Archive | March, 2011

Brahenys On the Road Again!

Posted March 31, 2011.

Just a quick schedule … as some of you are asking … and this is not ALL in concrete, so bear with us as we firm up the dates.

April 15, 16, 17, 2011 — Las Brisas Songwriters Retreat (Murietta, California)

April 28, 29, 30, 2011 – ASCAP Expo – Los Angeles (Reserve a private consults/critiques with John Braheny while you’re visiting here! Email him at

May 9, 2011 (Monday evening) – Las Vegas, Nevada – Songwriters Salon (in a private home – limited seating). Details coming soon!

May 12, 2011 – (Thursday evening) – Salt Lake City, Utah – Songwriters Salon (private home – limited seating). Details coming soon!

May 14, 2011 – (Saturday – all day) – Twin Falls, Idaho – NSAI all day seminar! (Details soon.)

May 21, 2011 – (Saturday) – Portland, Oregon (details soon).

May 26, 2011 – Seattle, Washington

First 2 weeks of June, 2011 – Vancouver & Victoria, British Columbia, Canada!

Of course, we’ll fill in the details as we have them. Email… with comments, questions, etc.

GET YOUR SONGS READY NOW!! (Just a little prodding.)


Braheny Songwriters Retreat – April 15, 16, 17 – 2011

Posted March 31, 2011 —

Our very favorite teaching environment is songwriting retreats.

About our retreats, songwriters say:

(1) When we’re sequestered from our ‘regular routine,’ our mental and emotional senses are heightened.

(2) We explore new ground, new info, new approaches to doing things, in a place where it’s OK to fail.

(3) We bond with other writers, find new co-writers, get fresh feedback.

(4) We can focus (and not feel guilty)!

(5) In a smaller group, we can get more individual attention.

With that in mind, John Braheny and I are excited to teach at the upcoming Las Brisas Songwriters Weekend, Fri/Sat/Sun, April 15, 16, 17, 2011.

It’s in Murietta, half-way between Los Angeles and San Diego, California, up in the hills, in a lovely retreat center, and yet, very reasonable… $300.  (less if you bring friend/s)  includes 3-days lodging, food, the workshop, optional yoga, hiking & wine!

Schedule (flexible):

The weekend:

Las Brisas Retreat Center (home page):

To make your reservation, contact Niki Smart:

Las Brisas Retreat

43500 Camino De Las Brisas
Murrieta, CA
(949) 274-5961


We look forward to seeing you there!


About Actors, Storytellers – Ben Kingsley

I heard a wonderful interview on the radio last week, 3/19/11, with the fabulous actor, Sir Ben Kingsley…

This quote stuck with me:

“I think that the role of the actor, perhaps at its simplest and its purest, is one of the tribal storyteller. And that if you were to transport me back maybe 3,000 years, I’d be sitting around the fire at night with the little tribe, reassuring them about their past, hoping that they will sleep through the night and comforting them about their future, and try and build those bridges of empathy, particularly aspects of life that are baffling and frightening.”

Songwriters, actors, writers of all genres, will appreciate this. There’s more to the interview, worth listening to, or reading the comparatively short transcript:

Click: Sir Ben Kingsley Interview on National Public Radio.


Unleash Your Creativity Now (How to Freewrite)

March 14, 2011

Writers (and songwriters) often ask me about which kick-start methods are most helpful. There are several.

For example, a common one is to use “prompts” (i.e., starting a sentence, or a paragraph with a diving-board phrase like …

“The worst job I ever had was ____ .”  or

“My best friend became a best friend when she  _____.” or

“My family didn’t believe me when I said I would _____.”

Note:  For a great book of prompts for songwriters, see our friend, Lisa Aschmann’s …  1,000 Songwriting Ideas.

Or, some like Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages daily writing exercise (from her hit book, The Artist’s Way).

