Tag Archives: music

Exhausted By the Weight of Joy

25 Jun

They say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” which is dumb AF. Do what you love and if you’re lucky you’ll work all the time, because your work and your play will blend seamlessly into a bizarre, exhilarating tornado until you collapse, exhausted by the weight of joy.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, except this. Vulnerability is terrifying, and I avoid it. But there are four times I can’t hide, when I can’t help but reveal my deepest insecurities: when I’m writing a story; when I’m very drunk; when I’m laying in Chris’ arms; when I’m standing on a stage.

Achieving Stuff II: The Search for Perspective

5 Dec

I have a ton of things on my to-do list today, and none of them are “write a blog post.” Then again, none of them are “organize pictures in downloads folder,” either, and I’m definitely doing that, so what’s a to-do list in the grand scheme of things, really?

I’ve been thinking about accomplishments.

A friend of mine graduated this summer, and I gave her a sketchbook with a little note that said something like “Your productivity does not define your worth.” I don’t remember the exact wording, but that was the sentiment, and it’s one that I’ve often expressed to her and to other friends. Of course that’s easier said than believed, and what’s sauce for the goose you like is not necessarily sauce for yourself when you don’t like yourself (that got away from me a bit), but I stand by it. Even for myself. Mostly. Sometimes.

Ok, though, maybe I don’t? Not really. I’ve spent most of my life believing I am lazy and  the worst. I’m 90% sure I have some kind of attention disorder, and who knows? Maybe in 2019 I’ll finally talk to someone about getting that checked out. Have I suspected this for several years? Sure. Have I been putting off seeking diagnosis because I’m secretly terrified that they will say “no, you’re just a lazy bitch and your inability to focus is a moral failing”? Yes, obviously, but that’s not the point. The point is: to combat this feeling of “you accomplish nothing, you are worthless” I’ve started keeping lists of what I’ve done every day, because otherwise I am likely to forget it. Come on: if a woman cleans the bathroom but doesn’t write “cleaned bathroom” down on the back of a crumbled envelope, did it even happen? So in the spirit of “I forget things,” what have I accomplished in 2018?

Well, I co-created four really great Dragon Age costumes. This blog started as a costume blog, and one might think I would have discussed that process here, but I was busy freaking the fuck out all the time and never got around to it. Anyway, my friend E and I put these together over several months this spring and summer. She made the armor, and I made the clothes, which means I custom dyed (it’s a mix! of two! different! dyes! and it took me! four! weeks! to arrive at this particular! shade! of video game blue!) and patterned all this fabric shit.  These costumes were hard as fuck. They took hundreds of hours. We cried a lot and wound up hurting and exhausted and deliriously happy. I’m enormously proud of both of us, as well as these pictures by YouAreRaven.

 

I finished a short-novel-length piece of Dragon Age fanfiction. It’s just under 75k words, mostly original characters, and yes it’s fanfiction but you know what? I finished it. I started and finished a goddamned long-form piece of fiction for the first time in my life. Like, I finally learned how to do that. Do you understand how big an accomplishment this is for me? Do I understand that? I’ve been scribbling away at stories for 20something years and can count the number of Beginning-Middle-End Finished Pieces on two hands. What’s more, I posted it. Like, for strangers to read. And it’s pretty goddamned good, if you like that sort of thing.

At some point I finished the rough (very rough) draft of a female-driven fantasy novel I’ve been working on since late 2013. There’s still a long way to go on this one, but the skeleton and the muscles are there and we’re moving steadily towards the tendons and skin and…nerves? what other pieces of a body fit into this metaphor? I’m working on what could be called the second draft now. It’s slow going, but it gets better with every change, whether big or little. I’m learning how to organize and work through this process. It’s sitting right around 100k words. It has a title. It has a beginning and an end and most of a middle. And it’s pretty goddamned good.

