The Recording of War On Dreams Part 1 & 2

Part 1: Why dreams aren’t always easy and that’s ok

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When it comes to speaking of matters as serious as our dreams, the analogy of ‘a battle’ works for me. Having read Steven Pressfield’s book ‘The War of Art’, I can see that I am not alone: Pressfield highlights the various (and seemingly inevitable) opposing energies that we face when we embark on the pursuit our goals or creative ambitions. Inspired by Pressfield’s title, the song ‘War On Dreams’, reflects my own such experiences with music.

As with all creative endeavours, no-one else ever knows the full extent of blood, sweat and tears that go into a finished product or work of art. The song ‘War On Dreams’ was no exception. The irony that recording a song about the struggles of chasing a dream could then take so long to finish, was not lost on me. We can all laugh* about it now.

(*Laughs manically, flinches then weeps quietly) ;).

I want to share this process with you because I think somewhere out there is the misconception that things that are ‘meant to be’ should be easy and just some how fall into place. That if something proves to be difficult maybe it’s a ‘sign’ that it wasn’t meant to be, that we’re not good enough or that we should give up.

Not so.

Sure, some things do seem to just fall into place for some people and good for them, although this is rarely really the case. Nevertheless, you can’t compare your work of art, business, dream, or it’s journey to fruition, with anyone else’s for many reasons:

  1. You are unique.
  2. Your dream, goal, ambition, art, business, project is unique to you.
  3. Your journey, life experience, network, circumstances, abilities, confidence, vision are all unique.
  4. Your struggles, lessons, subsequent learning and solutions on said journey will also be (yup you guessed it…) unique and, quite possibly – NECESSARY.

Often, your struggles along the way better equip you to make your goal a reality and help you prepare for it’s arrival. This was certainly the case with the recording of ‘War On Dreams’. Allow me to illustrate:

Writing the song: I wrote the song over several months, the initial riff came easily but no words or other sections joined them for quite some time. Usually songs come together for me over a couple of sittings, a song that took this long was largely unheard of for me. I didn’t discard it, I just kept playing it often   and let the rest of the song develop very slowly over time. Patience paid off.

The Demo: When I was ready to record the demo, my computer broke, I needed a new one to record, but we were moving house so had lots of other priorities and time went by. I eventually bought a new computer for recording and miraculously completed a fully arranged and recorded demo in a 16 hours straight solo session. Phew – made up for some lost time there. The demo really captured the feel of the track and gave me goose-bumps when I listened to it. Win.

The Producer: I took it (along with a few other tracks) to a lovely producer friend of mine to re-do the strings, piano and vocals and add the professional polish it deserved. This took some time (and money) and although it did sound very polished in the end, it had somehow lost the great emotional feel and goose-bumps that were so strong in the demo version, (N.B. this is called ‘Demoitus’ and I’m told it can be fatal).

I took the new version home with me to work on but without all the same virtual instruments and plugins as used in his studio, I couldn’t get it anywhere close. The other tracks weren’t getting there either and at this point I’d reached the end of my producer budget without having one finished track to show for it. I sadly had to cut my loses.

At this stage things were pretty sucky. I’d spent a lot of time and money and seemed no closer to getting the track (or any of the others) sounding as good as I thought they should. I had three options:

  1. Settle for the very polished but unemotional professional recording that just left me feeling kinda cold.
  2. Give up, have a little tantrum, say that everything’s rubbish, drink too much and moan about my very ‘first world’ problems.
  3. Start again from scratch.

I chose option 2, but once I got that out of my system, I moved on to option 3 🙂

“They who have conquered doubt and fear have conquered failure”. 

– James Allen

 


Part 2: Backwards to go forwards

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Yup, it was pretty heartbreaking and incredibly daunting to start over. Whist I could record a demo with great feel, I didn’t have the skills or equipment to create a broadcast standard recording on my own, and that’s what I needed.

So (queue montage), I researched equipment, read reviews, went on forums, spoke to other producers, took courses, read books on the subject, watched tutorials, saved up, and over time started to build up my own studio and develop the best set up I could afford to meet my needs.

This all obviously took some time and was at points very frustrating. Interestingly enough, it took about nine months from the new equipment arriving, through to the release of my first two singles. A real ‘labour’ of love! I of course wrote and recorded other songs in that time and had various other projects going on, but was determined that ‘War On Dreams’ was to be my first solo commercial single to mix and release.

In hindsight, choosing the biggest, most complicated and dynamically challenging song I’d ever written as my first single to mix and release by myself, probably wasn’t the smartest idea. It did involve both my speakers and my ears breaking from the long hours of tweaking to ‘perfection’ and a two week music ban on doctors orders (I’m ok now and I have beautiful new monitors!).

During those nine months I also created my own website, learnt skills in Photoshop, Lightroom and Final Cut, created all my own artwork, and managed the various music rights and business administration associated with being an independent songwriter (song registrations/ tax returns etc). However, during that time, I never felt like I was achieving enough, quickly enough.

