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About The Blog (Because Someone Asked)...


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I was asked whether I blog. Well, I have a blog. Is it a noun or a verb? Or both? A “nerb,” perhaps? Language has gotten funky in the digital-and-text-messaging age, and I do worry about it; the Romans felt the decline in Latin grammar (beginning around 100 A.D.) was a signal of the death of civilization (and they were right—it happened just 400 years later).

I began “The Writer’s Blog” 3-1/2 years ago, I think, after teaching a seminar on songwriting at the “Moograss” Bluegrass Festival. (Teaching songwriting to musicians who only play traditional material should be an exercise in futility—but the seminar was surprisingly well attended.) Guessing—correctly, as it turned out—that they’d be asking me to do it again, I figured I’d better organize my thoughts. Accordingly, the blog is—or is supposed to be—about SONGWRITING.

(It’s called “The Writer’s Blog” because I like puns—though I’ll never use a double entendre if I can think of a triple one—and the URL, http://nakedspacehamsters.blogspot.com, is because I got given the domain name nakedspacehamsters.com (which I never did use) as a birthday present that year by the late Sharma Kay—memorializing the famous bluegrass song, of course.)

I said at the outset I’d be describing a journey—a journey hopefully to success as a songwriter—and hoped that between the good, the bad, and the ugly, somebody might be able to take advantage of what I’d done (or not done). So the blog talks about promotion, too, and performance, and some other things not necessarily related to writing, but related to being successful at it. These days, the aspiring writer has to be a jack (or jill) of all trades—one’s own manager, booking agent, promoter, performing artist, graphic designer, record producer, and sometimes sound engineer—whether one is good at those things or not. Unless one has an outside source of money (I sure don’t), one can’t afford to hire any of that stuff out until one has become good enough at all of it to be making enough money to hire some of it out. It’s a horrible Catch-22.

I’d heard somewhere one needed to have Goals—so I started with a set of New Year’s resolutions, that sort of grew a Five-Year Plan. I do a “reality check” midway through the year, to see how well I’m progressing, and a check close to the end of the year on how well or poorly I did. In the same vein, I always do post-mortems on performances, whether they be solo or with the band. What did we do right? What wrong? What could be done better? How? And how did what we did move us further down the track toward the goal?

How many people read the blog? Who knows? This Internet stuff is very “I shot an arrow into the air” material; I know some people read it, because they’ve told me so, but I never figured there was enough readership worth “monetizing” over. (“Monetizing,” as I understand it, consists of letting somebody run ads on your blog and pay you money for it.) For me, it’s been an exercise in discipline—writing for space, and writing for deadline, two skills I do not want to have atrophy during my ongoing unemployment. So each issue of the blog is about the same length as the first one was, and there’s at least one (usually more than one) a week. I try to have each issue deal with complete subjects (I’m not always successful at that). And I try to transfer all that into the writing of songs.

On the writing front, Glynda Duncan and her daughter Sherri have written a song I want to musicate, “One Lonely Night Closer to Gone,” one of those good old country heartbreakers that’ll have the women crying and the men running off to buy flowers. It’d be really neat if Polly Hager could sing it. And the Coventry writers’ group wants songs for a folk festival that’s being put on for charity—that’s right, “a song for charity.” I’ve never written a song for anyone named Charity. Maybe it’s time…

Joe

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