The 365-day song writing challenge to beat blood cancer continues
I realise that all is not always well in the quest to raise £10,000 to help beat blood cancer.
I realise that all is not always well in the quest to raise £10,000 to help beat blood cancer.
Well, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since I last wrote in my blog. A lot of songs have passed out of my little recording studio, too! I can’t believe that I’ve just finished the 81st, consecutive, daily song in the 365-day challenge as I move ever closer to my next mini-target of 92 days, or one-quarter distance. The time has whizzed by and I very often wonder where the time has gone; the first day of the challenge honestly feels like it was yesterday.
They say that time flies when you’re having fun but I can’t say that it’s all been fun. I wanted this 365-day songwriting challenge to be exactly that; a challenge. It has definitely been that so far. I also wanted the challenge to be something that would stimulate my creativity and get me out of my bed every day; it’s certainly done that. What I didn’t anticipate, on the other hand, was that I’d suffer such great bouts of introspection on a scale that I found difficult to comprehend and control. I don’t want to put a downer on things for you, as a reader, and I apologise a little for doing what I’m about to do in only the second paragraph of this post, but I think that writing about some of the more unpleasant experiences of the challenge has helped me to rationalise them, learn from them, and accept them because, at times, the going has been very tough - so here goes.
Before the challenge began, I’d never have thought, once I’d got underway, that I would suffer such intense periods of doubt; periods in which I thought that I must have been slightly insane to have ever considered embarking upon such a ridiculous journey in the first place. Why did I think that I would be capable of finishing such an onerous task? Me - write and post a song every day for a year? What on earth was I thinking? I’d had grand ideas in the past and set-off on the road to high achievement through hard work. However, I have the personality type that is initially fuelled by lots of nervous energy. I eagerly jump into some new enterprise with great zeal and effervescence. I buzz about giving 100% and completely block other things out of my life. I’m an all-or-nothing type that needs to have people travelling with me on the journey - positive people that I admire and respect and who help promote the great, common idea and bring a quick succession of triumphs and emotional highs. You might think that I’m lucky to be like that, but there’s a downside; I only need a tiny setback, the smallest of small upsets, to initiate a familiar routine - I needlessly inflate a little hiccup into a major catastrophe and I become completely devastated. Then, in an astonishingly quick turn of events, everything goes out of the window and I turn my back, rather insensitively, on my colleagues and friends; sometimes to the point of resenting the people that I once admired and found to be of such great influence. I then pack the whole thing in and move on to something else. It’s a pattern that’s followed me, or led me, through life.
Why do I do this? The answer has been found in the steady repetition of the 365-day challenge - I have realised, at my grand, old age (of slightly more than 21) that I have low self-esteem. I’m too eager to throw in the towel because that’s the easy option. I think that I don’t have the staying power to ride-out the rough times and look forward to the smooth. I want instant gratification and my lack of self-esteem can’t cope with not getting it - it’s that simple. I’ve learned that the present challenge, though, is entirely different to anything I’ve ever done in my life. There is a different set of circumstances under which I’ve placed myself and, from what I’ve found so far, there are three significant factors that emphasise the differences.
First, I’m not getting paid. I don’t have the worry of finding customers or achieving sales targets and, even though not earning money brings particular challenges, it can’t contribute to the familiar, self-esteem, meltdown scenario of the past. Second, I have a long-term objective - to get through the year and raise money for charity. True, the thought of raising £10,000 increases the flow of adrenalin and initiates the fight-or-flight reaction, but I can allay any negative thoughts by imagining the end-point; achieving long-term gratification. Third, I get a lot of quick gratification each day as I manage to write, record and post each song. This is not always easy; some days it takes me three or four hours before I ‘get‘ something - other days I have three or four ideas competing for the song of the day. The whole daily process, however, causes quite a lot of doubt in itself but, ultimately, I manage to get the creative juices flowing; I write a few lyrics, I play some music - what could be better?
