writing

#613: Writer’s Block

GETTING MORE TALE #613: Writer’s Block

Writer’s block?  I’ve got it.  Can’t tell?  That’s because I have built up a backlog of posts ready to fill the gap when needed.  It’s called planning ahead.  Being prepared for the inevitable.  Writer’s block strikes when it wants to.

Staring at giant piles of CDs…over 3000 of them aching to be listened to, reviewed, discussed, and appreciated.

“I can’t find anything I wanna listen to.”

Collecting music for over 30 years.  Selling it to the public for 12.  Managing a Record Store for 10.

“I can’t think of any good stories to talk about.”

Fuck you, writer’s block!  Can’t be inspired to write about anything?  Then I’ll write about you, writer’s block!  Take that, you asshole.

There are ways around just about anything – especially when the only thing stopping you is you.

It’s absolutely incredible that I can be sitting here with over 3000 of my favourite pieces of music and can’t be arsed to put two thoughts together.  What’s the deal?  Well, I’m distracted.  Distracted by real life, by loved ones who are more important than words, and by sheer exhaustion.

Take a break?  I am on a break!  See above note about backlog and try to keep up!

Writing is one of my great joys.  Music is another.  Combine the two together and I have the most enjoyable, rewarding creative endeavour.  It’s work, but it doesn’t pay very well, so in reality it’s pleasure.

It’s a pain in the ass when my brain refuses to be inspired.  That’s life.  It could get worse before it gets better.  Sometimes, the heart lies elsewhere.  Family comes first, as it should.  Life happens whether you like it or not.

I love putting an article or review together.  The process of polishing and finishing one is actually even more enjoyable than the writing.  Coming up with accompanying photos, replacing old tired words with better ones – it’s all fun and invigorating.  Seeing the finished published product and reading the comments are all things that bring me great happiness.

Even though I currently “can’t find anything to listen to,” I have no intention of stopping.  I’ve slowed down in the past – 2016 had fewer posts than 2017 – but this is far too much fun.

Fuck you, writer’s block.  Writing about music isn’t a chore, it’s just the opposite.  I won’t let you stop me.

 


Bon Jovi wrote “While My Guitar Lies Bleeding in My Arms” about writer’s block

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Interview: 1537 Questions

We don’t need no preamble! If you have ever wanted to know how to write the most unique music reviews that this planet has ever seen, then you need to read on as we pick the mind of the one, the only, Mr. 1537 himself. He is one talented music writer that deserves all the praise you can heap.

1537


M: It is a pleasure to speak with you, Mr. 1537.  I understand that anonymity is important to you.  It would matter to me too, if I had any sense.  How would you like us to address you in this interview?

1537:  A simple ‘sir’ would normally suffice, but in order to seem a bit more user-friendly ( I gather the masses tend to like that) you can call me 15 strictly for the duration of this interview.

Actually I sort of ballsed up the whole anonymous thang by using my name as the blog domain; oops, back to spy school for me!   I don’t do any social media at all beyond WordPress and I am basically a needlessly secretive dude.  I admire folk who can bare their souls in their blogs but that’s not me at all, I let bits and pieces of my life seep through the cracks sometimes but not very much.

M: As opposed to me, who built a cottage industry on the minutia of working in a record store.  Now…Lego.  You’ve managed to incorporate Lego in your articles’ artwork, in a simple yet innovative and endlessly entertaining way.  How long have you been a fan of Lego, and is that longer than you’ve been into music?

15: Well, the Lego came first, my daughter got the Lego DJ figure and on a whim I thought it would look good on the circle of the Flying Lotus LP Cosmogramma, then Sleep Dopesmoker and then I started to look at the possibilities of making relevant figures for relevant LPs.  I had a Blogspot thang where I’d managed three reviews years before, but I gradually realised that if you gave people something to look at they might stop by and read my Mighty Rock Words of Power (MRWoP) too.

It took me a while to hit my stride and then when people actually started reading it … wow, it really is the best feeling.

Oh, Lego.  Yup, I’ve always loved it, way before I was conscious of music – although I grew up in a very music-oriented household.  I used to make elaborate Star Wars games and fantasies up through Lego, way before they had brought out space Lego. You used to have to improvise weapons in those days too, because Lego didn’t believe in promoting weapons as toys for kids.

