Take a Moment

The call of work is always, well, calling.

Clanging its bell to remind you that the time is always ripe to make a few bucks.

After a couple of days of feeding farm animals, doing my online freelancing job, feeding farm animals again, going back to the online freelancing job, then going to bed exhausted but wired, only to have to wake up to do it all over again, I just couldn’t bring myself to experience life like this a third day in a row.

Even though I had told myself that I would grind it out — “just for now” — because, well, I really “should.”

The thing is that I know very well that it will always feel like making money is an imperative.

And that maybe if we just focus on that “for now”, it’ll give us the freedom later to live our lives the way we really want to.

But it never ends, my friends.

There will always be something more that you think you want or need. There will always be “bigger” and “better” waving their flashy arms at you from a distance, insisting that you don’t look too happy standing where you are.

Where they are though? Trust them, life is banging over there.

I experienced those feelings both when I was really struggling financially back in the day, and when I had a well-paying job and was living a fairly comfortable life.

It’s really not about how much you have or don’t have. It’s about that mindset we’re all conditioned to adopt that more is better, or that life is not complete without x, y, and z (variables which typically require — you guessed it — more money).

I don’t mind working hard at all. In fact, I wouldn’t not want to work.

But where I butt heads with the need to make money is when the other, ultimately more important things in my life begin to suffer.

Like singing.

Like doing my daily spiritual practice of journalling and reflection.

Like writing creatively for my website or book.

Like reading something inspiring.

Like taking care of my health by eating well.

Somehow, when I’m in the grind, I’m either too tired, too uninspired, or too distracted to think about those things, much less do any of them.

So, this morning, feeling tired and dazed, I decided to take care of myself.

I sang.

I took a long time to cook something nice and warm for this cold, rainy day.

I read some writings by Elisa Romeo, an author on the topic of spirituality (among other things) who I just stumbled upon.

And, well, I guess writing this post was me pausing, reflecting, and realigning myself.

What about you?

Do you need to take a pause, too?

Don’t worry, the work will always be there, waiting for you.

That moment you need to take, though? That will pass you by. Take it. 😉

~ Janice xo

Creative Space (Days 25-26 & 32 of #100daysofmusic)

My #100daysofmusic project (for the #100DayProject movement) has been progressing in waves — you know, up and down.

I think I always knew this, but it’s certainly been reinforced over the last few weeks that my physical space has a huge effect on my creativity, as well as my singing voice.

As someone who is super sensitive to her external environment (the weather, allergens, noise, other people), I have found it challenging to consistently feel comfortable enough to practice my music while moving around over and over again in Vancouver.

Long story as to why the nomadic life. But the important thing is learning how to work around it, because I suspect that I’ll be wandering around the world for a while 😉

“Cups” (Anna Kendrick cover)

I finally got a little music video up on my Instagram (@janicehoimages) a few days ago. I’m typically drawn to singing slow, moody songs with lots of minor-key action. But I had fun learning the more upbeat “Cups” by Anna Kendrick (from Pitch Perfect).

I was inspired to share what actually goes on during a practice session by another Instagrammer @patrick.hyatte, who is also taking part in #The100DayProject. He posts regularly on practicing the violin and explains the techniques he’s working on, etc.

For some reason, what I wrote disappeared from my Insta post! But here’s what it said:

I’m all about variation and dynamics, so once I know the melody, I like to play around with it so that (for example) Verse 2 sounds a bit different from Verse 1. You can hear me experimenting with this in the vid!

[*Hmm, why aren’t the videos showing up on this post?! While I figure this out, if you click on the box below, you will be taken to the video on Instagram!]

 

“Falling” (The Civil Wars cover) – with Tobias

One cool living space I ended up in was an Airbnb with four other guests who all played the guitar at one one level or another!

Tobias was one of them. One day, he knocked on my door as I was playing in my room and said: “Thanks for the music!”

We ended up playing some songs together and he learned the guitar part for a song I’ve been working on called “Falling” by The Civil Wars.

It was SO awesome and freeing to just be able to sing while someone played the guitar for me!

 

“Phoenix Rising” (Original) – with Chris

Yesterday, I met up with a fellow singer-songwriter friend, Chris, at a rehearsal studio in Vancouver.

We spent a couple of hours jamming to each others’ chosen tunes, both on guitar for the first hour and Chris on the drums the second.

We were both feeling slightly under the weather and hadn’t heard ourselves sing for a few days, but the rule was: “No judgment, this is a safe space.” 🙂

It’s great to have these creative spaces available to musicians who might want to wail away, but maybe doing so at home isn’t the greatest idea!