Some use the one John Braheny mentions in his best-selling book, The Craft and Business of Songwriting … an exercise called object writing …. which Pat Pattison teaches at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.  You choose and focus on any item that you see in the room where you are and just write about it, for about 10 minutes. And it doesn’t matter if your writing goes “off topic… ”

And now,  in this article, by Joel Friedlander, (which came out last year, but someone just brought it to my attention) … I learn  an exercise called ‘freewriting.’  This one, however, is done sans computer.  It’s totally handwritten, which may or may not appeal to you.

Here’s the link:  Unleash Your Creativity Now (How to Freewrite) — Excerpt:

“… In freewriting, you write just fast enough so that your hand moves faster than your brain can defend itself.The results are sometimes unpredictable, but the most surprising images, characters, memories and stories started to pour out onto the page. Where was it coming from? I was mystified, and stunned. Somehow this practice had connected to that deep stream of creativity we all have running, somewhere deep underground, and allowed it to manifest in writing.”

Whole article … click: Unleash Your Creativity Now (How to Freewrite).

Some writers really like to tap into their flow, their source… their hidden under-belly … in so many ways. (Personally, I enjoy variety, so I try all these techniques at various times.) This one is definitely worth trying!  Enjoy!

[Photo taken by me at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, from the Product Design class …  April, 2010.  A Time Meter, with an hourglass egg-timer in the center.  For a quarter, “Plan Carefully, Here, Buy More Time.”  I wish this thing really worked!]


Why Starting Over in Your Career Is So Hard (& Necessary)

March 13, 2011

I know you’ll find several things in this excellent article,  (written by Alan Deutschman, in that will apply to you, even if you have kept your job for many, many years.

Excerpt from (click): Why Starting Over in Your Career Is So Hard:

“When I talked with one of the world’s leading neuroscientists, Dr. Michael Merzenich, professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, he explained that practicing a craft or profession for a long time makes your brain change dramatically.

If a doctor conducted a scan of the brain of a female flute player in a symphony orchestra, the image would show that the regions that control the fingers, tongue, and lips are unusually large. All of her years of training and practice have actually distorted her brain. Whatever your particular trade or occupation, your brain becomes specialized to do your job.

The good news is that your brain is capable of extraordinary change throughout middle age and well into your senior years. You’re capable of “rewiring” it with the complex learning you’ll need in a new career. Neuroscientists call this “neural plasticity.” But the catch is that unless you’ve stayed in the practice of learning hard things, then your “brain fitness” declines. The cognitive muscles you need for change have atrophied. It’s a use it or lose it situation. Unfortunately, few of us really use it. Merzenich told me that most people “haven’t ‘learned’ anything in twenty or thirty years.”

Can that really be true? After all, most of us put a lot of effort into keeping up with the latest developments in our professional fields. But that’s not what Merzenich is talking about. To him, “learning” isn’t maintaining your long-entrenched expertise; “learning” means becoming a true beginner in another challenging pursuit. You know that you’re learning something new and different if it’s really hard for a long time and you’re constantly making mistakes and feeling like an idiot. No one wants to feel that way, especially once they’ve become used to the headiness of being an expert in another area.

Complex learning is undeniably difficult and discouraging. Think of the immense frustration of trying for the first time to drive stick shift, play golf, dance the tango, or speak a foreign language. That’s how you’ll feel if you switch careers. The way to make it manageable is to seek support from good coaches, teachers, and mentors who’ll help sustain your efforts, just as you would if you were learning Chinese or how to snowboard.”

Read the 2-page article:  Why Starting Over in Your Career Is So Hard

[Photo taken by me, of hand-stitched pillow on chair, at a friend’s home, in Santa Fe, Oct. 2009]


750 Words & Buster Benson

Writers: You tell me you’re looking for a challenge.

This one (based on Julia Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages’ exercise in The Artist’s Way) will take you to a whole new level. And yes, I’m thinking of doing it myself. Yeow!

Read about the  750 Words Challenge … some folks write daily for a month, some write less or more than 750 words, some write every other day or only now & then. He rewards you with points (!) for as much as, and how,  you do write.