M: That’s right, you used to have to use the “bullhorns” as guns, until Lego started introducing actual guns in 2005.  You seem to have a Minifigure appropriate for every single album review you do, no matter how bizarre or obscure.  Presently how many figures do you think you own?

15: I have a couple hundred Minifigures, which is not all of them by a long way, I’m not obsessive about collecting them and there are plenty of gaps in my collection.  I love it when they produce a new line and one strikes me as perfect for an LP I haven’t done yet.

A lot of the fun is improvising and putting combos of different figures together.  I’ve also drawn on a couple duplicates I have to make an Alice Cooper, a Scott Ian and a Ziggy Stardust; oh and I have also added cleavage to a figure or two along the way; that’s normal behaviour for a 44 year-old isn’t it?

M: I’m not one to judge.  What drives your review?  Do you start with the text or the visuals? 

15: Always the text.  I think wordaciously, not visually.  I’m a slow writer because I edit it all as I go along, most reviews take me at least 3 hours, with another 40 minutes or so on top for the pictures.  If you add in the demands of family life, a really demanding job, a little socialising and even, hey, listening to music sometimes, it all adds up to why I don’t produce as many as I’d like to.  There are never any ‘in the can’, I tend to write them, hit publish and go straight to bed, as it’s usually 1am by then.  I like waking up to everyone’s comments.

Q: Do you use any fancy-pancy camera or lighting equipment?  The images are always very crisp and vibrant, much better than I’ve been getting with my BlackBerry in my home office.

15: Absolutely not.  Everything I do is done on my iPhone (the model before the last one – 6 is it?), I’m not particularly good at it, I just take a lot of photos.  Shiny, shiny covers are the bane of my life.

What I am pretty good at now, by trial and error, is editing the pictures, I use a Windows App called Fhotoroom and another called KVADPhoto.  I have never ever published a picture I haven’t edited for contrast, colour, or cropped and altered etc.  Some of my favourites have been very boring photos before I have messed them around.

M:  I crop everything, but I wouldn’t know what to do as far as contrast or colour, so kudos to you sir.  A two-part question next:  What are your favourite reviews that you’ve done, both in terms of writing and in terms of photos?

15: In terms of the writing I rather like this comparison between Andrew Marvell, English metaphysical poet and a Rhino Bucket song about oral sex – it’s even got my voice on it:

https://jatstorey.com/2014/12/05/to-his-coy-bitch/

I’m also rather fond of doing interviews, that’s been a whole lot of fun when the right person has been on the other side who is willing to engage properly with the silliness of it all.  It’s also a nice way to get to chat to bands when you go see them live too.  Spencer from MFC Chicken was my first and favourite:

https://jatstorey.com/2014/11/18/spencer-speaks/

I have too many favourite pictures to pick a post, but these two have to come darned close – ‘Hatting’ Isaac Hayes and my take on The Shining:

https://jatstorey.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/hot-buttered-soul-02.jpg

https://jatstorey.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/the-shining.jpg

 

M: Ahh yes, The Shining was a personal favourite of mine too.   I find I often have to listen to an album while I write, and it can’t be the first listen either.  I need a fresh listen in order to capture all my thoughts and pass them on to the weary readers.  Your reviews are very different from mine, and frankly far beyond what I’m capable of writing.  Do you use the “listen as you write” technique or something else?

15: I try to give it a good listen the night before, or on my way to/from work (an hour-long commute doesn’t have to be all bad) and I listen to bits of it as I write, or if I’m happy I know it enough – I might be writing about something I’ve been listening to in heavy rotation for 28 years (Christ, I’m old!), I have an ambient playlist I listen to when I write sometimes.

M: What else do you need to be able to write?  I need to be in my underwear with a cold beverage.  No bevvies and no skivvies means no review.  I suspect you prefer warm slippers and oatmeal.

15: I need quiet, which is ironic given that most of my favourite music involves bellowing and shrieking.  I write at a desktop (hate lap-tops) in the room that also has our biggest TV in and so there can be a certain amount of negotiation involved – it’s often why I write so late into the morning, it’s the only time I can.

Other than that my needs are simple, I prefer non-restrictive trouser ware and that’s it.  You really write in your undies?