 

Do you have a preferred space for working on your creative projects? Is it a specific physical place? Or does it also involve people (or alone time!)?

The Siren’s Song (Day 15 of #100DaysofMusic)

Recently, I’ve been working on crafting a lyric entitled The Siren’s Song. I thought I had somehow lost my ability to write emo lyrics, but I guess not!

Across all songwriters, you’ll find different processes for songwriting. I have always found it incredibly difficult to start with the music or melody first. I feel like I have to then force myself to make a lyric fit within that.

I guess I’m about the story — making sure I’m saying what I want to say, then finding a melody and chords that bring that story to life.

I’m not saying that it’s the best method. In fact, I find it pretty inspiring when I see songwriters doing it the other way!

Well, here’s what I’ve got so far for The Siren’s Song. Whether or not it turns into an actual song that I’ll record is secondary at the moment.

I’ve had songwriter’s block for months now that it’s simply about getting words onto paper!

The Siren’s Song (work in progress)

Crawling down your back
That sense of shadowed things
Around the darkened bend
Where the siren’s sing

But step by step you find
Your feet keep moving on
Beckoned by the call
Of the siren’s song

And you know what
Curiosity will do to you
Shake you, break you
Take you down to your knees
But what’s on the other side
>>(What’s the hook?!)

Now you’re rolling in the sea
Pulled under by her spell
Deeper, darker, down you go
Into the wishing well

A siren knows what myths you’ve told
To enter the abyss
She’s seen them cheat, lie, deceive
Their way to feel her kiss

Tips for Singing at an Open Mic (Day 3 of #100DaysofMusic)

Last night, I attended a great open mic at Trees Organic Cafe in downtown Vancouver.

Although the venue was new to me, I immediately felt that comfort of entering a familiar environment that I’ve experienced at other open mics back home in Toronto.

There were the musicians entering the cafe with their guitars, getting their names down on the sign-up sheet, the host coming up to the mic, introducing each performer, the kind of nervous, excited anticipation buzzing around the room.

I’ve unfortunately been battling some fierce allergies that have been getting progressively worse since I got to Vancouver. My voice is unhappy and I’m not able to breathe properly.

So, while I really wanted to play at the open mic, I knew I needed to sit this one out!

Just watching the performers with no intention of singing myself was actually really nice. It gave me a chance to simply observe and not be distracted by nerves or thinking about the songs I was going to perform.

After watching several people get up on stage, here are some tips I thought I’d share for performing at an open mic:

1. Sing with some expression and emotion.

Wow, there were some people who did this brilliantly. One woman just bared her entire soul to us, it was amazingly intense and uplifting. But others had the exact same look on their face throughout all of their songs.

Think about the story and feeling you want to communicate, then push past the fear of vulnerability and give it to us!

2. Make eye contact with the audience.

There were many performers who did a great job expressing themselves. But many of them also barely made eye contact with the audience when they sang.

Even if they had a stunning voice, the lack of connection with the audience created this block between us and the performer.

You don’t have to stare everyone in the eyeball the entire time you’re singing, but definitely try looking around the room more frequently if you always find yourself singing with your eyes shut.

3. (Re)Consider the length of your songs. 

A few of the songs that were performed ran on for what felt like 6, 7, 8 minutes (typically, they were original songs).

Usually, it would have felt perfect to have ended the song a bit earlier (like two minutes earlier). Some people even started clapping at that point, because it really felt like the song was done. But then, it would continue. And continue.

I don’t want to sound like the songwriting nazi, because I am no expert, but at least for a performance, reconsider the length of a song for the sake of your audience. Keep them engaged and don’t lose the impact of your song by repeating the same line or chorus a million times.

4. Move on if you mess up or forget a line. A few people did this, but laughed it off and moved on. If they really couldn’t remember, they switched to a different song. It happens! No one will mind! Forgive yourself and smile about it. 🙂

5. Practice your songs well. I was really impressed by how seriously each singer seemed to take their performances. I don’t mean serious in an uptight way. I mean that you could tell they had taken the time to rehearse to get their vocals and guitar playing on point.

You never know who’s watching or what an open mic performance can lead to (my first open mic led to my first gig)! So, practice well and put your best foot forward!

By the way, these are ALL things that I also need to continuously work on as a performer. They are also good reminders for myself and also, just my one opinion. 😉

What say you? Do you have any advice for singing at an open mic? Please share!

#The100DayProject

I’ve been meaning to participate in #The100DayProject for a while now, though I knew I would likely have to wait until I got to Vancouver to begin.

Now that all of my time is my own, I have no excuses but to refocus on something that’s been drifting in and out of my life like fleeting waves with the tide. (Sorry for the dramatic prose).

