Halfway through #30daysofwriting!

So this is day 15 of the #30daysofwriting challenge.  I haven’t missed a day yet, though by no means have I been writing for an hour or three daily.  Some journaling, some draft blogs that I haven’t published and may or may not in the end. One day I only had 10 minutes available before going to work, but I still did it. 

I’ve been remembering a lot more of my dreams and writing those down.  Compared to remembering a dream maybe once every six months, I’ve remembered three in the past week!  I don’t know that they have really provided me with any insights other than we’ve been watching a lot of Psyche lately on Netflix, but it’s likely that remembering them at all has to do with the fact that A) I’m writing at least a little bit first thing in the morning daily and B) I’m not diving into social media the second I turn off my alarm, which is on my phone.

It hasn’t been quite as hard as I expected to not check all my emails and updates first thing, but it IS kind of funny to me that I’m a lot more excited to get out of bed and write on days that I have somewhere to go in the morning, whether that’s work or yoga.  On my days where I have the option of sleeping in, which also means I really do have the option to write for longer, I would really love to stay in bed and scroll though my phone all morning.  When the resistance gets too big there, I’ve ended up bringing my writing to bed and making sure I get through a few pages before moving on to the internet. 

If there is one thing I learned by doing all my open mics in Austin, and re-enforced with these little Instagram monthly challenges, it’s that I do well with little challenges.  Something that is enough to push me into forward motion, but not too terrifying that I freeze up, or too apparently hard that it becomes less than fun.  “Get up super early and write for an hour for the rest of your life” sounds really painful for me.  “Get up and write a few pages before Facebook for a month” sounds like something I can totally win.  So that’s what I’ve been doing!  And it’s been really great.  Maybe after 30 days I’ll modify the routine.  Maybe I WILL give myself my sleep-in days.  Or maybe I’ll remember how great it feels to have done writing and yoga all by 9am and have a blank, guilt-free slate for my day off. Maybe I’ll even move into writing songs?!?!

How a Little Fashion Challenge Made Me Feel So Much Better In February

Since the beginning of February, I’ve been involved in another challenge. (no, not surviving the weather, that is a circumstantial challenge, I mean one I chose for fun.) It’s an Instagram closet/wardrobe challenge called Style Me February, (you can follow the hashtag #StyleMeFeb) hosted by Hilary Rushford of Dean Street Society.

Hilary is a Broadway performer turned personal stylist and entrepreneur in New York who is classy, practical, sweet, creative and has mega hustle to make things happen. Or, to pretty much sum it up in two words, she embodies her sign off from all her blog posts and emails - Grace & Gumption.

I was introduced to Hilary a few months ago through working with Sarah Jenks, and the more I learned about Hilary, the more impressed I was at how she did things. I admit at first I was a little skeptical. At very first glance, I presumed she was only about “Fashion”, a concept that in my head in the past has seemed like maybe a nice idea but some sort of combination of unreachable, unpractical and kinda fake, as well as being some big corporate scheme to make me feel bad about myself for not being able to fit into, afford and/or keep up with the latest styles.

Quickly I realized that Hilary is all about fashion in the sense of wearing what makes you look and feel good, that you can afford. She’s about investing in your self worth and not forgetting to have a sense of play and adventure when it comes to getting dressed. When you look good and put together, you feel that way. It’s fashion for empowerment as opposed to trying to fit in.

Plus Hilary is super smart & brave in business, and generous with creating community and sharing what she has learned. And sometimes she even dances! :)

So every month she hosts a Style Me challenge on Instagram, with little prompts for each day and the idea not to go out and buy things to meet the challenge (unless the daily theme points out a hole in your wardrobe you’d really like to fill), but really to use what you have and see if maybe you can remix your closet, or if you don’t have something that fits the prompt, to even choose perhaps to do the opposite for that day, or just skip it.

I’d seen a few of my Instagram friends doing the Style Me challenge in previous months, and yet still kind of thought it wasn’t quite my thing. I did a Gratitude challenge on Instagram during the month of November that I absolutely loved, and a little bit of a winter self-care style one in December that kind of fizzled out for me with holiday stuff but I still enjoyed the days I did. Somehow by the time February rolled around it seemed like maybe, what the heck, I’ll give this Style Me thing a try. While February has the least number of days, it feels like running a marathon to get through the worst part of winter, so having something fun and different to do seemed like a good idea.

I didn’t do every day of the challenge, but I did a lot of them! And a funny thing happened that I didn’t at all expect. At first I was feeling a little awkward about posting photos of myself, afraid that maybe it was too vain. But somehow between the encouraging compliments I got, both online and from people out and about who didn’t even know I was doing the challenge and also just actually seeing myself on a daily basis, something shifted in my mind. To more of a “Oh hey, maybe I am kinda put together and pretty. Even on the days I’m just wearing my Target t-shirts and Wal-Mart work pants. I still choose them and my accessories with awareness.” On the day I wore red lipstick to work with a really old t-shirt and head scarf I’ve worn a million times, I got SO many compliments about how I looked radiant, pretty, glowing, etc. And I swear, the only thing different about that outfit was the lipstick!!