Well, I think that I’d sleep a little easier if I had a little bit more money in my JustGiving account! The big idea was the thought of raising £10,000 in a year. The mathematical part of my brain said that I’d need to raise about £800 each month, or £200 each week - let’s say £30 a day; that wouldn’t be too difficult, would it? In the past, I’d trained for, and completed, a half-marathon, all within 12 weeks, and raised £500 for charity. I reckoned that the songwriting effort easily had a fundraising potential worth twenty times that of a half-marathon - maybe more - but so far, I’m not hitting my targets. I’d thought about offering people the chance to buy the daily tracks as a downloadable album, say every 60 days, but the cost proved to be prohibitively expensive. If there’s anyone out there that would offer this service for free, by the way, then maybe this could still be a viable fundraising option! I didn’t think of the challenge in such monetary terms at first; I let my creative side drive things along - which it’s done quite well so far. I thought, and am expecting, that the money would come flooding in later.
Now, though, I’ve had to adapt a little and think of generating publicity because I don’t have anywhere near the number of listeners that I need. I’d never used Facebook prior to the challenge and I thought, rather naively, that it would give me all the publicity that I could ever want. I have a small number of regular sharers (thank you, guys; you know who you are!) but I thought that everyone would spread the word and, before long, I’d have thousands of listeners who would all contribute to the greater cause. How wrong I was! Maybe twitter could do the job? I had also never used twitter before the challenge but I’d had one or two conversations with Lauren (from LLR) and soon realised the potential for accumulating listeners. I try to tweet links to my songs wherever I think they’ll go down well and, in particular, where they might be recognised and retweeted by someone who has millions of followers. To that end, I sometimes do two or three hours’ tweeting in the evenings but it’s not all doom and gloom, though. I had an instant twitter response from Carl Fogarty on New Year’s Eve that saw “King Of The Jungle” get around 1,800 plays in 24 hours, purely because he liked it, retweeted, and it was then seen by many of his devoted fans; and, because I’ve managed such a minor breakthrough, I’m happy to keep tweeting until I get another!
I had a blip in interest when the Warrington Guardian featured me in an article before Christmas and another when I was included in the January edition of Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research’s Beat magazine. But I need to continue to raise awareness and I have a strategy in place that I hope will give me some positive results and, with any luck, I’ll be able to talk about them in future blog posts.
From the very beginning, I knew that this fundraising challenge would be tough and that I’d need to make a few sacrifices along the way. I have to say that I had quite a weird Christmas and New Year. Christmas Day saw me writing a track, as usual, before coming downstairs to find that all the vegetables had been prepared, the turkey was cooked and all I had to do was pull a cracker! I think that New Year’s Day was the only one in adult memory in which I had no hangover whatever due to the fact that I’d consumed soft drinks throughout New Year’s Eve, knowing that I’d have to get up and write a track!
My family are doing the challenge, too - in a way. I don’t really see much of Sharron, my wife. When I do see her, we (or, rather, I usually want) to discuss some idea or strategy concerning the songwriting challenge and I think she talks less of real-world stuff because she knows that I’m so absorbed. My mum, Pat, suffers in a similar way, too, but I think she’s my biggest supporter (as I would be of my son if he decided to do something as mad as this) so I can natter away as much as I like and she sits there, nodding in agreement or shaking her head in disapproval! In the end, though, as many onlookers and friends have said, I couldn’t have done it without my family; I know it sounds like a cliché but it’s true.
Despite what seems like a negative blog, I am thoroughly enjoying the daily challenge and I dream of reaching the end and raising money for sick people who need help. That’s what drives me on - the delayed gratification that soothes my weak, self-esteem. Yes, I still jump out of bed every day at 6:30, and I can’t get enough of my working environment - to be honest, I love it! Like I’ve already said, some days are easier than others but, on the whole, I think time will continue to whizz by as long as I’m doing it - or, in other words, for another 284 days. I must be mad! Nurse - the screens!