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On finishing what you started

In the best of times, “year in review”-style blog posts can be inspiring and provide an important sense of closure. When it’s not the best of times, they can be painful reminder of your own misgivings and missteps. Time has moved differently over the last two years, and the calendar itself no longer feels like a good marker of even the progression of days and months that have intervened. But here I am, wanting for the closure that such a review would provide. It feels dissatisfying not to remember that I have finished many things over the last 13 or 14 months, but the struggle to articulate them all has been incredibly real. While I may not touch on all of them, the goal is to describe some highlights to help me retain some perspective.

I am profoundly proud of the work that my colleagues and I undertook on Lighting the Way, especially the efforts in year two to host the Working Meeting and the project’s culminating outputs: The Lighting the Way Handbook and our final report. I am grateful to the contributors, our participant advisors, and my colleague Dinah Handel, who contributed to the facilitation and editorial work. While “archival discovery and delivery” is a new turn of phrase that has its origins in this project, I’m hoping that our findings and conceptual framing resonate broadly. I’m also deeply appreciative of the OCLC Research Library Partnership and the SAA Electronic Records Section, both of which provided venues for promotion of our work.

I also spent considerably more time on creative efforts over the last year. Music is in some ways no surprise, but I was frustrated with the pace at which I was completing my upcoming EP. While the initial recording only took no more than two months, it took me nearly ten months to finish the mixes. Getting in the right headspace to think about them holistically proved incredibly challenging, and every increment of change led me to second guess past decisions. With recording and mixing done, however, I’ve been able to start recording and composing again and picking up old projects that were left incomplete. This finally allows me to leverage and incorporate the wide swathes of field recordings that I’ve made since starting my cross-country rail trip last summer.

Beyond composition and improvisation, I’ve also gotten back into writing and occasional bits of art and design and oddly related bits of logistical work. I’m thrilled to have written a small prose contribution for the first issue of Fantômes, a collaborative ghost story zine. While I haven’t done too much scholarly writing over the last year, I found a lot of satisfaction in the process of authoring my keynote for the 2021 Society of California Archivists conference and made some revisions in the hope of getting it into a publishable form. This year was my first attempt at working with risography, and that experience led me to get more practical hands on experience with both Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. Those efforts ended up coming together in the form of a d66 minizine that focused on building out the world and characters I envisioned for my 2020 album. While it’s small, I also finally put together a website for my small record label. We have also invested a lot of time and energy into gardening and yard work, although it’s hard to reduce that to a single set of deliverables. Nonetheless, things have been dug up, cut back, planted, rearranged, and so forth, and we moved lots and lots of cedar play chips into place during the rainy season.

It is easy for me to disparage myself about not doing enough. I believe that I do that because I precisely have so many ideas about what I can do with my own time. I get frustrated with my inability to complete things. Over the last year and more, however, a noticeable weight has come off my shoulders as I see things materialize and come to fruition. This has allowed me to achieve a better balance and to be excited instead of frozen in fear about undertaking a new project. I’m excited to see what the next 14 months will bring, and there will be plenty of new projects for me to demonstrate how far I’ve come.