M: Hey, who’s conducting the interview here? I ask the questions! Is there any one band you really really hope reads your stuff?

15: Nah, although there is a fair chance of some artists tuning in because a lot of the LPs I bought in the late 80’s seem to have only sold one copy, to me – I always try to be pleasant because, you just should be.  If I can’t write anything too complimentary I always add in my caveat along the lines of ‘These guys made a far better record than I ever have I’m just a loser boy sat behind a keyboard’.

Larry Miller from Uncle Sam stopping by was wonderful (I own an LP he signed and bit for me back in ’91) and we’re still in touch – I even helped get their debut LP re-released, that was a real buzz.

https://jatstorey.com/2013/07/20/i-lost-more-friends-than-youll-ever-have/

Oh and (coughs) Mark Wilkinson may have stopped by once too …

https://jatstorey.com/2014/01/19/smiling-vinyl-whores/

M: Do you have any particular influences in terms of writing?  I’ve made no secret that in my early years, I was definitely trying to be Martin Popoff, Jr.  Your style is unlike anyone I’ve read, but surely that didn’t happen in a vacuum?

stan-lee15: I had to really think about this one.  In terms of the character I write in, the tone of it, a lot of it comes from Stan Lee in those 1960’s Marvel comics – they knocked me for 6 when I first read my parent’s copies as a kid, the jokey references to himself and his fellow writers and artists in ‘the bullpen’; it was very playful and irreverent, that stuck with me.

You could maybe chuck in a bit of Harry Harrison and Douglas Adams, they were and are still, the only humorous writers I truly like and I do try to amuse.

Other than that there were all those fabulous late 80’s Kerrang! journalists, who were informative and, again, playful in the way they wrote – lots of irreverence and in-jokes, they painted their own little world and made it seem like the coolest place in the world to work.  I met Phil Wilding at a gig once and was more excited about that than the band (Dangerous Toys).

Oh and I hope there’s enough self-deprecation in there to show I do write in character and I’m not really a megalomaniac with an omnipotence delusion.

M: Sure, sure.  I knew that.  Anyway, do you ever worry you will run out of things to say about music?  Or do you see “1537” as a long-term project?

15: No, mostly because of the format I’ve set up for myself, my blog runs on rails to an extent – jokey title (usually), review of record(s), review count at the end, Lego images.  I have enough of the little vinyl buggers that I don’t have to write about the same artist too often, which would fox me – the closest I ever came to a series, like you, Geoff and Aaron do so well, was spending a month writing about artists beginning with a ‘B’ – I found that really tough.

Anyway I’ve got 809 more records to review.  Not sure where I’ll take it after that, because the whole point of the blog, apart from being an extended diary for myself, was to make sure I took time out to listen to everything I own properly – I have a horror of having stuff I haven’t heard, it makes me feel gluttonous and despicable.

M: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.  The agent who set this up didn’t want me to ask this last question.  But the interview is going well enough so I think I’m going to ask it.  You’re a Lego man — this is clear.  Meanwhile I’m into things that turn into little robots.  With all due respect, I think we both know that robots > bricks, but that is neither here nor there.  If you could transform into something, what would it be, and why?

I know the only reason you feel safe enough to ask me that is that I am currently orbiting earth at a crucial velocity on my space station, so I shall overlook your mortal impertinence this once.  I always wanted to be a farmer when I was little and was totally obsessed with tractors, it was all I ever drew apart from digital watches (they were new then).  So the obvious answer is a digital watch which transforms into a big kick-ass Ford County 1164 tractor (I always loved their colour scheme).

tractor

TRACTOR-TRON 1537 Lego/Transformers crossover set coming soon


Thanks again to 1537 for the chat.  We’ll leave you with a suitable music video…”Rockin’ is Ma Business”…and business is good!

 

#528: The Ratings System

GETTING MORE TALE #528: The Ratings System

You like reading music reviews. You read them for information and entertainment. You can’t get enough music reviews!

But what formats do you like? Perhaps you enjoy a meaty, detailed review with all the nitty gritty details. Some get bored with length, and just want a quick n’ dirty summary. This is why we tried the #200wordchallenge, and why Aaron at KeepsMeAlive enjoys the old-fashioned 80 word “hit and run” style from time to time. And others, such as our friends at 1001AlbumsIn10Years, are skilled at metaphors, and have added innovative graphics and charts to album reviews.

