The Importance of Deadlines (And Breaking Your Own Rules)

Yeesh. Where'd the summer go?

It's been quite the busy few months here; two trips to Seattle and LA, work hasn't let up since the beginning of the year, my wife got a promotion that effectively reversed our schedules - and oh yeah, the record's not done.

I have a very clean and organized project planner.

Remember how I said I'd release an album in September? Yeah, whoops. I thought I'd finish recording by July, have it mixed and mastered through August, somewhere along the way I'd develop album artwork, lyrics/liner notes, and... y'know, promote it. All with a full-time job, no outside assistance, and absolutely NO crowdfunding.

Well I'm still in the recording phase.

Turns out I greatly overestimated my ability to finish a full-length hybrid alt-rock/electronica album in three months. There's so many extra layers. Most of my previous work has been with the traditional rock lineup: drums, bass, guitars, vocals. Maybe a piano. You've got 4-5 parts, you crank 'em out, slap 'em together. Relatively simple. This feels more like arranging a damn orchestra, because EVERYTHING is its own separate instrument and you're left to decide which part plays what, which part doubles and harmonizes, how to carry a melody between multiple sources. Each individual sound has to be designed, tweaked, sculpted. Every synth line has its own waveform, envelope, modulation. Strings, pads and live guitars all vie for the same frequency range. I've still got a ways to go, with the arbitrary self-imposed "due date" fading behind me.

And y'know, I'm kinda fine with that. Here's why:

When making the debut (and so far, singular) Caldera EP What Is & What Could Be, it took about four months. We had most of the songs written already, it was just a matter of tracking everything and mixing it together. We didn't think about song structure. We didn't write more than we needed and cut the weaker ones. And there was a specific deadline in place that I rigidly held as some pillar of integrity, a line that I dared not cross for fear of... something, I dunno. And I stuck to it, and released the album right on the deadline.

In hindsight, I think we rushed it. I'm very proud of it, don't get me wrong, but there are definitely things I wished we spent just a little more time on. Especially because there wasn't a reason we couldn't have. There's no record label breathing down our necks, we didn't plan some elaborate album release party, nobody to answer to if we were late.

What I didn't understand at the time was that (self-imposed) deadlines are for motivation. To stay productive, to have a finish line to keep in mind so you don't lose focus on what you want to achieve. For any creative goal or project, deadlines can be highly effective. But they're not some brick wall, be-all-end-all, finite stopping point. They're tools.

I want to be finished with this, like, now. It's been in development for YEARS, and I'm tired. But I'm not going to put out a half-assed, unfinished project filled with things I would've improved with more time. I want to do the best I can with the tools and knowledge I have at this time.

Also - I want to keep you updated on the process, but I've recently come to the realization that hearing "new album out soon" every few weeks, for several months, isn't particularly helpful. Instead, I want to attempt documenting more of the process and sharing that with you. Behind the scenes stuff. Maybe some tutorials on home recording - show how I did things. I'm starting to dabble in video, too, because I don't already wear enough hats. Editing is a bit of a steep difficulty curve, though.

Stay tuned.

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