FAWM over man, FAWM over

It’s been 28 days, and for many, a wild emotional ride.  At the end of it all, 461 out of 2436 registered participants finished with at least 14 “songs”  How songs are defined is up to the individual, ranging from fully produced and album ready masterpieces, to an instrumental piece with no lyrics, to a lyric with no music, to a 10 second mini-song to my dominant aproach of a 1-take acoustic demo.  

Everyone had their own struggles as the month progressed, and it’s doubtful that two journeys were even remotely the same.  Health, work schedules, family life, inspirational drout, energy highs and lows, but as a whole, the group pushed forward, and reached for the finish line.  In the last few days, a flood of songs poured in, nearly doubling the number who reached 14, while people appoligized for not being able to complete the challenge nearly a week before the deadline.  Some of those who had given up were rejuvinated by the support they received and went on to finish.

It’s funny, because people see the goal of writing 14 songs in 28 days, and there are several typical thoughts.  It’s crazy, it’s hard, why would you do that, the quality can’t be nearly as good as a song you stew over for weeks or months, it works for you, but I don’t write that way, and so on.  They see the goal, but it’s not really the point.  Any FAWMer (fawm participant) will tell you that even writing one new song is a win.  It’s also likely that each year that you give it an honest try you’ll improve.  Not just in the number of songs you finish, but in their quality.  This is as much an exercise in highly focused and encouraged practice as anything else.  Forcing your brain to be able to enter the creative zone more quickly and with repeatable results, training your inner songwriter to be released at a moments notice.

Song challenges exist to provide topics when you find yourself stumped.  The FAWM twitter account gives a steady flow of song ideas, and the website provides a weekly song challenge.  Then there’s the skirmish and superskirmish challenges.  You’re given a time when a title will be posted, and you have one hour to write, and if possible, post a rough demo of the new creation.  When the weekend hits, there are several of these, nearly back to back.  These are the superskirmishes, and if you participate in nothing but these, you could easily reach 14 songs.  I rarely remembered the schedule, but the titles remain posted, so occasionally, I would look and see what’s been posted, and under the same one hour rule, write and post a song.

There aren’t any hard and fast rules, no FAWM police, no this song doesn’t count, and it’s encouraged that you leave your editor home until March.  Feedback is, for the most part, highly supportive, and non-critical.  Really, it’s mostly pats on the back.  If you ask for constructive criticism, you might receive positive suggestions on what might be improved come March.  The rare troll has found its way into FAWM, but it’s best to ignore and report these incidents so that others aren’t bothered, rather than getting upset by nasty feedback.  It’s against the spirit of FAWM and not worth the attention.

For me, some of the best aspects of FAWM are the collaboration, co-writing, and the listening it provides.  I’m lucky, in that I live in an area with a lot of songwriters, but I don’t really co-write locally, though it keeps coming up.  Through FAWM and email, ideas are exchanged, and the impending deadline keeps the flow of communication moving along at a steady pace.  Some people want words to appear exactly as written, others want to participate in the editing process, and still others want some say on the arrangements that have been come up with for songs they’ve written.  Different people, different goals, but the results of these collaborations are often spectacular.  Being able to listen to, or watch demos that often appear within a day of the initial inspiration is just mind blowing.  Are there rough demos, sure, I’m guilty of more than a few, but there’s some songs that I’d line up to be able to buy in a store, and they’re eitehr free to stream or download during FAWM.  Even the rough demos often have a spark of creativity that inspires.  A lyrical flow, a turn of phrase, a rhytm, an odd progression or time signature, and suddenly, you’re inspired to write again.  

Leaving positive feedback on the songs you find is a great way to receive feedback for yourself, as well as make friends that may serve well down the road.  Not everyone on FAWM is a professional, but not everyone is an amateur, either.  The Honeybadgers (both as individuals and as a group), half of the Potter’s Field, the former members of Debs and Errol, and many others, in all genres of music, from folk, to death metal, to rap, to pop, country,  and rock.  It’s all there, and chances are, someone’s going to blow your mind, and you never know, you might just blow their mind in return.

I’ve become a big fan of several new FAWMers this year, spanning the globe, but gathered in one online place.  Australia, Canada, Belgium, the UK, and the US were my personal discovery zones, though Europe, Asia, and Africa were also heavily represented.  These days, my biggest problem isn’t the songwriting, which turns on and off nearly at will, but keeping up with commenting, and thanking people for their feedback.  With so many people reaching out, and discovering one another, it’s a nearly endless quest.

One last point of pride, there are a few FAWM related online sites.  The FAWMCast is an online radio show that aired twice a week, and has a chat forum where people actively participate in the radio show content.  Also, there are several FAWM blogs.  My music was seleted to be shared by the radio show, and by a blog, so I’ve got to be doing something right.  After all, at last count, there were 10,936 FAWM songs created, out of which, I contributed 30.  To be discovered and deemed worth sharing in that vast sea of music is kind of cool.

It’s too late to jump in and participate in this year’s FAWM, but you can still visit, listen to, and comment on the songs.  The site will remain up until mid-January, so there’s plenty of time to listen and discover.  Fifty-Ninety is just around the corner, and after this year’s performance in FAWM, I think I may finally have a shot.  Stay tuned for July-September’s 90 days of songwriting madness.  šŸ™‚

As for me, I’ve still got a few demos to record and add to the lyrics I posted last week, then I have to return my living room into family space once again.  My wife’s been patient, but why push it.

I’ll leave you with a few of my personal favorites:

Casey Harwood – The Devil’s Highway (a 1 hour skirmish)

Mel Ciriaco – Dungeons and Dragons

Meri Amber – Film Strip (Most of her music was awesome synth-pop, but this stood out as different)

John Coopenrider (music), Ms. Mongoose (lyrics and vocals) – Is This Love?

     **John’s from Michigan’s west side, Ms. Mongoose is from New Zealand

Errol Elumir and Mel Ciriaco – I Hear Your Song

    **Errol, formerly of Debs and Errol, has a daily web comic, My Neighbor, Errol

Deborah Isaac, Cowex? – In Pieces

   **Deborah, or Debs, formerly of Debs and Errol.  I’m not sure who Cowex is in Real Life, and they don’t have any social medial links, but the two of them did a stellar job on this piece.

There were many more that blew me away, but this short sample should give you an idea of the results of FAWM.  Hope you enjoy it, and consider jumping in next time.


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