All of these techniques are valid, and the more unique and individual reviews certainly deserve praise for breathing fresh life into an ages-old format. But what about a numeric ratings system?

Some kind of rating is pretty standard for music reviews. Rolling Stone magazine uses a five-star system. So does Allmusic and NME, but Spin magazine uses a 10 point system. These allow a reader to very quickly see if a writer thought an album was any good, without having to actually read anything!

Here at mikeladano.com, we use a loose 5 star system. This originated at Amazon, where products must always be rated from 1-5 stars. Most of our earliest reviews here began life at Amazon, before they were expanded and modified for your edification. Because of this, we imported and have continued with an Amazon-like 5 star system.

Even this is limiting, so we have allowed fractions – you will see many 3.5/5 star reviews here. This essentially makes it a 10 point system like Spin’s.

But it’s not an exact science and that’s where we get into trouble.

It’s fairly easy to listen to an album a few times and decide on a number rating that feels right. A 5/5 feels like a near-perfect listening experience. A 4.5/5 might have some perceived flaws. But when you get into seriously comparing and stacking albums up against each other, the differences can be felt.  It’s also worth noting that a 5/5 star jazz album and a 5/5 star Kiss album are going to be wildly different from each other.  It’s all in the ear of the beholder.

Taken individually, ratings usually hold up. When compared amongst a band’s entire discography, things get dicey. Our series of Iron Maiden reviews was one such example. They have so many great albums – amazing albums, in fact – that it is quite easy to lay down 5/5 stars to much of their discography. But this ignores minor different degrees of rock excellence. Iron Maiden’s Rock In Rio is excellent. It is a rollicking heavy metal journey exploring Maiden’s history up to 2001. But is it as good as Live After Death? No. Very few things are. Both could easily have received a 5/5 rating, but we chose to lower Rock In Rio to 4.5/5 stars to keep everything in perspective.

Down these roads lead madness. We have even done a 4.999/5 star review.

If you review 1000 albums on a scale out of 5, you could quickly build up enough fractional ratings to necessitate three decimal places. But that complicates things needlessly. Wasn’t the numerical rating system supposed to be a quick and easy way to say if it’s good or not?  We have done 6/5 star reviews, reviews in negative numbers; we’ve done everything imaginable to try to keep ratings in scale.  Ultimately it is simply not possible.  Like finding an electron in a cloud, you just cannot pinpoint album ratings to that degree of precision.

A numerical rating can also paint you into a corner. There was some Facebook controversy recently over our assertion that Motley Crue’s self titled 1994 was one of the best albums of the 90’s, killing much of the competition. This led to challenges and comparisons with other albums of the period, all great records. How do you rate something “the best” over a bunch of other 5/5 star albums? And how do you know that you will still feel that something is “the best” when you think about it again next month? Putting a numerical rating on an album is like putting it into stone, and that can be limiting, especially when comparing.

We’ve been utilizing the 5 star system (with fractions) for close to five years now. We could stop, but at this point I don’t think it would help. For better or for worse, our bed is now made. And it’s 5/5 stars.

#513.5: The #200wordchallenge is done!

200-word

GETTING MORE TALE #513.5: The #200wordchallenge is done!

A huge thank-you to all who participated in this #200wordchallenge!

From August 29 to September 2, writers were challenged to write music reviews by the same length rules as old print magazines: 200 words.  No more no less.  One of us even took it upon himself to take the challenge further with the old “Hit & Run” review style — a hard 80 words!   Thanks to rock journalist Mitch Lafon for the impetus for this adventure.

The end result was 30 posts by six writers!  Speaking for myself, I enjoyed the experiment.  Mitch was right:  forcing yourself to adhere to a hard 200 words does sharpen your skills.  In addition, the challenge succeeded in bringing Vinyl Connection out of retirement (for now?)  so no matter how you slice it, the #200wordchallenge has brought some good to the world.  Each writer who participated even contributed more than they originally estimated they would!  Perhaps the #200wordchallenge injected a shot of inspiration.

Be sure to visit our friends below, and check out their work.  Thanks to each of these talented folks, we had a fun week.  And a big thanks again to Mitch Lafon, a rock star in his own right.  Click below for the posts, and give them all a hand (or 200 hands)!

