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The Other Side of Everything

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Written on March 15, 2008, and categorized as Uncategorized.
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After fourteen days, over three weeks and forty two hours of early morning songwriting, producing the Rise and Shine breakfast show, my fingertips are guitar-hardened and my daily routine is established. At this point I feel the need to distill my thoughts like a fine London gin.

    How To Rise and Shine

  1. Begin the day before. I have to get to bed before midnight, 11pm better, 10:30pm even better. Some days, starting the show, there has been just me and my audio-visual shadow, but most days, there is an expectant waiting audience of real people, and it doesn’t matter whether there is one person, ten, fifteen or fifty. These kind, interested people have turned up for the show, and they matter A LOT. In fact, I like them, which helps – it feels very much like having friends over every morning. I’m making their breakfast – I don’t want to burn the toast. If I’m sleep deprived and carry too much tiredness into the day, I will struggle, make mistakes, and underperform – and when people are witnessing my blunders first thing, I care far more about them, and determined not to be making them. I have not found a more effective pressure to lie down and sleep at a reasonable hour in many years.
  2. Awake at least one and a half hours before starting the broadcast. That way, all the computers will be set up, I will have had breakfast, I will be well dressed, and I will have meditated. A couple of times I have found myself meditating at 6:45 which does not work quite so well for the meditation, but actually does very well for the show as I feel very centred and grounded at the outset.
  3. Collaborating is crucial, as I suspected it would be and intended it to be, both for reasons of writing and show production. Songs really spring from the imagination and flights of fancy which spark from the news and it’s often easier doing this with other people around. Finishing up is another matter – sometimes the brutality of the edit feels harsh! But we are grown ups, and we can handle it by now… Our viewers and listeners have written some of the best lines, and provided audio, speech and music, as well as suggesting great news items.
  4. Be decisive early on. Only having three hours means that on bad news days, or days where several stories vie for subject-spot, I really need to know what subject is going to frame the song by 7:20am if the song is going to be finished to any good standard.
  5. Give myself a break after the show. If I don’t do this, I make less of a good show the next day, and it means my other work decisions are coloured by a background level of mental tiredness – which so far, thankfully, I have not experienced.
  6. Use whatever energy is there on the day. Thankfully the rules of Rise and Shine mean that the writer(s) have the final say in story selection, style, and treatment. I would not have been able to write anything March 7th otherwise, a day I was on my own with the audience, feverish and emotional, and yet, this turned out as one of my personal favourites, something I am proud of having written because it is so unusual and poignant.
  7. Keep the project in the semi-public eye. This stage of the project is quite deliberately restricted listening and viewing. I like that my friends in various social networks are enjoying what I am doing, and that the great general, unwashed and entertainment-hungry public are not. It means I can iron out kinks, play with the form, try things which might bomb (nothing has yet) and maintain the discipline necessary to keep the show on the road technically and organisationally without compromising the future of the show. It also means I can push people to donate to the good cause, Busk Aid, either by direct donation or else by taking part in our sponsorship auction.
  8. Maintain realistic expectations, set achievable goals – without these, nothing can happen. So if in the early part of the song, the dreaming up of the scenario, the summoning of the muses present a hugely attractive but completely time-draining project outside the boundaries of the three alloted hours (see #4), it gets rapidly dumped. Note to self: I could and should apply this philosophy more to my life in general.
  9. Food. Eating ahead of the show, during the show and after the show is crucial – it’s demanding work! I have to plan ahead and get stuff in. Thankfully, Danny my regular co-writer often provides milky coffee and croissants to make up for his persistent lateness…
  10. Broadcast by every means possible. I’ve been using a veritable breakfast table of technologies to make this work. Amazingly, so far, it has completely worked – in fact, it has improved. I now record the final parts of the show on video, using both Mogulus which although takes some getting used to is pretty reliable and has professional tools built in and a handy (though censored) chat room; for live video I also use Qik which is (over WiFi) amazingly good quality – all the more so considering that this is emanating from a Nokia N95. I use Skype (riseandshinetv), Twitter (deekdeekster), email, FTP. I’m using a Mac Mini and Brian Greene’s server (thanks Brian!) to deliver a rock-steady Shoutcast audio stream which in some ways brings the listener closer to the musical heart of the show, especially in the second stage when we are arranging the song and trying out verses and choruses. It’s also convenient for people who want to hear the outcome at work… there is still a lot to be said for providing audio-only access.
  11. Support is a good thing, and we need more of it! Having only three hours (see #4) on the writing task focuses the mind admirably, but this show also requires a technical structure that needs managing – just like tv and radio – which distracts. The more support I have, the show will be generally of a much higher standard, since I am not continually bearing sole responsibility for everything, including presenting, songwriting, blogging, moving microphones, cameras and computers around, and generally interacting with the audience. It also means, I can answer the call of nature. I would like to achieve more of this before the project ends, just to see how high I can push the standards within the limits.

Ten more writing days to go…

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