Category Archives: musicians

Van Living Offline: If It’s Not On Instagram, Did It Really Happen? 

IMG_3808Usually I’m the odd hippy in the corporate world, working as a university lecturer on Skype, living in a van/house-sitting. Now that summers on, I enter into being the odd Digital Nomad in the world of offline-van-dwellers and travellers. Alternative lifestyle blogs are unusual because people are usually either doing it, or writing about it, not both. As I know from my yurt days, it’s hard to get online when you’re off-grid.

A quick visit to any festival van field shows me a different world. Whilst my colleagues are often shocked to discover that my Vansion neither has a water tap nor fridge, rock-n-roll bed, nor toilet, this setup comes as standard for van-dwellers who self-build. Why would you want to replicate a house in a van? Fridges need power. Water tanks are a hassle compared to bottles. Fold out beds are for holiday makers, and lastly, when you live a in 65sqft box don’t poo in it!

What’s inspiring to me about chatting to the folks who live almost totally offline, is learning about the wide range of lifestyles available. It’s so easy to think that you need to be online to make a living. What’s rule one of starting your own business? Answer: get it on social media of course! That’s what we’re used to thinking anyway. Even during my £0 Challenge of 2014, I survived largely by making sure I stayed online. Yet there are alternatives.

As musicians go, they all outstrip me; of course they do. Full time buskers are hot as hell on their instruments because they play for hours per day. They don’t have space in their packs/vans for tons of sheet music, but they don’t need it because they are constantly learning new tunes from each other. I only have to sit with a van-dwelling busker for 5mins and they’ll teach me a song so we can play together. With that and seasonal work, they get by more than fine.

As travellers go, I met some super-tramps who can sleep anywhere without a tent, hitch-hike anywhere and get there before you, build their own benders at the drop of a willow, and skip-dive like their in Mission Impossible. I thought I was experiencing a collision of worlds when I realised how much more extreme that collision must sometimes be for offline hitch-hikers:

Me: Thanks for the great meal Jake. Lovely to have loads of veg after a few days travel where it’s hard to get it.

Jane: Yeah me too.

Me: You too? I thought you just travelled from organic farming community to organic farming community.

Jane: Well, yes but… via service stations.

This reminds me of the folk I met who were hitch-hiking and ended up stranded at a motorway service station for so long they set up camp in the woodland just off the carpark.

 

Jane, incidentally, who can survive in the wilderness for months on end using only stone age tools she has made herself, is soon to be flown to Germany to “perform stone age living” at an immersion project, in the strangest mix of modern and ancient worlds I have ever heard of. She also told me a secret: “I’ve got a smartphone now.”

There is a myth that the offline world doesn’t really exist. If you can’t google it, or there isn’t a photo on Facebook to prove it, did it really happen? 

My income is online; I straddle two quite disparate worlds… and I like that (“I love my hybrid nature – no binary can contain me!” – Meredith Tea ). But it’s refreshing to see people making their way in the world through offline networks, or at least a real mix between the two. The online world isn’t as dominant and powerful as all that: whole worlds still function under its radar.
Over the past few years, I’ve given up so many things I thought I needed, and have felt freer each time. Being immersed in the offline world, even for a short time, inspires me to ask “What more I could free myself from?”… I’ll let you know when I have the answer.

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, house sitting, minimalism, musicians, self employed, travel

How To Get More Motivated!

A friend asked me how I stay so disciplined and productive in my work. When I told her I have no work ethic, no discipline and no schedule, she wanted to know more.

My strategy is this: Remove everything that gets in the way of my natural sense of motivation. 

Then I want to do stuff. I never force myself to do anything.

(as shown below)

Motivation.jpg

 

Sound too good to be true? In a way, it IS. Whilst the principles of this process are simple, it’s taken me years to put it into practice (still ongoing). Turns out, blocks to my natural sense of motivation were present in every aspect of my life from housework to study to art!

Overview – the main blockers I’ve been working with:

  1. Filling up life with tasks I don’t like.
  2. Self doubt based inertia (mountain molehill stuff)
  3. A habit of not enjoying tasks (even those I like!)
  4. Working against my natural work rhythms.
  5. Emotional blocks.

Here’s what I’m learning to do instead:

  1. Fill my life with tasks I love
  2. Overcome inertia and nurture enthusiam
  3. Enjoy what I do.
  4. Understand my natural work rhythms and relationship with distraction
  5. Work through emotional blocks

The results are simply amazing! I get up in the morning, decide which project I want to do most and get on with it. Although I’m not working many hours p/w, feeling motivated means being focused, so I’m getting loads done!