So I went in thinking it was going to be a fun distraction for the month, and I came out with a major boost of self confidence! I call that powerful stuff! Style Me March starts today, and I’m thinking that I will definitely be participating again, if not every day, at least on the days that I need a little extra boost! Thanks Hilary!

Write Your Own Permission Slip

Yesterday one of my Rocky Mountain Song School friends (Cat Terrones, check out her music here) shared this great post from one of her favorite blogs: http://www.fluentself.com/blog/stuff/lets-end-this-story-about-who-is-a-writer/

I’ll let you read it, but the essence I got from it was validation that a person could be a writer even if they aren’t writing. That thinking about being a writer (in a serious way, frequently, as opposed to it just fluttering through your mind once), being conflicted about being a writer, going through a dry patch, etc, all of that counts as being a writer. It was in contrast to the popular idea that you are a writer if you sit in the chair and write. Which even that concept was one that gave a lot of people hope. “If I’m writing, I’m a writer.” Maybe not good one, or a published one, or a read one, but if I’m writing, I’m a writer. But this idea that even just if writing MATTERS to you a whole lot, you are a writer, that is a whole new mind-blowing level of permission and kindness to yourself.

And I realize that this concept may seem to be a little bit in conflict with the whole #30daysofwriting concept, which falls more along the lines of “sit in the chair and write”, but I don’t really think so. Because it’s not saying not to create a disciplined writing practice. It’s just saying not to beat yourself up for wherever you happen to be in your relationship with your writing.

It’s a big thing, self confidence and being OK with who you are right now. For a long time I was squeamish to say I was a musician, both to myself, let alone to other people, because I was somehow afraid that I would suddenly be asked to play a concerto on the spot. But then I started realizing that it was OK to start off with just saying I was a musician and then I could qualify it later as needed. Because when someone asks you what you do, they are not asking if you are any good at it, at least not in casual “I just met you on the train” conversation. Moving up into job interview level, or finding a gig, getting published, then sure, you need to prove your credentials or at least your chops. But to just get started in your day-to-day life of being who you want to be? Declare that stuff Baby!! Give yourself the permission slip!

Farewell to Flipnotics

Lisa Kettyle, host of Flipnotics Open Mic (among other awesomeness)

Thanks to Facebook, I found out yesterday that Flipnotics in Austin is closing in a month. It was open mic #3 of my 157, and it was also #100.  It was a place I saw a good number of good shows. I’d always kind of hoped to get back to Austin and have my own show there, or at least be part of an in-the-round or something, but barring some sort of “swoop in and save it” gesture by some mysterious person, that’s not gonna happen now.

That’s just my own personal bummer. I’m feeling for the folks who still have a daily/weekly/monthly connection to the place. It’s been running since 1992! It’s right on Barton Springs Road one of the cool and funky little neighborhoods by the actual Barton Springs, so you’d always see folks in flip-flops & swim suits coming to hang out on the big deck after a dip. In reading the articles about it closing I’m learning that there have been some really long-standing music residencies and jams that called Flips home. It was one of the more popular open mics I went to, you had to be there early and you had to be aggressive to get on the list, but after those first couple minutes of pens and arms flying it was a mighty kind and respectful room. It was a small room, so few people actually used the mic, and it was separate from the bar, so it was quiet, not to mention Lisa, the spitfire hostess, was so great at creating and maintaining that respectful listening environment.

I did even apply to work there at one point and didn’t hear back. I tell myself that the reason I never got a job at any of the local coffee shops where I applied in Austin was my lack of tattoos, though it was probably my lack of follow up and timing.

I’m bummed Austin is losing such a great, supportive, and fun music space. I do hope something cool and funky would go in there, as opposed to condos. And the fire is lit just a little bit more to get back there to visit before everything that I knew while I was there is gone. That is maybe being a little melodramatic, but things are always changing, and it’s a tough business, the whole restaurant/bar/music venue thing. I think it’s an important enough human need that folks are always going to be creating those kind of spaces in one way or another, even if it’s living rooms and barns! But it’s always sad to see a good one go.

I’ve had this post rolling around in my head for some time. I guess the place to start is that I’ve lived with a lot of “if and when, then” thinking. Pretty common. If I had more time, if my job wasn’t so stressful, if I had a studio room, when I have a certificate in songwriting, when I go away and study for year and make a CD, then I’ll be more creative. I’ll be writing songs every day.

Well, as it turns out, I did go away for a year committed to my music. I had very little to focus on besides that. Did I write every day? Hardly! I came up with maybe a handful of new songs while I was there. I had a few spurts of journaling. Granted, I was working hard at other aspects of my life and creative process, mostly my thinking/mental outlook and performing. So I don’t regret that time or think it was wasted, in fact it was fundamental to my artistic development. But it didn’t make me write every day.