In my anxiety to reach the final goal of a release and have something to show for all my work, I hardly noticed all the progress I was making. It just felt hard and lonely and like there was always more mountain to climb. People would ask me how the music was coming along and I’d just feel like a fraud because it wasn’t finished yet despite months of hard work and skilling up. My response was always “nearly there”, said with a heavy smile that didn’t reach my eyes, self doubt palpable or I went off into incomprehensible rants about EQ and mix translations while peoples’ eyes glazed over. I sound like great company right?

In truth, not one day was wasted. Nothing can replace the experience you get by just putting in the hours. Every way that didn’t work was a lesson. I got quicker, more confident, I got better.

Ultimately I became a one stop shop for my own single release and all the other related creative necessities. During that time I equipped and future proofed myself to be able to do this for the rest of my life. Once you’ve leant something no-one can take it away from you. I will only continue to get better, work faster and improve. Naturally, I might not be the ‘best’, at whichever individual element of the process compared to those who have practiced it professionally for years, but I am the best person at knowing, hearing and seeing what my unique vision is and I will work harder and put more hours into realising that than anybody else ever would on my behalf.

Had I not experienced the previous difficulties, I would not be in this great position.

It’s ok for your dream to be hard. Just be harder.

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“Perseverance is the hard work you do 

after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”   

– Newt Gingrich

 

“Never, never, never give up.”

– Winston Churchill

You can find my music at www.RuthAD.com

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In Bed With The Dream Eater

We are all at war. It’s just that some people don’t realise it. The enemy is sneaky; a master of disguise and it’s already inside.

It sounds like your best friend. Sometimes it even employs your best friend to do its bidding. It comforts you. It soothes you. It buys you chocolate. It pours you a glass of wine and puts on a box set. It backs you up when you cancel your plans. It cares about your comfort and will always prioritise pleasure, relaxation, lie-ins and treats.

It reminds you of all the other stuff you could be doing rather than going to the gym. It points out interesting distractions on social media. It orders you curry; we’ll start the diet tomorrow. It hits the snooze button for you. It convinces you of why today isn’t such a good day to start your action plan after all. You agree that ‘tomorrow’, for real this time, is the best day.

But tomorrow never comes. You will always be distracted, entertained and safe in your comfort zone because this is exactly where the enemy wants you. “That doesn’t sound so bad”, you say. And therein lies the power of this frenemy – you are complicit in your own imprisonment.

Your comfort zone is where dreams go to die – and that’s exactly what the Dream Eater wants.

 

In Bed With the Dream Eater

The Dream Eater has many faces. It will often use a coddling, friendly tone. “I won’t tell anyone about the lie-in and missed gym session. It will be our little secret.” But don’t be fooled. As soon as you start questioning its motives, going against its advice and turning your back on it, the Dream Eater turns into another monster all together and it will Take. You. Out.

Once provoked, its other faces manifest. These include, but aren’t limited to, the internal critic, the self loathing, the self doubts, addictions, jealousies, resentments, and regrets. It’s the voice that tells you that you’re not good enough, that people are laughing at you. It asks, who are you to think or create or do or act or say such a thing? It scans your memory and connects together all the negative past experiences that have ever made you question yourself.

It creates conversations in your head and plays the antagonist with all the gusto of a seasoned theatre pro. It knows the right things to say and the right buttons to push, until you throw that script, song or business plan in the bin. You’re left reeling from imagined humiliations so convincing you forget they haven’t actually happened.

The Dream Eater won’t show up for just any old goal though. Want to smash 3 Seasons of ‘Game Of Thrones’ in one ice cream-fuelled weekend? It’ll approve wholeheartedly, no resistance at all. This is how, without realising, the Dream Eater gives you a gift.

Its mere presence alerts you to the very thing you are most called to do. The bigger and more important the goal is to you and the higher the potential impact for good; the stronger, nastier and trickier the Dream Eater will become.

If you feel no resistance to pursuing something, the chances are that it isn’t a dream that’s gonna set you or the world on fire. But if you have ever pursued a goal close to your heart – a creative, physical, social or entrepreneurial endeavour that moves you, or others, forward for the better in some way – you will be all too familiar with the feelings of resistance that the Dream Eater provokes.

The key is to recognise it. See it when it shows up, call it out and have a strategy for crushing it before it steals another dream from us all.

I say ‘all’ because, although we are on unique paths, we are all in this together. The world needs our light. It needs us to be the best version of ourselves. It needs art, music, courage, healing, new businesses, charities, social change and movements that fire us up and move humanity forward.

I want to share my journey as a creative person and songwriter with other like-minded people trying to achieve their goals. I want to be accountable to my fellow ‘warriors’ in this battle, and to share inspiring resources and tactics that can help us become the creative ass-kicking ninja warriors we were all born to be. My blog and resources page will explore these topics in more detail.

I believe that, despite how it may feel, and indeed look some days, the odds are in our favour. Focus, practice, commitment, intent, gratitude, visualisation, tenacity and bloody mindedness will get us there.

The Dream Eater is beatable. Battle is inevitable but nothing is more important for you and the rest of the world than that we show up, continue to fight and win with small daily victories and bigs leaps of courage.

Come chase dreams and slay demons with me.

To arms! (Not arm-chairs!).

Ruth A-D