When we are distractedly consuming media, the opportunity cost is the art we could be making instead, the exercise we could be getting, the loved ones we could be checking in on.
When I think of 2020, I remember being either uninspired to write, or having so much to say that I didn’t even know where to begin. I was constantly drained and burned out on Zoom sessions. Quarantine didn’t bother me, but reading the news certainly took a toll.
When I was musically stuck, I turned to other forms of creativity. I wrote blogs, I wrote code, I planted an urban garden on my window sill, and cooked new dishes. Still, at the end of the year, I felt incredibly unproductive. Yet, as I sat to write this blog, I realized just how much the doom-scrolling can eat up your energy, affect your memory, and erode your wellbeing in the process.
The year, like any other, was actually full of small wins worth celebrating. Unfortunately, those achievements were quickly eclipsed by the anxiety and chaos of the whatever the next 2020 curveball was: the pandemic, the anti-maskers, the conspiracy theorists, police in riot gear disrupting peaceful BLM protests outside my building, the Wakashio oil spill, the U.S. elections… It was a lot, and it was everywhere, all the time. It was so ubiquitous and consuming that I almost forgot some of the good parts!
Here’s what I have to show for 2020:
- “Let a Day Together Be Christmas” was a finalist for the Great American Song Contest.
- “Let a Day Together Be Christmas” reached over 22,000 streams on Spotify.
- “Heads Up” was a semi-finalist in the International Songwriting Competition.
- “Let’s Celebrate” was placed on a TV show.
- “Like We Always Do” was placed twice on a TV show.
- Released 3 solo singles, 1 of which I produced & mixed (“Wasted Space in My Heart“).
- Released 3 duo singles, 2 of which I produced & mixed (“Heartbeat” and “Happy New Me“).
- Have 4 other songs finished and ready for release in 2021, plus more already in the works!
- Signed several songs to agents/publishers.
- Mixed 25 tracks (3 EPs worth) for George’s solo piano work.
- Produced and mixed songs for other artists.
- Co-produced and mixed several cues with George for ads.
- Received excellent feedback on my productions from music supervisors and other industry folks.
- Published 13 music-related posts on sherrylynnlee.com, 5 opinion/analysis/political pieces on Medium, 5 lifestyle blogs on SherryAndGeorge.com. George has done most of the S&G blogging this year, with about 40 for the year, in addition to his own guitar blog.
- My first blog on the Coronavirus response went viral in Mauritius and was featured in a few local news outlets there.
- Contributed to oil spill cleanup efforts directly and indirectly.
- Curated a playlist called Quarantine Release, where I feature indie music that was released since the pandemic started. I still update it regularly.
- Curated various holiday playlists for Apple Music & Spotify.
Looking at the list, it was not such an unproductive year after all. Yet, as humans, we are predisposed to negative emotions. We remember them longer. It’s a survival instinct from our lizard brain. Watching depressing news can’t be good for us. So, don’t let the state of the world deprive you of appreciating your accomplishments of 2020, no matter how small they may be.
I’ve muted most friends who post about the elections/politics since 2016 because those discussions drain me. I highly recommend this if you find yourself in the same predicament. I try to use socials only for music groups and catching up with friends/family. Still, every now and then, I inevitably slip into a political debate and regret it later. The only conversation I did actively participate in was for Black Lives Matter. All the other political stuff – no thanks. On Election Day, I stayed off all social media, away from my devices or any potential source of news. I spent the day outdoors, gardening, away from the internet. It was an excellent decision.
I remember seeing an interview with a songwriter once, who said you have to be disciplined about switching off the news. The media’s job is to convince you of the need to be updated on everything at all times. Your attention is their currency, and the sense of urgency is the most expedient way for them to acquire it. But we can stay reasonably informed without being “on call” with Twitter 24/7.
If I had any resolution for 2021, it would be to guard my time from the news cycle even more cautiously, and to be mindful of how much time I spend consuming versus creating. I’ve even set a time limit on my phone for social media. Feel free to give it a try too.
Let’s make the most of 2021.
Happy New Year.