 

 

VINYL CONNECTION:

GOODGIRLFRIEND (Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend
TRANS GILMOUR EXPRESS (The Orb featuring David Gilmour – Metallic Spheres)
DEAR HERR FROESE (Tangerine Dream – Phaedra)

1001 ALBUMS IN 10 YEARS:

The Sugarcubes – Life’s Too Good
Hanoi Rocks – Back to Mystery City (1983)
Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun (1999)

STICK IT IN YOUR EAR:

MSG (1981)
Badlands (1989)
Stereophonics – Performance (1999)
Tragically Hip – Roxy and Elsewhere (1993)

MIKE LADANO:

Ratt – Ratt & Roll 8191
Two – Voyeurs (1998 Japanese bonus track)
Journey – Look Into the Future (1976)
REVIEW: Megadeth – Countdown to Extinction (Remixed & Remastered)

BOPPINSBLOG:

Black Sabbath (The End World Tour -Toronto 2016)
Prophets of Rage – EP
Misheard lyrics (bonus)

“HIT & RUN” 80 word reviews:

KEEPS ME ALIVE:

Aerosmith – Devil’s Got a New Disguise – The Very Best of Aerosmith
Jim Cuddy – All In Time
Jim Cuddy – Skyscraper Soul
Regina Spektor – Soviet Kitsch
Willie Nelson – The Great Divide
Willie Nelson – Countryman
Holly Golightly – Slowly But Surely
Pegi Young – Foul Deeds
54-40 – Smilin’ Buddah Cabaret
Elliott Smith – Figure 8
Trews – Acoustic: Friends And Total Strangers Deluxe Reissue
Jake Bugg – On My One
Weezer – Weezer (blue)

#513: The #200wordchallenge

200 word

GETTING MORE TALE #513:
The #200wordchallenge (hosted by mikeladano.com)

Writing is a process of continual improvement.  This challenge started a couple weeks ago when I posted my epic Def Leppard review for Hysteria, at approximately 2400 words.

One benefit this writing journey has done for me is put me in contact with some great professionals.  Rock journalist Mitch Lafon (from One on One with Mitch Lafon) is one such professional, always willing to offer advice and encouragement.  Mitch has a decades-long history with writing, having done many reviews for the print medium before embarking on his current journey interviewing the stars.

“Anyone can fill a page,” he said, “but it’s much harder to come up with a sharp 200 word review.”

Back in his print days, they used to have to adhere to a strict 200 word limit:  no more, no less.  Not 199, not 202.  Mitch encouraged me to try this exercise.  “It hones the mind and sharpens the skills,” said Mitch.  That’s all I needed to give it a try!  “Pithy is king,” he says.  Sharp, concise and expressive.  (Mitch also told me about the old “Hit & Run” review format – a hard 80 words!)

A few of the budding writers here have taken up the #200wordchallenge, and you will see our work next week.  I will post links to all of the #200wordchallenge reviews from the writers taking part.  Would you like to participate?  Are you up for it?  Leave a comment below.

Interestingly, WordPress and Microsoft Word seem to count words differently.  My first #200wordchallenge review came up to 194 words on WordPress, but 200 words in Microsoft.  My manual count was closer to Microsoft’s, so that’s what I’m using for my word counts.  You may use whatever method you like as long as you’re consistent.  Title and score do not contribute to the word count.

There will always be a big place in my life for an epic-style review.  I don’t think I could have done Hysteria any other way.  (I mean, I could have, but I wouldn’t be happy with it.)  What’s your attention span like?  Can you make it past 200 words when reading a music review?  Comment below and let us know your take.

 

You up for it?


Look for reviews from the #200wordchallenge from Aug 29 – Sept 2.  This page will be updated with links.

