It'll make a short man tall, make a husband love his wife. 

I'm a couple months behind on these. I had been struggling with work stuff, holding out for a job which I wasn't sure was actually going to materialize. I've spent the last couple months thinking I was maybe doing the wrong thing again. I was barely getting by and feeling like a mooch. And all that didn't leave much energy to get into the spacesuit.

But that's passing now. I've got the closest thing that I'll get to a steady gig. Not quite full time and secure, but after years of freelance it's much more than I'm used to and it'll help me get on my feet while doing something that I truly enjoy.

Not to say that in the last few months I haven't worked on anything. I've been teaching and sketching. I've got 3 TSS drafts in process, I've been thinking about my next move. And then there's music.

And so this one is about that. Specifically the music that I make, and how I've been coping with the entropy of the band I was in.

And as a bonus, it includes the rules for being a creative genius at anything.

It's hard to say exactly when Hang Dog Expression formed, the folder on my computer where I kept all of the files pertaining to it was created in 2006. While I know it took a while for us to get rolling, this comic adaptation is one of the earlier things we did, and it was created in June of that year:

I think we kicked into high gear when we became a 6-piece, and that was over 5 years ago. During that time we made a good record, made some money, some videos, got invited to play some amazing shows and got some songs on a TV show. All without trying very hard.

I considered myself lucky as hell to play alongside people who could write and perform beautifully, especially the vocalists. I've got a crude voice overall. It's unrefined and I've given up hope of being some kind of crooner or brilliant harmonizer. While I can grow a fine moustache, that's where my attractiveness to the members of a barbershop quartet ends. But over the years, I wrote songs and played them for myself and a few others, always feeling uneasy with the product.

Out of the band, like a demented carnival one-and-a-half, grew a side project; Sanguine and Shiny (my friend Tony and I.) We both wrote songs, and we started playing them for each other. We did a couple shows and always got a good response, but my nervousness about singing never left. I was unpracticed and I had too little conviction to follow through with the sentiment in some of the things that I had written.

Luckily, Tony has a fantastic voice and held it down beautifully in that regard, and he was very patient with my fumbling singing attempts. But it was only a side project. The real meat and potatoes was in Hang Dog. There was something magical in that group that kept our own writing and playing on the sidelines, and we were perfectly content with the arrangement.

That band was filled to the brim with talent and friendship, powered by an amazing and prolific songwriter and it was all so well above my pay grade.

Jump-cut to the last year, when my marriage crashed and burned and took the band down with it.

In that process, I saw more clearly my poor decisions. I came to terms with how I used the band to hide from the reality of my unhappiness and to generate thick layers of ego as insulation.

Those layers kept me feeling dull and heavy inside, and unhappy with my work. Which in turn, spurned the hunger for more ego-stroking, until I was some kind of horrible self-replicating anxiety machine.

I became erratic with the stress of it all, bubbling over like an overcharged battery, and unwittingly started shaking the beams of my little house until it fell apart.

And when it came time to make new decisions, the band was in pieces but Sanguine and Shiny was still there, placed perfectly under an open window when the house fell down. I went back to the songs I had written over the years and looked at them with new eyes. I started writing new ones.

And also through that window, flying up on the air with the woodchips and crumbled plaster, was the beginnings of a voice. It's by no means perfect, but it is mine and it's as truthful as I've ever been capable of. And I think truthful is the first step.

More important than being good or talented, is having conviction. These concepts are really at odds with each other. "Good" and "talented" are opinions that people hold about others. Conviction is an opinion you hold about yourself, and no one can argue it's truth. It's knowing what your shape is and running headlong at your potential. It's the house that you alone build and you must drive every nail.

And you find the strength to do that under the thick leaves of your ego. Maybe it grows like truffles and you catch a pig to sniff it out by being truthful about your faults and idiosyncrasies. And by being willing to look silly to people who don't share equally in your desire to be honest.

Then you take the conviction and use it as motivation for hard work and practice in whatever discipline you enjoy. Especially the disciplines that scare the hell out of you.

That's the lion's share of the trick to being a creative genius, right there: Conviction to truth, manifesting in hard work in a discipline that excites you.

And when you get fatigue from doggedly chasing your truth, here are some other things to focus on:

Ignore these three fears: 1: The fear of looking foolish or offending people you admire. 2: The fear of the final product not being as good as the one in your head. 3: The fear of destroying something that you worked hard on. Then make art about any of the fears that you have left over.

Cultivate an interest in things that you don't understand and keep it equal to a sense of detachment from things that you understand too well. Especially your own feelings.

Keep a mirror in your pocket so that every once in a while you can look at yourself. But also so you can signal a search party if you end up in the weeds.

Be someone who remembers old things. Crack them open like a nut. Or use them as firewood; old wood burns best.

Vocalizing your fears or your desires is one way to bring you closer to people, who can recognize your honesty and internalize it. You become universal. We become self-replicating art machines instead of an anxiety generators.

Dan Harmon has a coarser way of putting it:

When I was young, I tried to act like every second, with every move, I was making art. The way I walked, the way I spoke, the way I treated people. In my head, an imaginary camera followed me everywhere and I posed and preened and peacocked and occasionally treated people shitty and bottled up everything else. Because I thought I was making art.

And while I guess I wouldn't change it, not all of it was good or, sadly, very memorable. I think that's because, while I was being artful I wasn't being truthful. I was trying to take the easy route. I wasn't doing the math.

And now that I see it, the regret of all that wasted time and relationships that could have been are spurs in my side and a hand at my reins. They keep me walking in the right direction.

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Here are a few songs for you to enjoy.

Zeus' House: This is an older recording, but the lyrics still resonate and (believe it or not) seem optimistic in retrospect. https://soundcloud.com/hummingbird-feet/zeus-house-demo

Advice about Girls: Another one I wrote years ago and was scared to play. It got a rewrite and is becoming a centerpiece of the new set, this is the first time we played it at SBC a couple months ago and so its a little shakey but still progressing. http://youtu.be/_9nQkbUG_A8

When Our Angles Fit: A new one. Very straight and of course, incredibly cheerful lyrics: https://soundcloud.com/hummingbird-feet/when-our-angles-fit-demo

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As always, there's an archive for this newsletter at nealvonflue.com/newsletter/newsletter-archive/ Please share with anyone you think may enjoy it. They can subscribe at https://www.nealvonflue.com/newsletter/.

Thanks to you all for reading. I'd love to hear about your ingredients for making things.