J.D. Moyer

beat maker, sci-fi writer, self-experimenter

Category: Personal Updates (Page 1 of 3)

New 6-Week Experiment: Living With a Disability


On the evening of Dec. 9th I stepped off my skateboard the wrong way and broke my foot (three fractured metatarsals — see above). Thinking it was just a bad sprain, I took a Lyft home and rested on the couch, watching my foot swell up to alarming proportions. Come Monday: doctor’s office, x-ray, a compression splint, the threat of screws and surgery. But after many scans and tests, I managed to dodge a bullet. No surgery required, just six easy weeks in a cast.

So, it’s my turn to learn. What’s life like with reduced mobility?

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Happy at the Bottom

Recently I wrote about various careers I’ve had and am still having, both accidental and on-purpose. My current sci-fi author career is so fledgling (exactly one published story) that any sensible person wouldn’t call it a career.

My dad says it’s my calling. Maybe it is. But I’m approaching it like a career, methodically and strategically. I write almost everyday, not just when I’m feeling inspired. Even though I have little to show for my efforts (so far), I can’t remember having this much fun trying to build something. At least not since the days I was sending out cassette-tape demos in padded mailers to NYC house music labels (and getting ignored). Or joining Trip ‘n Spin, a disorganized, fun-loving music label/collective in San Francisco.

It’s kinda fun being at the bottom. My friends and family (and maybe even some of you gentle readers) are genuinely rooting for me. A few might think I’m tilting at windmills, but not in a mean way (I may even inspire some to tilt at windmills of their own). I don’t have a professional reputation to protect, because I have no reputation in this field.

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How I Broke Into the Music Business and Made $100K

Jackie at the old Loöq Records office on Brannan.

Jackie at the old Loöq Records office on Brannan.

As I’m trying to launch a new career (fiction writing), I’m also taking stock of an old one (producing electronic music). I signed my first track in 1992, at the age of 23, to Mega-Tech records (an offshoot of the famous San Francisco disco label Megatone). I released my latest record, a reggae/breaks hybrid track, a week ago.

Breaking in wasn’t easy. I remember vividly sending out cassette tape demos in padded mailers to record labels in New York City and Los Angeles, following up via phone, and getting shot down by arrogant label runners (I’ve made a point to never be mean, running my own record label, even though our signing bar is very high).

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2015 Year-End Review

Momu Mobile Studio Unit -- one of many 2015 highlights.

Momu Mobile Studio Unit — one of many 2015 highlights.

This weekend I completed my first personal year-end review. Since I don’t have an employer, it’s up to me to evaluate my own performance and look for ways to improve. Celestine Chua’s year-end review questions resonated with me, so I used those as a template:

  1. What were your biggest accomplishments this year? (results you are proud of)
  2. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned this year?
  3. On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with how you spent the year? Why?

Chua’s review also included questions for the year ahead:

  1. What do you want to accomplish next year, such that it’s your best year ever?
  2. What new habits can you cultivate that will help you to achieve your goals?
  3. What are your immediate next steps to achieve these goals?

Completing the first part of the exercise provided me with an opportunity to review the year’s major events. I was surprised by how much happened and how much I did in 2015. It was good to both appreciate successes and to reflect on failures. Projects that didn’t go as well as I hoped they would — in hindsight the reasons why were clear. But if I hadn’t taken the time to look back and consider what happened, those lessons would have been lost on me. I would have been left with the vague feeling of “Well, I guess that didn’t work out.”

In terms of my successes, it was good to take time to appreciate those. I feel confident going into 2016 after considering the positive results of 2015. It’s easy to underplay your successes in life and to only give attention to problems and failures. But it’s helpful to take some pride in your accomplishments. Sometimes nobody else gives you credit, and you’re the only one who knows how hard you had to work to get the job done. This is especially true for less glamorous tasks like helping family members, staying in shape, and repairing the roof.

Maximizer Update

A couple months ago I wrote about how I was going to “join the maximizers” in certain aspects of my life, meaning I would attempt to raise my standards, push harder towards my goals, and trade some of my leisure time for productivity and “push” time.

As part of my year-end review I considered some recent changes I’d made along these lines, and evaluated if I wanted to carry them forward.

Looking back, I realized I’d been on the maximizer path ever since becoming a dad in 2008. After a tough year of sleep deprivation, I found myself ready to enter a new phase of life defined by deeper commitments and more goal-oriented behavior. In 2009 I started this blog, started writing fiction, cut out a few things that weren’t bringing much value to my life (DJing, videogames), and committed to higher standards and better decisions for myself.

Starting in 2013 I took a harder look at my activities and commitments, using the “Hell yeah or no” criteria from Derek Sivers. I also asked and answered questions about each activity area (consulting work, writing fiction, running a music label, producing music, blogging, etc.), including:

  • Why do it?
  • How does it relate to my life purpose?
  • What’s the main objective?
  • What are the “traps” to avoid?