Around Memorial Day weekend I started a female-driven urban fantasy novel that I’m about 61k words into. It’s pretty goddamned good so far. It’s looking like a trilogy. And I wrote some more short stories and creative nonfiction, some original and some fanfiction (Mass Effect and Rogue One and more Dragon Age, because this is who I am), some for public consumption and some for practice. I started referring to little throwaway snippets as “practice” rather than “a waste of time, God biscuit what is wrong with you” and I stopped thinking of writing as a chore and started treating it as a thing that gives me joy, because that’s what it is. I have started seeing a future in it–a for real future, an honest to God path forward. I have started doing research for What Comes Next. I have started making tentative plans.

I did an entire season playing music on stage in a duo at the Georgia ren faire, and then I did an entire season playing music on a stage solo at the Carolina ren faire. Not every set was perfect. I was nervous as hell. I forgot words, I forgot chords, I chickened out of some of the harder stuff, I cried after some sets, but I smiled and I sang and I kept going and I persevered. I never missed a set. I practiced all the time. I challenged myself and learned new things. I am infinitely better at the guitar than I was this time last year. I got roped into performing in a last-minute show at the fringe festival a week after the Georgia faire closed, and despite a laundry list of obstacles, I pulled it off. I performed several other places. I’m looking for more. I entered some contests. I’m entering some more.

I dealt with constant pain in my back, knees, and elbows, and intermittent pain in my left ovary for almost the entire year. I forgave myself for that pain, I let myself get treatment, and I forgave myself for getting treatment. I forgave myself for a lot things that shouldn’t need forgiveness. I started wearing knee braces and using my inhaler when I need them, not just when I need need them. I kept up with my hair color. I flossed. I spent a lot of time strengthening my marriage and friendships. I promoted my friends. I promited myself a little. I voted. I protested. The world is a garbage fire, but I’m doing stuff.

This time last year I had no idea where I was going, except that it would have to be better than where I was. This year I have almost stopped telling myself that I am a worthless procrastinater who never finishes anything.

So that’s what I’ve accomplished in 2018. In 2019 I’m going to really work on that “getting my hair trimmed regularly” thing.

Because WordPress won’t let iframes work unless you pay them, this year’s Intention Playlist can be found here.

Letters to Nobody

15 Nov

Dear Tay,

I hope it’s ok to call you Tay! I read in your authorized biography, MMMBop to the Top, that “Tay” is your nickname. Probably it is mostly for family and close friends, but you and I have a lot in common! You’re 13–I’m 12. Your favorite color is red–my third favorite color is red, after purple and sometimes blue, so sometimes it’s my second favorite color. You like Aerosmith–I love Aerosmith! My younger sister looks just like Zac, even. I feel like if you would just come visit my hometown so we could meet–

Ugh. No.

Ok.

Dear Taylor,

I hope this missive finds you well. My name is biscuit, and I am a very very big fan of yours. We are a lot alike, you and I. I’m almost 13, just like you. Also, just like you I travel the world singing, or would if my parents could have afforded that choir trip to Italy–

Oh hell no, don’t talk about being poor.

[deep breath]

To: Taylor Hanson
From: stone biscuit (a girl)

This is a strange way to start a letter. I guess that’s how email goes, but I don’t have the internet so I don’t really know about that except what I can see at my best friend’s house You and I have never met, so I don’t know any other ways to begin this letter. I don’t even know why I’m writing to you, except that there are so many feelings inside me I feel like I’m going to explode. Do you know what it is like to be 12? Do you know how it feels when everything is the most important thing, and yet nothing is important, and the hours seem like days? Of course you do; I stole that last line from a song you wrote. Maybe that’s why I love you.

Maybe that’s why I can’t decide if I want to be with you, or to be you.

From where I’m sitting you have everything I want–people love you, people pay attention to you, people give you money, and as far as I can tell you get to do whatever you want. You represent love and sex and self-expression and self-determination and creativity and freedom, things I can’t put a word to, things I am only beginning to realize I crave more than I have the capacity to handle, much less express. I don’t even think it’s you I want (though you are cute, and you grow up to be gorgeous, and there will never exist a moment in my life when I wouldn’t happily do age-appropriate sex things with you). What I want, what I long for, what I feel like I will die without (what I maybe want to die without?), is the sense that something, anything that I am doing now has meaning, has importance, that there is something to life other than the boring bullshit of school and bedtimes and nightmares and bullies and mental and physical illnesses and dark quiet streets that make me want to scream until my throat is bleeding just to break the stagnant suburban silence.

