Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Some Thoughts on Crossing the Finish Line

If this was a race, then I won. I know, that sounds vain and boastful. I don’t mean it that way. But here is the thing. Today I crossed the finish line. It wasn’t a marathon, although it often felt that way. Putting together a CD in a matter of two months is not a marathon… it is a sprint. Or at the very least a highly competitive 400 meters. And today I held CDs in my hands. I spent several hours packaging them to mail to everyone who purchased one. If you have been following along and you bought a CD, it is only a matter of a very few days before you will be holding one, too.

I would like to tell you some things, and then, after you listen to the CD, I would like you to tell me some things. I want to know… did you like it? How did it make you feel? What was your favorite thing? It would leave me gratified beyond words to get a few dozen comments on this post, just answering those questions.

I want to say that I am more than happy with the way the CD turned out. I will admit to being a little bit of a perfectionist… not for other people usually, but for myself, and so when I listen, I unavoidably hear things that I would’ve/could’ve/should’ve fixed if I had another month. But I put in about 60 hours the last week of production alone, and ninety percent of that time was spent just fixing little things and making everything sound as clean and pure as possible. And when I was finished, at 6:00 a.m. on the morning that the master had to be delivered, I was blessed with a feeling that I had accomplished what I set out to do, which was to make some music that would help people feel closer to Jesus Christ. Even after all the hundreds of times I have listened with a critical ear to each song, I still have a burning in my heart when I listen to the songs, and that helps me turn a deaf ear to any small defects there. I can only hope that the same will be true when you listen.

I look back at a December 30, 2008 post from The Welcome Mat (which is my other blog… the one where I rant and rave about completely random things). I basically threw my hat into the ring and boldly said that I was going to make a Christmas CD, and that I was going to do it my own way, with my own equipment, in my own home. I was excited. Scared, but inspired. And then what did I do? I proceeded to second-guess my declaration for months on end, spend about a hundred hours trying to figure out what equipment I needed to buy from a dizzying array of possibilities and almost make decisions and purchases that would have been fatal to the project.

Then I spent some more months thinking that I needed to “go a different direction,” and wrote songs that were not Christmas-themed. Then I spent some months driving my best friends crazy with my indecision, unrealistic expectations and with some very uncharacteristically passive aggressive behavior. Then I attended a music workshop in Utah where I learned that I was doing things very differently than normal people, and so a) there would be no help or advice for what I was doing, b) there would likely be no monetary compensation at the end of the project, and c) the song I submitted for critique was not even in the top 20 out of 100, and therefore would probably not appeal to the general public. I came out of that workshop and out of my summer recording efforts with the firm and rather spiteful decision that not only was I not going to make a Christmas CD… I was not ever going to make a CD of anything.

I spent an entire month wallowing in a uneasy mixture of self-pity and relief that I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. And then one morning at the end of August, while I was cooking something over my stove that I have probably done a hundred times, I had an accident and splattered my hands liberally with 500-degree molten sugar. I plunged my hands into cold water within two seconds, but the damage was done. I had second- and third-degree burns all over both hands. The burns were initially all white and waxy looking. Within a week they were covered with angry red blisters, and after two weeks they just looked like raw meat. It was then, that suddenly I had the overwhelming desire to just play the piano. Just sit down and play. I hadn’t even touched the piano in over a month.

As soon as I could plunk out some notes holding bandaged fingers in the air, I sat down to make some music, and I realized that after all of my ridiculously uninspired activities of the summer, after the shameful way I had treated friends, and after the deep discouragement that I had allowed myself to feel (that is so unlike me!), I still had to make the Christmas CD. And guess what… now I only had two months to do it, because I wasted the first ten. I felt chastened, excited and completely overwhelmed.

In the category of blessings: the equipment I felt inspired to purchase was exactly what I needed, performed beautifully and made everything sound warm and rich. My friends immediately rallied around, and vocalists made themselves available, even when I had previously subjected them to demoralizing recording sessions. They came from near and far. They practiced until they sounded amazing. They sometimes worked into the early morning hours with me, until we got what we needed. My family picked up the slack when I started to spend between 40 and 60 hours a week for that two-month period of time. I learned how to survive on about five to six hours of sleep a night (I am an eight-to-nine-hour girl). I was blessed with ideas of how to work around problems, and how to make certain sounds happen, and how to make everything about the CD sound better and better. There was certainly a shepherd, guiding me through the task. Not only that, but all kinds of people purchased the CD without even knowing what it is they would be getting. If they could take a leap of faith, then certainly I could. After the way I spent my year, I certainly did not deserve all of those blessings, so I have to figure that the CD was supposed to get done.

And so, here I cross the finish line… with a couple hundred pounds of CDs in the back of my Suburban, and orders that look like they might sell out the entire batch by the end of the month… and yes, I won: It turns out I was just competing with myself. I can only be grateful that I got to be part of it, and that in the process I learned important lessons about friendship and inspiration and determination that you would think I would already have learned (I am slow), and grateful that I got to spend so much time with my favorite people in the whole world.

I also look occasionally at my Stat Counter that tells me about the visits to my blog, and I see that today I have had visits from over one hundred people, from fifteen different states and four different countries. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know how some of you found your way here, but I am grateful, and if you listen to the music, I hope it makes you smile, and that you feel a peaceful spirit. I know it is only November 18th, but Merry Christmas, everyone. It’s all about the baby.

Finish Line photo by Andrew Mo, paintings by Joseph Brickey


  1. I. Cannot. Resist. I. Must. Comment.

    I am so happy you made your music. I love hearing about your journey. It has inspired me to finish my race. Just when I was about to quit. I am determined to finish my novel this year. I made that goal a year ago too and then proceeded to take 7 months off.

    I have a little more than a month. I know I can do it.

    I edited 20 pages today. No more movies. No more books until I finish. I hope I win like you did. But I will be happy with just crossing the line.

  2. i don't think that could have been written any better.

  3. Who is the artist that painted the beautiful painting you are using as the cover of your CD? It goes so well with your title.


  4. A big hearty CONGRATULATIONS on a year of achievements and hard work. It's amazing to accomplish a big goal and to look back and see all those who rallied around you and helped you do it. What an experience. Way to go Victoria!

  5. It’s crazy that so many seemingly unrelated events in the past year could come together in the right way to help you find your path. You are an example to a lot of people of perseverance and accomplishment, but you are also a great example to me. I have learned from you in so many ways. I am so proud that you completed this daunting project and I am amazed at the quality of the CD. I have listened to the CD over and over and over and it is hard for me to tell you my favorite parts. I love it, every part of it. One of my favorite things to do is separate the music from the lyrics in my head and then put them together. The music is so beautiful, and the lyrics are so touching, and together it is so powerful.