Archive for the 'Inspirational' Category

My Keyword 2017

Posted by on Jan 13 2017 | Inspirational, Songtaneous

This will be the ninth time I have picked a keyword for the year. I began choosing keywords back in 2009 and I have come to rely on this process as an invitation to review the past year and ponder and dream about the year ahead. Focusing on choosing a word allows me to “plan” in a more high-level, dreamy way (rather than a detailed, list-making, this needs to happen first way).

As we know, I am a thinker and I can get stuck in the details of an undertaking. And I admit that I have been a little stuck in the process of picking a word for 2017. Looking back at my words, it seems I have more trouble picking a word when I know I have a large goal or project on the horizon. This year was no exception.


In November, I learned that I earned the opportunity to write and record an album this year. (Thank you, state arts board!) Since I couldn’t start work on the project until January, however, I was able to daydream about the project for the rest of 2016. And, it was kind of fun to think about how I would approach the project and the songwriting methods I would get to try, the musicians with whom I might collaborate and the songs I would write.

That changed new year’s day. It was like an alarm went off and I had overslept; I felt instantly behind. My friend and Sistet member Aimee said to me, “Panic is part of the process.” (She’s right and I’m thinking about having t-shirts made. *wink*). I could tell this panic was affecting my keyword candidates for 2017. My list filled up with goal-oriented, action words – clarity, skill, artistic, act, decide, etc. In other words, things I should do or become.

But in nine years, I have learned that the keyword can’t feel like an assignment. It has to guide, not push and I don’t necessarily have to know how the word is going to work.


Take last year’s word — HEART — for example. I still cannot articulate exactly why I picked it, but, as frequently happens, heart kept turning up. Often, literally, as in February when my grandmother had a heart attack; in April, when a co-worker’s husband died from an aortic rupture and my grandmother also died; and in October when another friend’s father died from post surgery, heart-related issues.

I also felt HEART guiding me as I worked on my album funding proposal and as I processed the events before and after November’s election. Finally, working with HEART, I realized once again that I had to get out of my head about this year’s word.

2017 will be a year for growth, possibly even unruly and unpredictable growth. And while that may fill me with some nervous energy, I’m going to try to learn from and revel in it.

My keyword for 2017 is FLOURISH.

flourish v. — to be in a vigorous state; to grow luxuriantly, or thrive in growth; to sound a trumpet call or fanfare; a condition or period of thriving

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Getting Uncomfortable

Posted by on Oct 16 2015 | Inspirational, Songtaneous

racoon awkwardly asleep in the crook of a tree.

So I have been thinking about discomfort.

We have all have different relationships and comfort (haha) levels with being uncomfortable and those relationships and levels change throughout our lives.

We are set up to be uncomfortable all the time when we are young. We experience it so often, however, that we don’t even label it as discomfort. We go to preschool or kindergarten, we grow out of cribs and clothes, we enter a new grade, we switch to a new school or start thinking about what to do after school. As I said to one of my high school students this past week, we expect things of young people that we no longer do ourselves “Here is something you’ve never done before, go do it!” “Here is a subject you have never studied before, go learn it!” or “Here is another group of kids you don’t know, go make friends!” (Or, in my case, here’s a new song/band/ensemble/venue, go create!)

So it seems that the older we get, the fewer experiences we have that cause discomfort. Perhaps we are even trying to avoid discomfort? (Not you, of course, but sometimes I do. *wink*)

Feeling comfortable is easier; we know what we’re doing and what is expected of us. It can also be hard to notice. Comfortable is/feels normal. So, in a sense, it is the absence of feelings. Discomfort, on the other hand, is definitely noticeable. It feels itchy or unsure or makes us mildly anxious.

For the past couple of months, I have been trying to observe when I feel uncomfortable. For example, I took a workshop last month and, at the beginning, I noticed that I was uncomfortable. I knew about half the folks, but we were there to learn/explore a new modality and I didn’t know what to expect. More of an issue (for me) was that I didn’t know what might be expected of me.

I realized it had been a while since I had felt this way.

In fact, I’d been feeling pretty comfortable for a while. I figured out how and what (and in what order) to teach my students, I understood the in’s and out’s of my many job(s), and I’d been getting to work with the same singers and players pretty regularly. All pretty comfortable.

So if everything is comfortable and working, why change anything?

