It’s funny to look back on my New Years Resolutions from two years ago; I managed to accomplish most of the things on the list, just in an unrealistically slack timescale, as in, some of those things I only managed to accomplish this year. Maybe all new years resolutions, and resolutions in general, are infused with this tension between wanting to get shit done and wanting to create realistic expectations of what you can actually get done – going a little easy on yourself – or maybe that’s just me. I often reflect that most of the stuff I do isn’t very impressive for a man of my age and experience, but if I was doing things to be impressive that would be a bit adolescent for a man of my age and experience, so let’s not worry too much about that. So, what have we learnt?
1) Reading is fun
2013 was the year when I finally started reading again. And it didn’t even take Ayn Rand to defeat Karl Popper. I think, honestly, I’m reading more than I ever have – fiction and nonfiction books, newspaper articles, academic papers, the lot. Of course, working at a university means I’m always the least well-read person in the room, but I’m not reading to be the most well-read person in the room; I’m not an obsessive or a completist, and 2014 will be a year of finding more things I enjoy reading, rather than just retraining myself to read at all.
2) Doing stuff is fun
In support of 2012′s The City of Gold and Lead I learned to papercut, greenscreen and edit for the 10,000 Letters of Love video. I’m not sure what to do with this next year. I’d love to do something in 3D, maybe using a bit of red/green action. I often learn stuff for the experience of learning, but normal people generally reuse skills they have rather than just tossing them to one side, and normal people often have the right idea.
3) Doing stuff with other people is fun
I’ve spent a lot of time as a songwriter just trying to work out if I can do anything interesting, and to make sure it’s me doing it I’ve generally excluded others from the process. That way I have a scientific control. My peculiar and particular sensibilities when it comes to writing, lyrics, arrangement and production aside, working with other people is getting easier and funner. The Existential Meltdown album, created with Marc Burrows, is something I was really proud of, and producing Spirit of Play’s Take Shelter EP was fun cos I got to hang out with Spirit of Play who are beautiful people and lovely musicians and great company. Collaborating on podcasts and various other work things has been tremendously rewarding this year. And it’s nice to do work where you get to hang out with people you like and love.
So, looking into 2014…
I still need to write more, and gig more
I’ve got an album of songs I wrote from late 2011-2013, but it’s just a fun collection really; I’d like a bigger project to get my teeth into, I’d like a sense of movement. I’d like to develop what happens on stage and in the studio and in the writing process and when songs are done. And I do need to play more gigs, because when I don’t I miss it and I’m rusty as hell when I do play.
I would like to be more brave
I’m often scared of things that aren’t frightening, this is called being neurotic. My motivation behind doing things has tended to be “to do things” rather than “get money or fame for doing them” – but there’s still a lot of stuff I do that I think people might like that I think not enough people are aware of. I don’t want to go into 2014 with a resolution to “do more marketing”, but I do want to connect with people and learn from it and get better and get some things back from the various projects I do that maybe I don’t always get at the moment. The DIY approach I tend to take is “I will do stuff and perhaps it will find an audience”, but it don’t think it takes a huge ego to think that this approach might undersell the hard work I put into some of the things I do. And doing things in a vacuum has artistic value, but can get a bit solipsistic. Self-expression is often over-emphasised at the expense of communication.
Doing nothing has value
Not every moment is productive. There are times for pushing through the pain barrier and getting blogposts and songs written, even if they’re not good, because doing things means practising and practising means getting better; there are times for drawing silly pictures and putting pictures of eggs on social media and making stories from the streets and buildings, because there’s no greater barrier to speaking than your own resounding silence, however unpleasant your voice might sound when it chatters; there are times for making lemon meringue pie or roaming around Crystal Palace with a camera photographing urban foxes or reading a book or doing the washing up, because at least it’s doing something; there are times for seeing friends and having a life; and there are times for just sitting in bed doing nothing, because brains need some idle cycles. I’m particularly good at choosing the exact wrong task for my current mood and worrying about not doing one of the others. This is called being neurotic.
These are pretty broad resolutions; but I feel positive about 2014. I think it’s going to be a year of experiments: failed experiments and partially successful ones. I’m sort of relishing this mixture of minor triumph and minorer failure – even if I knew what unmitigated success looked like, I doubt I’d find it all that interesting anyway.