Here’s more detail (also see my vlog on procrastination).

  1. A life full of tasks I love!

Let’s get this straight – There are very few tasks I love everything about, but for me to take something on…

…I have to be excited about doing it and about its (non-monetary) outcomes.

Going through this process can be terrifying!  When I first started I discovered that all my paid work fitted was “stuff I didn’t like”! I couldn’t just chuck it all and start again… could I? In fact I didn’t need to. I only dreaded aspects of each job and loved the rest. So now I still gig, but only take gigs I’ll love. I relaunched my recording studio to be even more holistic, creative and artist centred. I realised I didn’t want to teach unless 100% of my students were keen and self-motivated (thought impossible at the time but now a reality!). I still write and record music… ok that one was ticking over fine in the first place.

But what about stuff that you have to do that you don’t want to, like the washing up? This is a weird one, which needs strategising and rationalising. Tim Ferris has a good explanation of “batching” in his book The 4-Hour Work Week, which involves identifying tasks that can be done in bigger hits, less frequently, diminishing the overall life-hours they occupy. As well as batching, delegating or giving up where possible, could you change how you do these tasks so that you enjoy them more (see point 3)?

2. Overcoming inertia and nurturing enthusiam

When I get a sense of intertia surrounding a task, it might be that I have doubts about being able to do it. This isn’t necessarily under-confidence. If point 1 is in place, each task should be something I’m excited about and that’s important to me, therefore it’s likely also to be difficult in places. Given that it’s important to me, the flip-side is, I’ll be disappointed if I don’t do it well, so there’s naturally some trepidation. You can spot a task like this if you always enjoy it, feel great afterwards, yet always feel reluctant beforehand.

Rather than forcing yourself to get started (which just results in associating the task with unpleasant feelings), a good strategy is to distract or encourage yourself.

Distracting: Listening to happy music whilst I set up my recording kit to help avoid self doubting thoughts about recording.

Encouraging: Keeping a guitar/vocals practice diary and reading back how great I felt after my last practice just before the next one (the same could work for exercise?).

3. Enjoying what I do

Being used to forcing myself to do stuff I didn’t like, I was shocked to discover I was also doing tasks I like in the least enjoyable way possible! Seriously!

You might be doing the same if you have the following thoughts: “Ok, if I can get this done in the next 30mins I can go to lunch early. If not, I’ll have to skip lunch.” or “I’ll just get my head down and blitz it all day!”

What are we thinking when we tell ourselves this stuff?! Do we think we’re going to have a nice day working super intensively and get frazzled? Or the other trick – giving ourselves an unrealistic time-slot to get it done, resulting in a rush and panic? If we go through life thinking “I’ll just do this, get it over as quickly as possible and then get on to something I like”, it’s much more likely that our lives will just be full of tasks that we’re trying to get over and done with! Worse still, we’re training ourselves to feel stressed about all our tasks, causing huge demotivation!

If everything on your to-do list is exciting and important to you, it should be enjoyable too. So set yourself up to enjoy it! Let projects fill the space they need to. Work at your own pace – if the project holds your interest, you’ll be naturally productive. When we enjoy what we’re doing we become focused and absorbed. The psychological term for this state is “flow” or “in the zone”.

4. Understanding Ones Natural Work Rhythms / Distraction

“I’m turning over a new leaf” you might say to yourself, “I’ll start first thing tomorrow morning, break for lunch at 12.30pm, then crack on till 5pm.” But what if that’s not your natural rhythm? If you work in an office and can’t choose your hours, you might be able to choose the order of your day to an extent. Are you creative in the morning, but slump mid afternoon? Do you need a half hour’s “play” time surfing online before getting started? Find out about yourself.

I remember first understanding this concept as a kid. Fortunately my parents never made me do homework. Other kids would be forced to get started straight after tea, to be done by 6pm and “have the whole evening free”. Well, I never felt like coming home from school and getting straight back to the grind after marmalade on toast! My brain was tired from a whole day’s study. Often I’d nap, waking up at 6pm to actually find homework appealing and less grind-like.

Finally, be aware of your body’s natural rhythms. Whilst you may feel more productive working through lunch, or staying up late, you’re probably not. Breaks, and keeping your body happy facilitates motivation too. However, bear in mind that despite the modern obsession with the matter, increasing productivity has a ceiling. If your work is very intense, your natural ceiling may be far less than 40hrs per week.