What’s #The100DayProject, you ask? It’s all explained here, but in a nutshell, it’s “a free, global art project that anyone can participate in.”

You choose what you want to pursue for 100 days, give it a unique hashtag on Instagram (#100daysof___), then just go for it!

Each day, do something towards your project and post it for the world to see! So, what’ll my project be about?

#100DaysofMusic

Of course, what else? 🙂

As I mentioned, it’s been tough for me to keep up with singing, and especially songwriting, over the last several months.

I just haven’t been able to get into the right groove and creative space to “do” music consistently. Creating music and expressing myself through singing is something I need for my soul to feel balanced and fulfilled.

I’m definitely a person who gets motivated by working towards something that involves other people. That’s why I did my Facebook Live show, and that’s why I’m now taking on #The100DayProject … starting today!

There’s no other better time than now, right?

My posts won’t necessarily be just about singing (although I definitely plan to put up some music vids!). It could be about anything that contributes toward bringing music back into my life in a meaningful way. ❤

What’s Your 100 Day Project?

So, are you in with me? Your project can be about music, photography, visual art, writing, or really anything else that you’re passionate about or want to work towards.

One person’s project was about working out to get more fit. Another person’s project was to write a card every day for someone.

Although the “official” 2017 start date for #The100DayProject was April 4th, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t start right now!

Let me know if you decide to join, your Instagram handle, and what your 100 Day Project will be all about! I’m at @janicehoimages — hope you’ll join me on my 100 day journey of music. 🙂

Freedom

A few days ago, there was an event at the farm that ended in a group of us around a bonfire at night, and me singing a couple of songs with my guitar.

After hearing me sing, one of the people there — Kelly, a sweet woman with amazingly positive vibes — ended up giving me the nickname (or stage name) Freedom.

Wow. I just felt something so strong resonate within me when she said that. Freedom is, after all, what enables me to share my music, as well as what I want it to evoke in others — particularly the freedom of feeling and expressing.

It’s also what has been dictating my life in general these days.

I never thought about actually taking on a stage name. On one hand, there is something so — no pun intended — freeing about it!

On the other hand, would you rather keep your real name to represent your art?

Hm, I’m undecided. What say you?

Summer Solstice Facebook Live Show! (Wed, June 21, 8PM EST)

UPDATE: What an amazing time I had doing this show! I felt nothing but positive vibes and love from those who watched live and later. Thank you to everyone for being part of this! ❤

***You can watch the full Summer Solstice Facebook Live Show here.***

Hey friends!

Tomorrow is an exciting day for two reasons.

One, it’s the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and a time for celebration.

Second, I’ll be performing a few songs in a Facebook Live show here: http://bit.ly/2rMPovk

The set will be a mix of jazz, r&b, folk and pop covers that will be all about love, hope and inspiration. ❤

Join me tomorrow, Wednesday, June 21 at 8PM EST, for some music and good vibes! 🎵🎤😊

Unveiled

I don’t listen to many podcasts — I find most of the ones I’ve heard pretty difficult to listen to, to be honest! — but when I do get in the mood for some good talks, I like tuning in to Motivational Millennial’s podcast.

I find that I always leave with some newfound wisdom or encouragement to do better for myself — whether that’s related to work life or my personal development.

They just wrapped up Season 1, and I wanted to share their finale episode, “Strength Through Vulnerability”, HERE.

It’s actually in a different format than their usual interview-style episodes, where co-hosts Blake and Ivy access the minds some seriously inspirational guests. (Some of my fave episodes are here, here, and here).

But I did want to reflect on this particular episode’s topic: Vulnerability.

As Blake and Ivy mention, we typically regard vulnerability as an unfavourable state to be in.

Indeed, when I looked up the word “vulnerability” in the thesaurus, I got back a lot of negative synonyms, like unsafe, weak, threatened.

But then, one other word caught my eye: Unveiled.

When we think of an “unveiling”, we think of an uncovering of something special hidden underneath the shroud that has been masking it.

For example, an exquisite piece of art may be unveiled at the grand opening of an exhibit. The cloth that had been draped over the art work was but a sheath to hide the beautiful masterpiece underneath.

In many ways, we live covered up under layers of our own mask — a mask stitched together with elements of fear, insecurity, shame, and guilt.

The longer our magnificent artwork remains hidden, the more we forget what it looks like.

What were those exquisite shades of colour that brought our creation to life? What were the details in the drawing — the lines here, the curves there, the bold strokes, the faded etches — that made our picture whole?

The more layers we pile on top of our masterpiece, the heavier the shroud becomes and the more work it takes to strip it away.

