2019 is turning out to be my year for finding new strategies. How can I keep content coming your way at a fairly consistent rate without going completely into overdrive? How do I balance a full time job with pursuing my dream goals? How do I fuel my passion for writing AND playing the fiddle without burning out by the end of the day? Where does my motivation lie, and how am I going to prioritize that?
I ran into this problem during the second half of last year, where I was being really hard on myself for not being creative enough. Yet I was also just trying to hang in there, get enough sleep, eat well, and give myself that down time I needed to recuperate. That part worked to some extent, but I went to sleep most nights feeling discouraged that I wasn’t doing enough. However, I’m now happy to say that in the past month or so I’ve learned to take baby steps, and be proud of where each one takes me. I’ve started re-prioritizing writing and working on growing my music. I’ve figured out how to recognize when I’m making excuses to myself and letting fear of success stand in my way — but that’s a subject that could take up at least three more blog posts. Let me tell you why I’m sharing this murkier part of my journey with y’all.
About two weeks ago I wrote down a bunch of different ideas of things I care enough about to write on and share with you, my audience. And y’all, there’s a LOT of stuff I could (and will) ramble on to you about. However, one of those ideas just happened to involve Youtube. Several years ago, I did a five part beginner fiddle tip teaching series, and I’ve added on a couple videos here and there — but I’m just starting to realize what a great barely tapped resource it is for spreading my musical message! So I decided that I need to be putting more videos out there. At this point, it’s just me and my tripod sitting in the den of my rental house, but I believe in working with what I have to get to the point where I want to be.
I usually try to keep at least one video in my “Top 9” posts on Instagram, so that anyone doing a quick scan of my page can easily access an example of my playing. I intend to continue that in a similar vein, but this year I’m adding something a bit new to my practice/writing routine! Each month, I will record 2-3 sets of tunes, and post them up on my Youtube channel. I mentioned that I already have a few videos geared toward beginners. While this is something I want to continue to create, I also don’t want to ignore the rest of you who don’t need these tips! So, these tunes are meant for fiddle players (or traditional Irish musicians in general) of all levels as a resource for tune and technique inspiration in addition to showcasing what I do. Or if you are just an awesome person who likes to listen to fiddle music, I hope they give you some nice ear candy!
I will likely be drawing on tunes that I find cropping up in almost each one of my individual practice sessions throughout the month, but I also welcome your requests! Feel free to make them challenging — it’ll help my technique and my self discipline! You’ll get credit in the videos unless you prefer to remain anonymous. Since this month is just the start, I went ahead and picked out the tunes for January: reels, jigs and polkas! In future posts, I will talk more about the tunes and the backstory behind why I picked them — although there is a bit of that at the beginning of each video. I hope you enjoy this new idea, and if you have a Youtube account and want to stay in the loop when I post new videos, please do give my channel a follow! Thank you for reading (and listening)!
The inevitable happened. Several months ago I had this blog drafted and almost ready to go, when — surprise — life happened and I got sidetracked! Last fall I went through a complete slump with content. I wasn’t blocking aside specific time to write, and the thought of growing my music business was more stressful than exciting. Fortunately, I’ve hit a turnaround point where I am now taking much better control of my schedule, and I’m prioritizing this dream of mine to create written and musical content for y’all without going into overdrive and burnout mode! I’ve got at least twenty five different posts in the initial brainstorming mode (basically I know what they’ll be about, but just haven’t sat down to write down each one yet), so you’ll be hearing a lot more from me this year! I couldn’t be more excited to share my thoughts on music traveling, the benefits of classical technique for learning the fiddle, more anthropology/ethnomusicology information, and much more! For now, though, I want to take this time to tell y’all a little bit more about myself, from a range of fun facts to more reasons behind why I’ve decided to take y’all along on my musical journey through blogging.
I originally intended this post to be a response to my nomination for the Liebster Award, which is a fun way for smaller blogs to network with other bloggers and ask each other unique questions about themselves. I was nominated by Candid Alexandra, who I was lucky enough to meet up with at The Cobblestone pub in Dublin last September. Like me, she got her masters degree in Ireland, and unlike me she stayed over there! Her blog is full of great European travel advice as well as in-depth reflections of how her move to Ireland has changed her life — both of which are things I love reading about and connecting with! She’s also starting to post more about things to do in Dublin, so her blog is definitely worth a visit if you’re thinking of putting Dublin on your Irish trip itinerary! Give her a read here and follow her on Instagram for a great American expat perspective that is the perfect mixture of sass and seriousness!
Unfortunately I didn’t get around to posting this before the end of 2018, which was the deadline for the award. However, Alexandra’s questions were just too good to pass up! So despite that this “Liebster Award” post isn’t actually for a Liebster award, I’m going to go ahead and answer her questions as a way for y’all to get to know the gal behind this Fiddle Forays blog!
I really loved thinking up answers to these questions, because most of them are things I’ve never addressed to my readers before, or even in casual conversation! Unless you know me really, really well, I’ll bet there will be some new tidbits in here that y’all never knew about… so I hope you enjoy! If you scroll all the way through, you can also see some of my favorite music bloggers, some of whom I’ve posted about before.
How did you come up with your blog name?
Hannah Harris Music was just way too generic! Given the number of Hannah Harrises out there in the world, it seemed logical to tack the Irish word for music, “Ceol,” at the end of my name. Especially because I’m primarily playing Irish traditional music! As for my hashtag and blog name, Fiddle Forays (#fiddle_forays), I’ve always loved catchy alliterative phrases, and this one seemed to combine my love of music and my goals to travel more with it all into one!
Top 3 travel items you can’t go on a trip without? Passport excluded, because duh.