VINYL CONNECTION:

GOODGIRLFRIEND (Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend
TRANS GILMOUR EXPRESS (The Orb featuring David Gilmour – Metallic Spheres)
DEAR HERR FROESE (Tangerine Dream – Phaedra)

1001 ALBUMS IN 10 YEARS:

The Sugarcubes – Life’s Too Good
Hanoi Rocks – Back to Mystery City (1983)
Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun (1999)

STICK IT IN YOUR EAR:

MSG (1981)
Badlands (1989)
Stereophonics – Performance (1999)
Tragically Hip – Roxy and Elsewhere (1993)

MIKE LADANO:

Ratt – Ratt & Roll 8191
Two – Voyeurs (1998 Japanese bonus track)
Journey – Look Into the Future (1976)
REVIEW: Megadeth – Countdown to Extinction (Remixed & Remastered)

BOPPINSBLOG:

Black Sabbath (The End World Tour -Toronto 2016)
Prophets of Rage – EP
Misheard lyrics (bonus)

“HIT & RUN” 80 word reviews:

KEEPS ME ALIVE:

Aerosmith – Devil’s Got a New Disguise – The Very Best of Aerosmith
Jim Cuddy – All In Time
Jim Cuddy – Skyscraper Soul
Regina Spektor – Soviet Kitsch
Willie Nelson – The Great Divide
Willie Nelson – Countryman
Holly Golightly – Slowly But Surely
Pegi Young – Foul Deeds
54-40 – Smilin’ Buddah Cabaret
Elliott Smith – Figure 8
Trews – Acoustic: Friends And Total Strangers Deluxe Reissue
Jake Bugg – On My One

#435: How to Write a Music Review

GETTING MORE TALE #435: How to Write a Music Review

So you want to throw your voice into the din, and write album reviews?  Good for you!  Allow me to offer some suggestions to help yours stand out.

First and foremost:  Know your subject.  That doesn’t mean you have to do a whole bunch of research.  It means you should listen to the music and pay attention to the parts you want to talk about.  Don’t say, “This song is really catchy” before you realize you can’t remember how it goes the next day.  Listen and let it speak.  It’s always tempting to blast a new release and say, “It’s awesome!” or “It sucks!”  Just browse Amazon for hundreds of reviews like that.  Don’t say something is “awesome” or “sucks” unless you are sure that’s how you feel about it, and can back it up in your review.

Research isn’t necessary, but you do have to make sure your review is factually correct.  If you don’t, the trolls will come out.  For example don’t say “Steve Perry is singing better than ever on the latest Journey album,” because that’s not him!  Make sure you get those things straight – who plays on the album, who wrote the songs.  All this can be easily determined via Wikipedia which is usually accurate enough for a review.  It takes a few extra minutes, but helps ensure you won’t sound like an idiot.  When all this information is out there and available for free, there’s no excuse for inaccuracy.

Another great tip:   Be passionate.   It’s music after all.  How does it make you feel?  Put that feeling (positive or negative) into your review.  If readers can pick up on your passion, it’ll help keep them engaged.  You don’t want a dry, boring review that people skip to the end to read the rating.

One reviewers’ strategy that I recommend:  Read other reviews.  Lots and lots of them.  See what you like, and do not like, about other writers’ styles.  What can you do better?  Use this to inform your own style.  Perhaps, like me, you like a review that is thorough.  On the other hand perhaps you prefer to cut to the chase.  Either technique is valid and perhaps you will choose to mix the two.  To me, the most rewarding part of reading other reviews is picking up on words and phrases that I might not have used otherwise.  There are only so many ways that I have in my verbal arsenal to describe “awesome” riffs, “killer” lead vocals, “pounding” drums, “bone-shaking” bass, or “scorching” lead guitars.  Add more words and phrases to your bag by paying attention to other writers.  And by all means, don’t be afraid to use a thesaurus!  I use them all the time, to remind myself of words I like but just can’t think of when I need them!

Once you’ve written a few reviews, I think it’s important to shake it up.  Keep your readers interested by changing up your style a bit.  Don’t do every single review as track-by-track.  Don’t use the same format every time.  Don’t allow yourself to get bored with your own writing.  If you’re bored, will your readers follow suit?

What about length?  Length does not matter.  If you have a lot to say, then say it.  Writing reviews online is completely different from doing it for print publications.  There are no word limits, and there are no censors.  Short is fine too.  Some of the best reviews I’ve ever read were just one sentence.  “Shit Sandwich” – everybody remembers that two-word review from This is Spinal Tap.    Of course the review “Shit Sandwich”, classic as it is, does violate an earlier rule:  “Don’t just say an album sucks.”  Sometimes you can get away with it, if you’re an established reviewer, because readers can refer back to your past more detailed work and see what you had to say about the band before.  This is a thin line – the fine line between clever and stupid….

