Read Write Play: Q2 2019

This quarter there was not a tremendous amount of reading or writing. But playing was good. Very good. Here’s the usual summary of last quarter’s progress.

Read

I tried to start on my design curriculum. I really did. I purchased Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner, a drawing book at the local Amazon store (how incredible that the company that killed Borders and Barnes has set up its own local bookstores) and read a short ebook on web design, Hello Web Design. I also got halfway through Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. Then I got distracted, spending my evening time working on existing side projects and starting new ones.

My goal this quarter was to improve my side projects by addressing a known gap in my entrepreneurial tool belt. I’m a terrible designer. I can use an existing design framework (like Bootstrap) pretty well, and I can modify templates, but I can’t draw and I can’t build a page from scratch.

I did crack open the drawing book and reminded myself to sit with my daughters and draw whenever they drew. I did that — sometimes. It helped. I can see lines differently and I have a new perspective on drawing. I understand how to get better and my practice is much more structured than it ever was before. I can look at a picture of Elsa and Anna from my daughters’ Frozen coloring book, for example, and sketch out a passable depiction. You could tell who is Anna and who is Elsa, and that’s a big win for me.

It might just take me two quarters, even the rest of the year, to get through this course. I’ll finish Don’t Make Me Think. I’ll find another one to read and force myself to sit down and draw a couple of times a week. It will be slow progress, but it will be progress.

Write

I wrote seven blog posts in Q2 and the top performer by far was “On nine whole years of marriage,” a short post inspired by my ninth wedding anniversary which we celebrated in the middle of June. It was easy to write, and I think I got a lot more views on this one because it’s one of the few that I promoted on Facebook.

Next up was “Why my grad school experience meant to me,” a nostalgic look back on what it felt like to get accepted to Harvard and MIT and graduate from these elite schools a few years later. All that was ten years ago now, a crazy span of time in which I started some companies and also started a family. I’m the same guy I was ten years ago, but stronger (quite literally) and without much gray hair at all. Plus, I got to jam with my old band again at our 10-year reunion. (More on that in the Play section.)

The game I’m playing” was my most introspective piece, which actually was good mental prep for my big grad school reunion. I had to remind myself that success is relative. There’s no hard definition; it can mean whatever I want it to mean. Am I trying to be the richest guy in my class? The most famous? Or the most interesting? No thanks. As it turns out, I’m doing just fine.

Seven posts that I feel pretty proud of is no small feat. I worked a lot last quarter, moving the ball downfield with MightySignal and a small handful of much smaller projects. I spent some good quality time with my kids too, passing the afternoons in front of my house, in our lovely little cut-de-sac, with the whole neighborhood stopping by to chat and play.

Play

Speaking of which. Play I did.

Together with the Class of 2009 Rolling Sloans I racked up a good 12 hours of studio rehearsal time, and dozens more before that in my little backyard cottage at home. I was more prepared, more comfortable, and more excited to perform than at any of our previous gigs. There were a number of solos that I’d never quite nailed, like The Sweater Song solo and especially the second half of Sweet Child O’ Mine.

Importantly, I also became more comfortable singing. As the big reunion gig drew closer, my music teacher and I focused increasingly on vocals rather than piano. I had a list of the songs I was slated to sign at the show and we went through them together. She’d stop me when I pinched a high note and gave me pointers, reminding me to drop my shoulders, lower my jaw, and breath into my stomach rather than my chest.

I’m not sure how much of that I actually did at the show. I recorded our cover of My Hero and feel pretty good about how it sounded. The chorus has some high notes. I couldn’t hit them back in January when my lessons started. By the time June came around I was knocking them down easily, smiling my way through the song. That’s what mattered most to me. Singing those songs for my classmates was fun. It was not something I enjoyed doing previously and it frustrated me that I didn’t enjoy singing in front of people. I wanted to enjoy it. I could sense how fun it would be to sing comfortably in public, to be happy with the music I was making with my guitar and my voice. That show was the closest I’d ever been to finding that comfort.

I’m still working on it. This quarter I’m trying to sing and play Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me by Elton John on piano. It’s a challenge for me but I’m making progress. More on this next time.

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