I know we’ll never meet. You’ll grow up to have five kids and a million nieces and nephews because you and your brothers have apparently never heard of birth control. You’ll all three break from your label and release a bunch of indie albums that garner critical acclaim and maintain a core audience of fans, and even release a beer at some point that I will never drink because I hate IPAs. I will grow up to make my own choices, to put a name to demons in my head and to start fighting them. I’ll learn lessons of harmony and storytelling from participating in your fanbase, and I will find my own voice. I will carry the internet in my pocket. Eventually I will realize that I can’t spend all my energy running from, and learn to start running towards instead, and while that seems so, so impossibly difficult some days, I will surround myself with the people and things I love, and I will arm myself with courage and grit and sheer goddamned spite, and I will pour myself into making art, and sometimes I will be able to outpace the terror of endless summer afternoons spent wondering if my existence has any meaning at all.

In the meantime, though, I will be an awkward 12-year-old girl in the suburbs of a shitty city, loving you, coveting the things I imagine you have, and clinging to the dream presented by your music to remind myself that there is more to life than…*waves hand vaguely* all this bullshit.

Sincerely,

– stone biscuit –

PS. While the close harmonies and simple elegance of White Christmas made up for it, I feel your cadenza on O Holy Night was embarrassingly overdone.

Singing To Myself

10 Oct

There’s a song I like a lot. As near as I can tell, it’s called May You: The Folksinger’s Song, which is fitting, given it’s a song about being a folk singer. It’s by Jan Marra, but I know it because a friend has occasionally played it for loved ones who are having a really rough day.

May you never be sorry you traveled this road,
May you find all the work that you need.
May your eyes be bright when you’re out late at night,
May never your glory get mixed up with greed

The last two weekends, the first two weekends of the festival, were full of really rough days. It was hot and brutally humid. Well, it’s often hot and humid at ren faires, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

The crowds at this faire are not necessarily prepped for hot, humid weather. It’s a fall festival, after all. My stage is a little off the beaten path, with not much in the way of signage, and there’s no shade on the benches for most of the day. I did what I could–I even dragged benches up onto the stage for the later sets, which helped a lot, but I played for small crowds. They were good crowds, full of engaged and happy people who liked what I was doing, people who were complimentary, people who laughed and cried appropriately, people who tipped, but there just weren’t many of them. On Sunday I had a total of maybe 12 people on my benches over three sets. And for more than a little bit of time, I played for myself. We all did. Some of the finest musicians I know were playing to empty benches.

There’s a number of people who’ll sit in the rear,
They’ll talk through your sets, they will catcall and jeer
A number of people will turn a deaf ear,
Just keep right on playing for those who will hear.

And that’s…it is what it is. It’s not ideal, but it happens. Normally it’s ok. I love to sing. I love to play guitar. But getting on stage requires a lot from me, and getting to this particular faire requires a lot of driving and being away from home. I’m not confident of my solo work, and when there’s only four people listening to me, it’s way easier to believe the little voice in my head that says what I’m doing is terrible. And then, you know, there was All That Stuff going on in the world, what with credible accusations of sexual assault still not being a barrier to being appointed to the Supreme Court (or elected president). Last Sunday morning I overheard a different friend make a joke that boils down to “bitches be lying,” and I cried a lot, universe. I cried a lot. I was supposed to be getting ready for the day, warming up and tuning and doing makeup, but instead I was crying. I got out there and I did my thing, playing the Village Protest Singer with all the considerable verve at my disposal, and I sang my feelings to the heavens and the three people who were listening, but I was hot and drenched in sweat and bleeding and full of rage and sorrow and fear, and I had to dig deep into my reserves to find the courage and energy to get up there, and the crowds were very small and I was very tired.

When the time comes to pack up and ramble along,
May never you wonder just where you belong,
And if you hit hard times may they make you strong.
May every experience lend to your song.