But there’s good news, if you take this analogy one step further. It also means that you — the authentic You — is completely separate from the mask you wear on top of it.

In other words, the mask — all of the negative self-perceptions you hold close to you — is actually not a part of who you truly are.

And like a physical mask, if you remove it from yourself, it doesn’t take anything away from you as person. If anything, You shine brighter. You have the freedom to finally be seen, unveiled.

You can listen to the podcast episode on Vulnerability to gain more insights into how making yourself vulnerable actually strengthens you.

In the meantime, have the courage to at least take a peek at what’s under the veil. Reconnect with the masterpiece that you are. Remind yourself of the colours and details that make you whole.

And if you’re feeling extra brave, fling that veil off altogether and celebrate the freedom of sharing your authentic self with the rest of the world!

Super New Moon

Last night, I came across an article about today’s Super New Moon. You can hop over there to learn more about what a super new moon means physically, but what I wanted to focus on was what it means spiritually. The article says:

A New Moon signifies new beginnings and fresh starts. It’s the perfect time to turn a new leaf, set your intentions, acknowledge goals, and commit to your vision for the next 28 days.

Leading up to today’s Super New Moon, we may have been experiencing some turbulent emotions, given that this particular super new moon is happening within The Hyades star cluster.

According to the article, these stars give off a “stormy and bitter” energy that will affect the Super New Moon and, in turn, our emotional experience.

Admittedly, if anyone had been telling me about how the cosmos affect humans on such a personal and spiritual level a few years ago, I may have felt skeptical about it.

Since I’ve been at the farm, I have learned about the importance of the moon cycle and how it helps to inform us about when to plant, weed, harvest, and so on.

My farmer friend who I work with has observed the shifts in energy within plants when, say, the full moon is approaching. He also notices an energy spike within himself around the full moon. As for me, I probably notice more of an emotional shift during that time.

If the moon does have such power to affect the physical energy of other beings — including its effect on the earth’s tides — then, it’s not so far off to believe that it could affect our emotional energy as well.

We often separate the physical and emotional (or mental), perceiving them as two distinct spheres within ourselves. But the more you learn about the connection between mental health and physical health, the more you realize that they are very much intertwined.

Deep emotions might come up to surface in those of you who need to let go and cleanse old outdated belief systems.

This Super New Moon will also be encouraging us to review and assess the state of our mental activity and our thought processes.

I have definitely felt some seriously deep emotions this week, leading up the Super New Moon today.

I had a good cry when I was in the city earlier this week, while I was in the process of working through some long-standing core beliefs (or core wounds) that I know I must let go of.

I also found myself, for the first time, really contemplating another long-standing issue that I thought I was okay not confronting head on. But the more I delved into it, the more I realized that not doing so may actually be hurting my forward progress.

As for setting my intentions for the next month, I’ll be journalling more about that later today. But what I do know is that with six weeks left at the farm, I feel as though my recent return here from the city contains a new sense of energy with it.

What intentions and goals do you want to set for the upcoming 28 days? What do you need to work on letting go of so that you can start anew?

Old Soul

I wanted to take a quick break from writing my book to talk about being an Old Soul.

I recently started reading a bunch of articles on LonerWolf (a website created by two spiritual mentors), particularly the ones about Old Souls.

I’ve always believed that I am Old Soul — and have also been told that I’m one by others. I’ve always felt much older than I really am, and become easily emotionally drained taking in others’ emotions and suffering (I’ve also been told that I’m an empath, so that adds to the energy drain!).

I have carried a sense of weariness about the world that is beyond just deploring the hate and pain being experienced globally.

It’s a sense of not feeling like I even belong on this planet sometimes. This quote from LonerWolf’s article “10 Universal Problems Old Souls Experience” I think sums it up:

They long to find a place where they feel like they belong, a space filled with freedom and liberation.  This often results in the feeling that this world is not their true home.

Feeling like there’s nowhere in this world where you truly fit in can obviously result in some sadness. Everyone wants to feel belongingness in some way or another.

For a long time, I did find it depressing and kept “searching” for people or groups where I could feel a sense of acceptance.

But I think part of my spiritual journey is to focus on what’s going on inside me, to work on accepting myself as I am, so that no matter where I am in the world, I will always feel that I am just as I’m supposed to be.

Wanting to move towards the things that deeply fulfill and nurture my soul is a big reason why I am going down this new life path. It’s why I have moved away from a conventional path of “success” that really doesn’t mean anything to me.

The more I listen to what my intuition and heart tells me, the more I believe that I’m discovering the way my Old Soul self was meant to live her days while here on Earth.