One month ago today I turned 25! A while ago I used to do a post-mortem every year of the stuff I did in the past year, but I have very little to report other than "a bunch of animation work." Instead, I'm going to talk about the future for a sec, and then talk about a little side project I've been toiling away at for a few years now.
Something I noticed when I was younger is how eager a lot of young people are to embark on insane and overly-ambitious projects. It makes sense - if you've been doing something like animation for 6 years and you've only been alive for 16, that just feels like a giant chunk of your life and it's easy to start thinking it's time to get to work on your magnum opus or whatever. I noticed this, of course, because I had made this mistake several times, and funnily enough zero of those projects ever got past the pre-production stage. Same with anyone else I've ever heard talk about their big epic masterpiece at age 16 - they pretty much never get past 10% completion.
Then, with just a little more age and perspective, you look back at your skill level when you attempted to do the big ambitious project and think "man, that would have been a huge waste of time if I ever finished it - I sucked!" And then you realize that relative to where you could be in the future, you probably still suck and probably should not start any more big epic projects any time soon. It feels like it would be a better use of time to just work on skill-acquisition and do lots of little projects to get more experience and find your voice or style.
That's where I'm at now, and today I'm going to double-down on making the present moment the "learning phase" of my life by announcing a new long-term goal for improvement: I am going to learn more in the next ten years than I did in the last ten.
In other words, whatever the difference in quality of work was between ages 15 and 25, I am going to try and beat that between 25 and 35. This will probably be pretty hard for a few reasons:
1. There's less to learn. You know, 'cause I already learned a lot of it.*
2. Younger people just pick stuff up a lot quicker. There's some biological explanation for this about some protein in your brain that stops producing as you get older, but I have my own theory that I think is a pretty big piece of the puzzle: older people are more self-aware about how shitty they are at the thing they're trying to learn, and it's way way easier to get discouraged. Not only does this make it easier to go "I can't do this I quit," but it puts you in a mental space where you take less risks, and you gotta be willing to fuck up a lot if you want to make substantial progress. (I could talk about this a lot more but I'll save it.)
3. You get tired quicker
On all fronts I think the only way to overcome these hurdles is to just work harder than I have in the past. Which gives me some hope - I'm pretty lazy as is, so working a little harder is well within reason. If you have any tips about that sort of thing please share! Even if it's just some bruce lee quote or whatever. It's kinda hard to weed out the good advice from the self-help charlatans when it comes to "motivational" stuff or just advice on doing hard work, so if there's anything you can think of that has had a real and lasting impact on you I'd like to hear it!
The reason I'm announcing this ten-year goal publicly is to give myself some accountability, but maybe my deciding to do this will inspire some of you to do the same. A lot of people kind of stop getting better at their craft after college-age, or even regress, so here is my pledge to not do that! [If something radically changes like I lose my arm in a car crash or get a stroke, this pledge is void.]
The rest of this post was actually written two months ago, but I couldn't post it because it references stuff that wasn't out yet. Now it's all been released, so here!:
One day about four years ago I was thinking about how there are a few artsy things that I would like to get good at before I die, and I got to thinking about what the right "order" might be for attacking them. It occurred to me that if I ever wanted to do music, I should pick it up while I'm still young since, for whatever reason, musicians overwhelmingly seem to peak at a young age - between 18 and 30. And so, with next to no experience in music-making under my belt, I started trying to write songs.
Four years later I'm still at it. I've done a few collaborative releases with friends, but most of the stuff I've made is unreleased. Most of it is really not that good. But every once in a while, something will have a little glimmer of something interesting, and so the game is to grab hold of those little interesting things, and collect them and refine them and find tidy little homes for them next to the other interesting things, and eventually have enough interesting things to compose a thoroughly interesting song, and eventually have enough thoroughly interesting songs to stitch together a totally bitchin debut LP.
That has been the goal since the beginning, and so far I have exactly one song that is good enough for the LP.
I'm starting a new paragraph to give the last sentence a little extra punctuation. That's a little writer's trick. Did it grab your attention? Good, because it was an extremely misleading statement. At the rate I'm going you might think the album will take 40 years. I designed my writer's trick to make you falsely assume this. In reality, the album had like seven songs at one point and then after I finished the eighth one, I decided that that one should be the new bar for how good the songs should be, and everything else got canned. That's also not the first time such a thing has happened. So most of the process of making this album will actually be the process of my learning to make music, and then once I can make a whole bunch of songs that all meet an equally high standard of competence, I'll have something to share with the world.
...Actually, I do have some stuff to share right now, too! I like to do a lot of fuckaround stuff (in fact it's crucial to the learning process, at least for me) and every once in a while I'll release some of it under a wacky pseudonym on me n' my friends' crappy bandcamp page!
The Connecticut Hungry Tapes - a few months ago I challenged myself to record one song every day before breakfast. Many days I did not eat until 3 pm. Here are the highlights of that experiment, which I just released yesterday. I like a lot of it! **
I also worked on a few albums in an exquisite corpse sort of process with some other friends I met right here on newgrints! If you're only going to listen to one thing I link here, make it this:
It seems like the hot trend now is for all your favorite internet toonists to decide they are also bedroom pop musicians, so if I want to eventually release anything "real" it's going to have to be pretty good or I'll be "just another guy who did all the usual internet artist stuff" instead of "the guy who did x and y and z and they ALL kicked ass." And because I'd hate to be that first guy, I've been devoting a lot of time and energy to trying to be good at this music thing - good enough that you won't just hear it and think "wow that's pretty good for a guy who is mainly an animator and video games guy", good enough that upon hearing it you will forget about me, the animator/video games guy, and just think "wow that's pretty good." Or even, "really good," and proceed to repeatedly listen to it as if it were something you heard on your spotify discover weekly.
(Present Day) I know most people will not be too interested in the music stuff, since music especially seems to be the sort of deal where it either is or isn't "your thing" and there's way too much of it out there to be bothered with some guy who is still "just learning," but if you're big into experimental art-project stuff, or have a taste for things that are a little rough around the edges or outsider-y, you might find something you like in there. If you're intrigued but don't have the time or patience for a full album, people have said these specific tracks were good.
If you listen to any of that and there's a song or sound or moment you think is cool, let me know! It's always neat to see where my tastes align or don't with the people who listen. The last song I linked almost got left on the cutting room floor because I thought it was too shitty, but bobby liked it so I left it in.
* I mean not really, because there's a practical infinity of stuff to learn, and infinity minus anything is still infinity, but once you learn all the basic stuff everything just takes a lot more work to understand, so that's really what I'm talking about here.
** As of 10/3/2021 I am the only person to purchase my own album on bandcamp, because I wanted it on my phone. It looks really sad.