In 2015 I raised my game even more, committing to more writing time and more music studio time (some of the results I will be publishing in 2016).

So yes — it feels good to push, to become more of a maximizer, to raise my work output and raise my standards and contribute and create as much as possible while I’m alive on this planet (which will hopefully be a very long time). Not that you should mistake me for a workaholic or overachiever — all my commitments and activities in total still leave me about half my waking hours remaining for unstructured free time (hanging out with family and friends, reading, gaming, playing sports, and the like). I have my freelance career and hard-earned investment wisdom to thank for that, as well as good luck in the life cards I drew at birth (U.S. citizen, middle-class, white male, able-bodied, no mental illness, etc.). I realize not everybody is playing this immersive game on easy mode. All the more reason that I should push myself and try to contribute more.

The Year Ahead

I’ll save my thoughts on 2016 for a new post early in the new year. I’ll probably combine that with a Metablog post to let you know what I’ll be writing about in 2016 (including an extreme lifestyle experiment).

I hope you have the opportunity to spend New Year’s Eve with friends and/or family. Stay alive, don’t lose your pants, and have a great time!

Thanks for reading this blog in 2015 and I wish you all the best in the year ahead.

Peak Frustration

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I remember the moment I felt the most frustrated with my music career. It was well before my music career had actually begun. I had a middle-of-the-night radio show at a college station, a Macintosh Plus and D-70 keyboard in my dorm room, and big dreams. But none of my demos had gotten any love from music labels.

The moment: I was crossing the street, padded envelope in hand, preparing to drop yet another cassette demo in the mail to yet another label. I needed, and felt like I deserved, a cathartic release to the pent-up frustration I was feeling. Success must be right around the corner. This had to be the track that got me signed.

Well, it wasn’t. Nor was the next one. Or the one after that.

It’s a cliche that success is “right around the corner” from disappointment, rejection, paralyzing self-doubt, and abject failure. It’s not true, most of time. Usually what follows peak frustration is more frustration, hard work, more rejection, deliberate and painstaking improvement of skills, and eventually, possibly, small incremental successes. “Big breaks” which to an outsider seem to be based on phenomenal luck are more often the result of throwing enormous amounts of competently cooked pasta against the wall. Some of it will eventually stick.

I did eventually sign a couple tracks to a San Francisco disco label that was branching out into house and techno. Then I signed a track to a major label rave compilation.

Then more demos, more rejection.

It’s not like you reach a certain level of success and you no longer have to deal with being rejected (or worse, ignored). If you’re in the arts, it’s part of the territory. You can pretend you don’t care, but everyone cares. You might not care about the money or fame, but everyone wants to be acknowledged.

To get to my big break (John Digweed discovering a self-published Jondi & Spesh vinyl release in a Berkeley record store bin) I had to write a bunch more tracks, find a music partner/co-writer, put out half a dozen releases on our own credit-card funded imprint, be completely ignored by local tastemakers and scenesters for years, and generally fuel my efforts with youthful bravado, stubbornness, and plastic.

What followed was a pretty damn good couple decades, the dividends of which I am still enjoying today. Top-charting dance tracks, major TV and videogame licensing deals, US and European DJ tours (fancy hotels, limo rides, big venues and crowds), and co-hosting an epic dance music event that had a line stretching around the block every week. Though music is no longer my #1 focus, I still enthusiastically produce tracks and co-manage Loöq Records.

So what is my #1 creative focus? Writing. Fiction writing, specifically. And in that area, I’m enjoying/enduring a good run of frustration and rejection. I’m older now and I have a few life accomplishments under my belt, so the rejection doesn’t hurt as much. But it still stings! I’m currently writing and submitting science-fiction short stories to pro markets and my rejection notices just entered the double digits. Ha, that’s nothing! (think veteran writers). I don’t know if I’m at peak frustration yet. I’m not naive enough to assume that success is right around the corner.

Starting a new creative career over age 40 might be called quixotic. Less generously, deluded. More optimistically (and how I choose to frame it): an attempt at reinvention, mid-life learning, and hopefully, eventually, meaningful contribution (entertaining and inspiring readers).

I guess I’m writing this to encourage you, if you’re in a similar space. This post from Ferrett Steinmetz gave me the courage and fortitude to make a serious attempt at writing (and more recently to start submitting my work). Incidentally, the author of that post is having a great run. You can purchase his debut novel here.

Thanks for joining me on my own ride.

Why I’m Joining the Maximizers

Maximize your sound ... and everything else.

Maximize your sound … and everything else.

I first became familiar with the term maximizer from Penelope Trunk’s blog. According to Trunk, a maximizer always wants the best, and spends a great deal of time and energy trying to make the best decisions, acquire the best things, and have the best life. Maximizers are competitive, ambitious, and according to Trunk, have more interesting lives.

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