So then I came home to Iowa. I got a part time job at a beautiful local coffee shop. It has its stressful moments, but it’s the kind of thing I can mostly walk away from at the end of the day, and it’s only 3 days a week. I even have a whole studio room upstairs in our house, where I have enough privacy to rehearse things without feeling self-conscious, and a nice desk to write at, lots of pens and paper.

All the excuses are gone. All the ifs and whens. Or at least enough of the external ones that it’s crystal clear to me that it’s all in my head. Then is now. Now is all the time, the only time. There’s a 30 days of writing challenge going on right now. They are saying to dedicate 1-3 hours first thing in the morning. I get it, but that means getting up damn early for me. I almost let that be my excuse. I can get up and do 10-20 minutes. That’s time I usually spend on Facebook anyway. If I get really jazzed or have a day off, I can write for longer. It can be anything, journaling, blogging, songs, whatever. But I know for at least #30daysofwriting, I can #writeeverydamnday so that I can #writemyselfwhole Day 1 done.

Little Love Notes

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Some Monday mornings you wake up kinda tired & cranky for no good reason other than you kept yourself up too late last night. But you get yourself to go out for a walk anyway and find out there are little love letters tucked in corners for you all over the place and you breathe a little deeper & say “Thanks, I am listening, sorry that I forgot to do that earlier”.

Happy 1st Birthday to Anchor!

It is hard to believe that it has been a whole year since the official online release of my first little EP

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The perfectly colored birthday cake that happened to be at the grocery store the night of my CD release concert last year.

It is perhaps even harder to imagine that it was a few years ago I was so scared that I was only barely able to mumble to a room full of people that I even wanted to make a CD! Now it’s like, “Oh, no big deal, I’ve got boxes and boxes of them in my studio room!”

But an anniversary like today is a good reason to slow down, recognize and remember that it really was a big deal.  My Rubicon Year in Austin was one of enormous growth, sacrifice, and learning.  All those lessons I got are still with me today. The lessons are maybe a little less tangible than those boxes full of round plastic discs, but have such impact on my day to day life!

Also, I truly am grateful to have all those plastic discs.  I know the world is going the way of digital clouds and all that, but right now, CDs are still a currency - something to trade and gift and sell.  Something that shows a legitimacy, professionalism, a dedication, an overcoming of obstacles, a devotion to craft to make the recording and packaging happen.  I’ve had shows where selling one meant I got to have dinner or put money in the gas tank without taking anything out of my bank account.  I’m proud of that!

I’m also proud and excited for my new website design!  Learning to be both patient and imperfect with your living and growing and learning and integrating process sometimes means not having a major website update till a year after your record comes out, instead of at the same time.  That can happen with the next album! :)

There is one really important link up at the top there I’d like to point out to you above all others and that is the one that says “Thanks”.  When I was making the packaging, there just wasn’t space to thank all the amazing people who made it happen, and my compromise at the time was to have a sentence saying that extended thanks were on my website.  Until a couple days ago, those extended thanks were sitting in a Google Docs file (one that I actually created, for the most part, months in advance of even recording!!), and now they are up for all the world to see!  I’m thinking that in this point in my career, chances are high that if you are taking the time to read this, your name is in there.  If you’re reading this and it’s not there, my apologies and deep gratitude go to you for being here now!

(Also if you’re reading this and your name isn’t in the Thanks section, there’s a chance you may not have my album yet? ;-) AKA obligatory commercial break!

Here are a few options if you’d like to change that:

iTunes. You know what that is.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/anchor-ep/id574218079

Bandcamp. This is where you can download or get the actual disc, and I fulfill the orders myself, so that means I can sign it for you and add an anchor sticker to the package!
http://heathermiller.bandcamp.com

CD Baby. You can also download or get the disc here, along with all sorts of other great CDs by amazing Indie artists.
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/heathermiller

Oh, and you can stream the full album over on Bandcamp, or also on Spotify if you wish!)

So yes! Much joy and love and gratitude and celebration today! 

Before the end of the month I will cook up a little give-away type celebration, it’s still half-baked in my head at the moment, so stay tuned!

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Sample of folks I saw in the FARM private showcases on Thursday night! More stuff, and better captions on my Instagram feed. (@humsongs)

I’ve wanted to come to one of these Folk Alliance gatherings for years, so glad I finally made it. I was sitting in one of the performance panels smiling my face off, wondering why the heck I hadn’t come to one of them sooner. Motivated to get to the International one in February! More details later, for now I’m just trying to keep up, the days and nights are super full of music and information & meeting people!

Two seconds of fame on regional TV!  You can see me and Sarah in our dresses and boots, counting in to our performance at the 24 second mark.  It was so fun to sing my songs on the big stage for 500 people!  What an honor.  The whole night was pretty amazing.  So much talent.

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