How about photos and videos?  They are helpful to augment a review.  The help break it up visually and add more information.  But even though a picture can speak 1000 words, make sure your words are up to par.  The words must come first.  Everything else is just icing.  (Don’t use too much icing, either!)

Ultimately, the best advice is the simplest:  Enjoy what you do.  Write music reviews simply because that’s what you want to do.   If you spend all day talking about and thinking about music anyway, chances are you’ve already written a bunch of great reviews in your head.  Now you just need to get them out on paper.

Get out there and do it – there’s nobody to stop you!

IMG_20150914_172206

#383: The Moment of Inspiration

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#383: The Moment of Inspiration

I’m not comfortable using the word “writer” or “artist” when describing myself.  Where I’m concerned, I find it pretentious for myself to wear the guise of an “artist”.  But I do write, and what I have posted here does amount to my art.  Within the context of music reviews, I use this platform to be creative and express myself.  I’ve told my stories via Record Store Tales.  Even though I don’t like calling myself a “writer” per se, I do spend a lot of time writing and trying to come up with fresh ideas.  Writer’s block does exist.  Many days go by when I can’t be arsed to write anything down.

When the inspiration to create strikes, it’s usually in an inconvenient setting.  The car, where much of my music listening is done, has proven to be a great location for ideas.  Sometimes it’s a mall, or a grocery store.  Other times it’s in the middle of the night in bed!  The key is being able to take quick notes and write down your ideas before they are gone.  This takes determination but is well worth it, to tap those fleeting good ideas that we all get.

I’ve had one advantage that I’ve been happy to exploit: a huge backlog of unpublished reviews and stories.  When creativity fails to strike, I was always able to dip into the pile and polish work up for posting.  In a similar vein, my buddy Craig once told me, “Don’t be afraid to re-post a good idea that’s worth the exposure.”  So sometimes I will even revamp something you’ve read before in a new way, and hopefully you haven’t noticed.

Once the creative juices start flowing, keeping the faucet turned on is the next challenge.  My advice is to try to avoid second guessing yourself.  Keep your work accessible, but write for you.  Readers will offer their feedback.  Some will be good advice, some will not be.  I’ll give you two examples.

  • A friend of mine found the length of some of my earlier articles to be too much. I found that, even if I had a lot to say about a matter, it was better to break it down into smaller parts.  That way I can actually milk a story for longer, by posting multiple chapters instead of trying to squeeze it all into one.  I also reduce the risk of losing the reader’s attention over a long ass story.
  • A former co-worker at the Record Store made a point to send a lengthy email about my site.  He was upset about the things I was saying and how I said them. He didn’t approve of the “great pains” that I took to poke fun at one or two people that he knows.  This feedback had me questioning my direction, and considering whether I should have lightened things up or even written anything at all.  After some serious soul searching I concluded that there were no “great pains” taken; that the stories were fun for me and others, and would continue to be.  I poke fun and criticize myself more than anyone else in my stories.  I am my own worst critic, as are many of us.  I decided that I should not change my style to please a small but vocal minority of readers.

Keep writing.  Keep searching for inspiration.  It can be found in the unlikeliest of places, all you have to do is open your eyes and keep a pen nearby.  Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion.  Take the time to compose your thoughts.  Don’t rush into posting something.  Be sure you’re satisfied before you hit that button.

Any time anybody verbalizes their opinions about anything and puts it out there on the internet, they take the chance that someone will take issue with what was said.  That goes for people like me who write about music, and it can go for anyone.  I’ve certainly read plenty of nasty reader comments over seemingly inoffensive subjects all over this World Wide Web of ours.  People can be nasty.  Many of them would rather take a shot at you and try to take you down a notch than live and let live.  But you can’t let that scare you off.  WordPress allows you to screen your comments if that’s something you think you need to do, but don’t be afraid of what others might say.

Let me sum up this writing advice in point form below.

  • When inspiration strikes no matter where, write it down! (Just park your car first.)
  • Listen to advice…
  • …but write for yourself.
  • Any good idea is worth re-using.
  • Don’t worry about how your art will be received. Fear kills creativity.

Enjoy the creative juices!  Preferably with a great song in the background!

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