During my down time I tried to recharge by sitting in the audience of empty sets, listening to my friends play beautiful music, and that helped. At one of those sets on Sunday my first friend played the Folksinger’s Song. I don’t know if he played it for me; I think he played it for all of us, but it was still very good to hear. I cried a little more, and then I ate lunch, and I felt a little better. It was still really hard and I’m still very tired, and I’m still not confident in my solo stuff, but I do love to make music, and that’s not everything, but it’s not nothing.

May your heart be light, may you sleep well at night,
And I hope that you find all the love that you need.

’17 Going on ’18

28 Dec

(Footnotes after the jump)

The Year of Our Lord 2017 was a year.

If you’ll allow me to fall back on some platitudes for a minute, I’ll say that it was a year of transition and change. I mean, every year is a year of change, because everyone changes. Nothing illustrates that quite so well as the wedding pictures on the wall–way back from 2009! We look so different! And yet so similar! So saying “this was a year of changes” is kind of silly. Of course it was. Things change literally every minute.

On the other hand, this time last year I was pretty ready to hurt myself because I couldn’t see any other method of escape. Right now I’m tired, sad, and worried, but I’m not having to actively prevent myself from violence, and that’s not in any way a little thing.

I have some specific goals for 2018. I feel better when I get a little exercise, so I’ll try that. I should try to maybe only be an every-week regular at one biscuit establishment, rather than five of them. It would be nice to get all the art up on the walls and make sure the frames are even, so I have to get a friggin’ level. I need a haircut. That fits in with my main goal, which is to be a little kinder to myself. Wallowing in shame and anxiety is no way to go through life–it’s counter-productive at best. Does that mean I should get my ass back into therapy? Yes, it does. Also I should see the doctor about these weird knee aches I have recently* developed, and get my car in to figure out why the check engine light came on a little bit ago**, but let’s take it one step at a time.

Anyway, the last half of 2017 was pretty good. 2018 is going to be pretty good too. It’s rained here for far too long.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/stonebiscuit/playlist/30pjkpufM9ujjmlLj7kvQp

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Memo to Self: RE Stage Fright, Stress Dreams, Panic Response

23 Sep

Nerves are a sign of investment in the quality of the upcoming performance. Tune your guitar and practice your chord changes until you feel better (if you never do feel better, well, maybe try tuning again? I don’t know, I’m not a doctor).

As a wise friend of mine once said, “Just keep your soft palate nice and high through the long ‘o’ in ‘gloria’ and we’ll all get through it.”

I Make Playlists – Henry VIII

1 Aug

I’m kind of a little bit obsessive about Tudor history. You’re surprised! To be fair to you, I’m very quiet about things I’m interested in. I also really like to make themed mixes, whether to burn to CDs (my favorite, perhaps because I am An Old) or listen to obsessively on Spotify.

I’ve made a lot of mixes I really love, but I think this is among my favorites of all time.

Hank 8

A Mix for Henry VIII,
His Wives, Mistresses, Would-be Wives, Children,
and Daddy Issues

(I never could think of good songs for his sisters, and am open to suggestions).

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/stonebiscuit/playlist/1ayYy7A8R5uvYIGffWvhoa

Wives
Being Queen Won’t Get You Ever After Anymore – Joni Minstrel
Ring the Alarm – Beyoncé (Catherine of Aragon)
So What – P!nk (Anne Boleyn)
Careful What You Wish For – Eminem (Jane Seymour)
Survivor – Destiny’s Child (Anne of Cleves)
I Never Loved You Anyway – The Corrs (Catherine Howard)
The King is Dead but the Queen is Alive – P!nk (Catherine Parr) (apparently this is some kind of Japanese exclusive and the real track isn’t on Spotify, so listen here)

Mistresses and Would-Be Wives
Hot ‘N Cold – Katy Perry (Madge Shelton)
If You Seek Amy – Britney Spears (Mary Boleyn)
Womanizer – Britney Spears (Christina of Denmark)

Children
King Nothing – Metallica (Henry Fitzroy)
Who Are You – The Who (Edward VI)
Killer Queen – Queen (Mary I)
Run the World – Beyoncé (Elizabeth I)

Hank Hisownself
Make it Rain – Ed Shereen
Used to Love Her – Guns N’ Roses
Henry the 8th – Herman’s Hermits

I well and truly love to hate Hank 8. He was just such a douche.

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