I’m going to exclude the phone (and the fiddle) here because they’re pretty obvious answers for me too. For longer or overnight plane trips I love the Trtl neck pillow (not sponsored) combined with an eye mask — it probably looks totally ridiculous, but if it means five slightly better hours of sleep with no neck stiffness and self controlled lighting, then I’ll take it! I also take some sort of moisturizer or facial mist to keep my skin from getting too dried out on planes. Lastly, I live a ketogenic lifestyle, which means all of that processed airplane food is a no-no. I usually pack my own snacks, and stick to only eating those for shorter trips. For longer flights, I still do eat the airplane food because I need that energy, but having my own snacks gives me the option to leave off the dinner roll and dessert. Also there’s nothing that beats bringing a couple of your favorite tea bags — you can almost always ask a flight attendant to bring you a cup of hot water! Peppermint tea is my cure all.
What do you find most difficult about blogging?
Motivation! Right now, I am really tackling the concept of keeping myself on a consistent schedule without losing interest or stressing too much. I really love writing and playing music, but since I work a full time job, it’s a challenge to squeeze it all in some days. I write best in the mornings, so sometimes that means getting up earlier or prioritizing writing a paragraph over catching up on Instagram stories with my morning coffee!
If you had time to learn any skill, what would you choose?
Hmm which instrument to choose… I love some of the Scandinavian string instruments like the hardanger fiddle or nyckelharpa for their full and rich tones — so I’d say one of those!
Did you grow up traveling, or is it something you started to do yourself?
My parents and I would travel to visit family and friends several times a year — the furthest being New Zealand when I was five — but the travel bug really didn’t bite me until the summer of 2015. I spent five weeks in four different countries participating in Irish, Scottish, and Cape Breton music workshops. Not only did that fuel my love for the music and eventually lead to me studying abroad for my Masters Degree, but it also got me motivated to start writing about my music journey. I now travel whenever I can manage it, whether it is shorter weekend trips, or longer trips overseas.
What is your least favorite aspect of travel?
I’m not a fan of sleeping upright on airplanes. I used my dad’s frequent flyer points the first time going to Ireland to fly first class (before we found out I’d been accepted into all the other programs and would have a lot more flights to book, oops), and it definitely spoiled me because you can lie down up there! However, I’m finding ways to work around that, see my answer to question 2 for more details!
Have a travel nightmare? Tell us about it!
This ended up being a kickstart for me being more assertive and more confident when traveling, but when I flew to Glasgow in 2015 I missed my connecting flight and had to spend the night at a hotel near London City Airport. It was my first time being stranded alone in a foreign country far away from my parents, so naturally I was freaking out. I ended up meeting a really nice gentleman who was in a similar flight predicament (turns out we were both going to the Royal Conservatoire but for different things). He bought me coffee and kept checking in with me about the flight booking, luggage locating, and hotel process to make sure I was all right — talk about a guardian angel! I think that was when I really got out of my comfort zone and learned to enjoy taking life’s curveballs and running with them, so maybe this wasn’t such a nightmare after all! Thank you, Gary!
Where is somewhere you visited that you thought you weren’t going to like but ended up enjoying?
(Sorry, Alexandra): Dublin! I always thought I wasn’t a city person, but living in a small town for the last year and a half has definitely changed that! Each time I go to Dublin I enjoy it more for all of the opportunities it has, and the travel smarts it has taught me — yes, it really does take 3 hours of transit to get to your flight gate from your Airbnb!
What do you wish to accomplish with your blog?
I really love connecting with other bloggers, especially other musicians! To risk sounding cliche, it’s a small world and the trad world is even smaller, and the trad blogging world is tiny. But it’s a great way to connect with those few, and then to share with others why this music is so special and important to me. I want to be able to travel more with my music and connect with many more musicians who share that love for the Irish style (and yes I love many more “Celtic” or Celtic related styles aside from Irish, but that’s a whole other post. Or you know, a Master’s thesis.) My blog is a way for me to share both my love for fiddling and my love for writing — it would be great if I landed gigs from it, but ultimately it’s an artistic expression that allows me to incorporate my educational degrees into my adult life.
How do you/did you deal with homesickness?
I stayed in touch with my parents and close friends from home, calling or video chatting at least once a week. However, the best cure for homesickness is to find a community where you are that feels like home! When I was studying abroad in Cork, this ended up being the Wednesday and Saturday night Irish music session group — I met some of my best friends there, and made loads of great memories. They were such a warm and welcoming group that from the very first visit, things felt right. So with that to look forward to twice a week, I really didn’t get homesick in my last semester! Love ya, Thirsty Scholars!
Lastly, here are some of my favorite music blogs to follow — and if you know of any other music blogs I should check out (yes, you can shamelessly self plug here), let me know!
Diana Ladio — Diana is a gem. She’s taken a year to travel with no home base, and her blog is filled with her experiences and reflections on how this lifestyle has affected her. She’s also got top notch travel tips for musicians!
Anders Lillebo — I have yet to read one of Anders’ posts that I didn’t relate to in some way. He’s got incredible insight and is all about sharing his passion for Irish music. Also, he just made his second album, so go preorder it and enjoy!
Jessica Willis Fisher — An amazing musician and writer, with a deep story to tell. She speaks with such vulnerability from the heart, and inspires me to share my own story with that authenticity in mind!
I truly can’t recommend these musicians enough… and I’m also excited to see who else is out there sharing their story! I hope you learned some more about me in this post, and if you’re curious to learn more about anything I referenced in my answers, please comment below or send me an email, and I will put it in my list of topics to share with y’all! Thanks for reading, and as always stay tuned for more content!