What’s super-cool, is that Buster Benson (the writer-designer) has ‘geeked-up’ the site, where you enter your writings, with a series of diagnostic filters, with stats revealed to you, and only you, to help you quantify (if that’s possible!) your writing habits, or non-habits, your style (introvert, extrovert), so — heck, if nothing else, it’s much better than reading your fortune in a cookie, no? Read all his rules for the Challenge and don’t let the one below frighten you. From the site:

★ What kind of stats do you collect about my usage of the site?

I try to collect as much implicit information about you as I can without asking you to fill out a lot of forms. It’s the accidental information that is often the most interesting, I think. That said, here’s where I get information about you:

  1. Your behavior on the page: I watch how quickly you type, how many breaks you take, etc to draw some very general conclusions about how “focused” you are at the moment. I also time how long it takes to get to 750 words.
  2. Facebook: any general information that you’ve made public on Facebook is temporarily stored on my servers. For example, things like gender, age, and relationship status.
  3. Your IP Address: I use Google’s Client Location Service to try to see if your IP Address can say anything about your general location. Right now I only use this in order to then try and see what the weather’s like where you are. Who knows, maybe there’s a correllation between the weather and the emotional content of your daily writings.

Note that I respect the privacy of all information collected, and will not make any information public that can be used to identify you.

Not only are you challenged to write whatever is on your mind (it’s okay to write drivel) but it will be analyzed for you… and you can take that to the bank, or to the garbage pail. Either way, you must admit it’s gotta be fun.

So check out the site — and it’s creator, Buster Benson.

At the very least, check out his list: “A Few Rules I Try to Live By.” Good one to post on the fridge. Enjoy!

Possibilities - Marfa, TX

[Photo taken by me, Aug. 2010, of an actual shop, Possibilities, in the artists’ town, Marfa, Texas. Note: the door’s standing wide open! Love that.]


20 Sure-Fire Ways to Create Clutter

Naomi Seldin wrote a funny article we all can relate to:

20 Sure-Fire Ways to Create Clutter.

I post this because we are entering the season of Spring Cleaning!

(And see below, the ‘good clutter’ info about Bill’s Records, will tug at your creativity sleeve as well…)

My husband and I (mentioned before) cleaned out — down-sized severely — our many years of ‘stuff’ in our garage a couple years ago. What a geological dig, unearthing layers of our lives. Why did we ever keep all that? Our excuse was we are too busy to sort/toss as we go. Sounds good, eh?

Did we change behavior? Oh, yes! Now we buy fewer books, but we still read them, plus mags, newspapers at the library or  online. Did you know that John Braheny’s book,  The Craft and Business of Songwriting, is available as a down-loadable PDF? Be sure you get the 3rd edition…

I don’t buy ‘quantity’ any more, so I don’t have to store things in every corner.  I do keep soaps & shampoos from hotels… but we use them! OK, enough personal details… enjoy the Create Clutter article. You’ll see yourself there!

However, there is Useful Clutter:

Below are the very packed tight, piled high, generally alphabetical, but fabulous aisles at Bill’s Records Store ( that we visited last year, in downtown, Dallas, Texas.

The owner, Bill, has over 5,000 items listed on E-Bay! But this is his celebrated brick-and-mortar location.

Worth your visit …  for those of you who collect, swap, trade, sell or drool over CDs and LPs … or if you just want a great place to perform your songs while you’re in Dallas, see the site for details.

[Photos I took in July, 2010, include the owner, Bill (left), John Braheny with T-shirt: “Listen, really listen, to the fruits of innovation, courage and rebellion,” and (right) Grady Yates, illustrious Dallas singer/songwriter and exquisite host and fun tour guide.]

Bill says he has more CDs & LPs in storage! Wow, what a Wonderland for those who love music. I’m sure those of you who tour have known of this treasure for a long, long time. We could have spent days in there finding everything we could have ever dreamed. Ah, well…

Thanks, Grady, for taking us there… OK, back to cleaning out more boxes of our own!


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