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  • Writer's pictureLeo Aram-Downs

The Year of Everything: A Reflection

At time of writing, there is only one song left to put out. Honestly, I never really thought this far ahead to the project actually concluding. When I started it, it felt as if I subscribing to a new lifestyle instead of something temporary. I feel like I’m filled with some kind of creative inertia that’s going to smash into 2020 without any kind of direction, and that’s going to be interesting and weird. I don’t know how I’m going to react to not having as clear an objective but it’s a reaction I need to experience.

The other reason I didn’t think this far ahead is because I honestly didn’t think I’d manage it. I had so many pictures in my head of family disasters and everyday obstructions getting in the way of the music, but I’ve somehow managed to navigate the entire year while just about managing to maintain the schedule. That’s not to say things didn’t need to change at points. Thanks to time-tracking, I could see that blog posting and video making regularly took way longer than actually making the music, and only really served as a peripheral addition to the central content. I knew that the music was the only actual important element of it, so it did quite quickly result in me getting rid of the extra dead weight so that the ship could sail. But I consider that a necessary part of the process.

Nevertheless, all this does beg the question of what’s next for me as a maker of stuff, and honestly I have way less of an idea than I would like. All signs point to just making some high-production-value music and plugging it conventionally, but that feels weird. I’ve always wanted to add some element of novelty or whimsy to the music I make. I’ve done music videos in VR, I’ve experimented with all sorts of stimulus-driven writing, and of course this. I think, deep down, this is my tiny internal act of rebellion against what I perceive to be a very weird (and tedious) direction the music industry is heading in. I watch plenty of “content-gurus” and always come away with a cynical, yucky feeling from all of them. I’m not interested in modifying my art and my online existence for the sake of gaining a following, and I think I tend to act out in the opposite direction. At the end of the day it may be a necessity for whatever comes next, and I’ll have to just hold my nose and make some content. But if I do end up weaponizing myself on social media, there will be a big fat disclaimer either here or somewhere else online beforehand. I’ll make it plainly obvious that I’m here to play the game because it’s the only way to do things from now on.

I also think the Year of Everything was a subconscious exercise in nihilism. I strongly believe that to strive for anything at all, you need to be content with where you are currently, otherwise you’ll never be satisfied when things don’t pan out quite how you’d like. Maybe I’m a bit too content, because at the start of this I felt like that where I currently am is the only place I’ll ever progress to as an artist, and there was a weird freedom in that sense of aimlessness. If nothing means anything, and nothing will come of me sticking to convention, I may as well focus on the one thing I want to do, which is make as much good art as I’m capable of in what little time I have. And for the most part, I’m thankful for that mindset. It’s led me on one of the most creatively rewarding and challenging years of my life and I wouldn’t have changed anything about it. I’ve written some of my favourite music I’ve ever written and the whole mindset of wanting to do as much as possible has led me to some great gigs, meeting some wonderful people and generally feeling overall pretty content with my work. That said, I think it’s time to plan further ahead into the future, which leads me nicely onto next year’s theme:

I’ve grown a little bit addicted to pushing myself, and by extension punishing myself. I make as much music as I possibly can in any given day and even my hobbies are weirdly competitive and have a sense of self-improvement to them. When I’m not constantly trying to make stuff, I’m playing hard video games, exercising, practicing guitar, trying dumb origami patterns, or writing big long blog posts that take ages to do. My sense of constantly trying to raise the bar in every element of my life, while enjoyable and rewarding, is tiresome and a bit unnecessary. It also leaves very little room for picturing the future. I need to teach myself to be OK with laying foundations for things that won’t come to fruition immediately. I need to learn to drive, invest some money in stocks or something, just generally round myself out as a person. Maybe even go back and get my black belt in Shotokan Karate. I need to even be OK with just not working. This blog is literally being written because I didn’t have any transcriptions to deal with and I can’t sit still for the life of me.

This doesn’t mean the work is going to stop, I just need to be OK with things not happening immediately. I want to write a ton of music for the sake of just examining ideas again and developing them slowly into pieces of music I can make with great musicians in a great studio, and hopefully from there I’ll be able to plan for a career as an artist more seriously. I need to play games and consume media that is just genuinely good, instead of something that will force me to get good, or read the lore, or demand years of my attention.

The point is I want to be able to look further forward into the future than I’m currently comfortable doing, and I’m going to take January-March of 2020 to do just that. Black out on social media and just plug back into the things that interest me as a person. I want to read more books and make more music and take more walks and be the best songwriter I can be, but I have to accept that those things take way more time than I ever estimate. Great songs don’t get completed in a week (with all the exceptions proving the rule), but I’m thankful for the freedom and time and motivation I had to make something every week. I’ve written some of my favourite songs on a whim, and also uploaded several things I’ll never listen to or play live ever but have served as building blocks for the next thing.

For anyone considering doing something similar, I can’t recommend it enough. It doesn’t need to be in public (it helps keep you on the ball if it is), but to be in a place where you make stuff that you can surprise yourself with is a really wonderful place to be. Furthermore, for anyone considering getting a yearly theme, please, please consider it. Having a little ideological North Star is a wonderful thing to have, and there’s heaps of great content about how to decide on yours.

Anyway, bring on the Year of Patience. Have a wonderful holiday season everyone.

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