdfunding support and then move quickly through the other 8 albums of ~12 songs at a pace of around one every 8 months. No big deal. 9 albums of different musical styles, different configurations of musicians, different songwriting approaches, different themes that built on one another, a variety of locations…while holding down a job (and letting my wife hold down the family).
I have gotten to enjoy the potent presence of Aaron Strumpel under my roof a handful of times. It’s always a special thing for me. I had shared this crazy vision with Aaron in chunks over the last few years but got the chance to give him the whole vision condensed and unabridged the other day. Then after his house show at our place, we dreamed and talked well into the night.
Through conversations with driven, creative, connected, caring folks like Aaron, I think dreams can be stewarded and shaped well. I somehow trust him to chip away at my dreams and feel like they will be better because of it.
So I have some guesses about what this audacious dream may look like, but I can feel it being transformed and I’m finding some new peace and some new soil for things to grow out of. This project has been part anthology, part challenge, part memoir, part community building, part healing from the start, but I feel like it’s finally part reality, even if it’s different from the creative direction I wanted it to go originally. Thanks for caring and for listening to me at all. I’m excited to see what comes next! ~CT
So did I tell you about this crazy project I have planned?
It turns out that I’m not super good at the whole consistent communication and marketing when it comes to promoting myself and my art. Shocker. In short, what’s going down is that I’m scrambling to get an album finished to have as proof that we can pull off this crazy project:
- 9 albums of interconnected stuff
- Full-length. None of this wanny EP stuff
- Think concept albums. Well, maybe not, depending on what that makes you think of.
- Think bullet points. That’s how I talk.
The first album is almost finished. It’s a sort of meandering though the world of Gospel and Bluegrass. All of these songs were inspired by the Psalms. Those are the songy things in the Bible. They’re good. You should check them out.
I promise I will try to tell you more about this project before I just try to launch it. I’m really hoping that it can be something that pushes us in very different directions in terms of expression and we can really try out some stuff and make some great art doing it!
I couldn’t just leave well enough alone. I think approximately 40% of you listen to my music primarily because you’re curious about what will be going on with my beardsculpting at any given moment. If you are among that very scientifically analyzed statistic, this blog is for you. Please keep listening to my music though, even if you get your information about my facial hair elsewhere.
Beard Topiary Blog
It’s a beardiful thing.
Made it safe and sound to our new place in Minneapolis! At some point I’m going to have to tell you all the whole story. It’s pretty crazy! We’ve received the most “Minnesota Nice” welcome we could have ever hoped for – everyone at Jacob’s Well had mustaches for my first day leading and had compiled all of their best tips for the Twin Cities! And people keep bringing us food too!
I’ve started a blog for the worshiping community so if you’re curious about what’s going on with that piece of my life, feel free to pop in!
Enough about me…how are you doing?
Sadly, I can’t say the whole band is moving to Minnesota. Don’t worry. The band’s not breaking up. It’s not like we’re playing out a crazy crap-ton anyway… mer. We’re still in the thick of recording so that guarantees a bit of together time. And with Jesse all up and married, we thought we’d switch it up a bit and he’d move to Illinois and I’d move to Minnesota because we really need to have some kind of Minnesota presence. This way we can expand a bit and truly be a “Midwest” band. Pretty soon, we’ll have Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois covered. That pretty good.
Seriously, though, our family is packing up the family and moving to the Twin Cities! We’ll be minutes away from downtown Minneapolis. I’m excited for all of the great opportunities (and the great music that goes on in that fine city), but you can probably understand this comes with some sadness too.
The times, they are a’changin!
Anywho, the impetus for this move is that I took a job with a super cool little community called Jacob’s Well leading all of the sorts of music and worshipy things they need to be led in. Check ‘em out at www.Jacobs-well.net !
Thanks for your support and don’t worry, Iowa. I won’t be a stranger!
We loved sharing the stage with our friends, The OK Factor! Be sure to check out their stuff! Always inspiring!
Join us on March 16 at Wartburg for the Malaria Benefit concert.
Tickets are $6.50 at the door and proceeds go to the ELCA Malaria Campaign.
Chris will be on stage at 9:15.
6:30 pm, Levick Arena, Wartburg College