A note on distraction: It’s well known that distraction is a huge enemy to the “flow” state. When someone is interrupted, it can take up to 10mins for them to get back on task, which is why setting up a distraction free work environment is important – quiet working space, clear desk, full screen mode, notifications off.

But what about one’s distractibility? Once getting in “the zone” becomes a habit, it’s suddenly easier to work in distracting environments (trains, cafes etc). Conversely when we become drained, we find we’ve clicked onto social media without even knowing. Rather than chiding myself, I’ve had much better results aknowledging that such behaviour is a sign I need a break.

5. Emotional blocks

One of the trickiest reasons for task avoidance is an emotional block. Each block is unique, and must be worked through rather than pushed through. An holistic accountant (who addresses money relationships as well as tax returns) once told me that many mathematically capable people completely fail to do their accounts because their financial fears stop them even opening a spreadsheet. Showing them a user-friendly systems for recording expenses has no effect unless the emotional blocks are addressed.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this overview! I could definetely expand on each of the 5 points, giving each a full post of their own and walking through processes for addressing each one.

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Filed under Digital Nomad, life coaching, musicians, self employed

Response To The “Musicians & Their Day Jobs” Article

It was refreshing to read Hannah Ewen’s exposé, revealing that many musicians from the current UK charts work  minimum-wage day jobs. Of course this makes sense, because such jobs can be temporary and can be jacked-in to go on tour. It seems like many bands simply slog it out… work 9-5 for minimum wage, followed by evening & weekend rehearsals, plus endless promotion & pushing. Sounds like a grind!

This weblog was conceived to show one musician’s solution (mine) to exactly this problem: original music doesn’t pay the rent. In an economic climate rife with wage poverty, even those working full time are struggling to make ends meet. What hope is there for those who wants to fit a few days of art into each week?

My current home - a winter let near Exeter at very low cost since the room is in the middle of being re-decorated to be let "properly" next year.

My current home – a winter let near Exeter at very low cost on account of the fact that the room is in the middle of being re-decorated to be let “properly” next year.

My solutions in the past 6 years have centred around living in alternative dwellings, to save on rent. Thus I survive working part time and making time for music. And of course, the best way to have a reliable part time job is to be self-employed. Honestly, I don’t know why bankers have so much against it! People are being made redundant all the time, but I’m never going to fire me!

Musicians also talk about “the teaching trap”. This is when you lose sight of wanting to push your own music because teaching is so much easier and more rewarding. As a teacher, you’re generally much more appreciated than you are as a performer, but don’t let it extinguish your lust to be creative!

Hannah’s article points out that rock-star’s fans don’t imagine their heroes working in McDonald’s. Even she, a music journalist, didn’t know that most musicians have day jobs until she researched the article.

It’s often commented that people should make music for the love of it, not the money. But I think that’s flawed logic because that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be paid. Just think how much more productive each of those musicians would be if they had those 40 extra hours per week to make music instead of working!

I’m glad she wrote the article, as it will help non-musicians understand the situation. Although my extended family are very good to me, some aspects of my life are hard for them to grasp since they’re not musicians. On their terms I’m simply not as successful as other family members my age. Of my 3 cousins, 2 have the same teaching qualification as me and teach full-time. It’s hard for older members of the family to understand why I don’t have a full-time teaching job too. The years I’ve spent teaching on a BTEC and lecturing on a music degree don’t seem to register, maybe because it’s always been part time. I can only imagine that my music career registers with them as “failed”, since they haven’t seen me on TV.

But Hannah’s article also serves to make me aware that just because my original music doesn’t pay my rent, that doesn’t mean my music career is a failure…in fact it’s a success! Three self-released and self-produced records in the past 6 years, regular gigs and a good reputation is a success. Not to mention my work as a producer (goldflowerstudios.com) and teacher. I’m not saying so to blow my own horn, but to encourage anyone out there in the same boat. The impossible task of celebrity rock-stardom is so often held out in-front of us like it’s the bar. It’s as if Adele & Coldplay are the only artists who are considered “successful” and the rest of us haven’t “made it” because we still have day jobs. Rubbish!

If you make music every day, you’re a successful musician! Simple as that.

Pass it on!

Kimwei

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei ,

watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom ,

interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom & @kimwedotcom

everything at kimwei.com

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