Well, we can miss opportunities for growth and learning if we’re comfortable all of the time. If everything’s good, then what makes us seek out new friends, move to new cities, or start new jobs? Why learn or write new songs or work with new players? (Why quit your day job and go to music school?)

I think we have to practice being uncomfortable. That, when done often, being uncomfortable keeps us flexible and makes us more empathetic to the needs and comforts of others. We can take a broader view of situations and consider that others may be feeling discomfort, too. (I will definitely think about my experience in that workshop when I teach my own workshops later this month.)

Most important, we learn that feeling comfortable is not the same thing as being safe.

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My Keyword for 2012

Posted by on Jan 09 2012 | Games, Exercises & Resources, Inspirational, Songtaneous

It’s a new year and I am (still) working on a new vision for the Songtaneous Blog. (You’ll know as soon as I do. *smile*)

In the meantime, I figured a great place to start posting again would be to pick my keyword for the year. For those keeping score at home, this is keyword #4.

Why Keywords?

I call them keywords because a keyword is connected to other words and other ideas. When you search using a keyword, you get a range of results that are all connected to the keyword. When I pick my word for the year, I begin to notice occurrences and outcomes connected to my word.

I don’t think the keyword creates these outcomes; for me, keywords work kind of like my vision board. I work to be thoughtful and conscientious when I am picking my word, but after that … I don’t really do anything with it. It is just there, running in the background, helping draw my attention and point me in the right directions.

Picking a Keyword

I usually “try on” a number of words before I find the right one for the year. It is like finding something on the rack in the store and then going to the dressing room to see if it fits.

Oh. That word’s too much. That one’s too small. That word would look better on someone else.

And, of course, sometimes I have to separate the word I want from the word I need.

The year after I graduated from music school, I really (REALLY) wanted to pick WEALTH as my word. But the more I thought about it, the more I could sense that the WEALTH was too much. (Not always — to be clear, I am not asking wealth to stay way.)

But, picking wealth that year would have been a set up. I was in too much transition to create wealth. Plus, focusing on wealth would have caused me to forgo some of the exploring I needed to do in order to find my voice as an artist. I chose the DISCIPLINE as my keyword that year to help me build the routines and systems I would need to develop my music career.

My keyword for 2011 was EMBODY. I started the year on the other side of the world at a loss as to how to integrate what I was learning about vocal improvisation (and myself! *smile*) with “the rest” of my music career. I knew I needed to figure out how to bring improv into my performances (and my teaching!) in order to take my next steps.

I also had to get comfortable with the whole idea of being an artist. Believe you me, imagining and then bringing into being things no one else sees as your vocation takes some getting used to. (I also suspect it is a step on the path to wealth. *grin*)

My keyword for 2012 is CREATE.

A tiny part of me was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a flashier or more unique word, but (as my friend M says) when I know, I know.

This coming year is a time to create things. I am not sure exactly what I will end up inventing — performances, CDs, singing groups, teaching aids, etc. — but it feels like the year for figuring it out.

Finding Your Own Keyword

Maybe you knew as soon as you started reading this post, what your keyword for 2012 would be. Maybe you still have no idea. (Maybe you think keywords, 2012 and me are all big dumby-heads. *smile*)

I tend to choose verbs for my keywords. (That’s just my personality: If I’m going to spend a year with a word, I guess I think it should do something. *grin*)

You can pick a noun, adjective, adverb, gerund … whatever. YOU are the person who knows where you next need to walk and what word should keep you company.

If you are struggling to pick just one word, try thinking about which word you want to try next. Picking a single word lets you experience the focus a single concept can bring. If it ends up being wrong, (wrong, wrong!), I promise you can change it. (And, hey, if you need two words — the keyword police aren’t going to show up at your door.)

One last idea.

If you just can’t find the right word, create one. (Hey, I invent words — songtaneous, singingly — all the time! *grin*)

My sister invented the word “attackle” last year. As in: “When I get home, I will attackle that.”

Maybe you want ATTACKLE 2012. Or IMPROVERATE it. Or GLIM-SHIMMER-SHINE in it.

It’s not the word really. It is the time spent cogitating on your word that creates traction for the new year.

To help get your wheels turning, I have included some ideas below.

clarity, unpack, glean, do, share, give, healing, explore, vibrant, nurture, flow, decide, commit, simplify, shine, balance, embody, expand, change, generosity, prosperity, abundance, make, mastery, release, flourish, choose, allow, savor, enjoy, enliven, seeds, grow …

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