Uke Camp - January Session
Some occurrences and events in your life can only be explained by fate. You know, those coincidences that seem to line up perfectly, making you feel like a divine force laid this plan out in front of you. To my surprise, deciding to participate in this Uke Camp was one of those moments for me.
Uke Camp is a creation from the talented singer and musician, Caroline Scruggs. It's a 3-day, virtual, adult camp for ukulele players at any level. The goal of this camp is to find your voice and express your creativity through songwriting. Caroline believes the ukulele is one of the easiest instruments to learn how to play, so anyone can learn how to express themselves through music. Speaking of coincidences, I heard about Uke Camp from the photographer who shot the Writer's Round open-mic night I performed at. Mary-Alex took pictures of all the performances that night, including my courageous comeback. When I reached out to her to buy some of my live performance shots, she told me how it was rare to find fellow ukulele players, and that she was going to attend a Uke Camp. I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but I told her I'd check it out.
One of my goals for this year is to get back into songwriting and making music. Performing at an open-mic night was the first step, but the second step is writing new songs, and I was struggling. I got into songwriting when I was younger as a way to express and cope with complex emotions. (You guessed it, a lot of my songs are love/break-up songs!) Well, as you all know, losing my mom and being forced into a grief journey has stirred up a lot of complex emotions. So, I knew I wanted to write songs about this life-changing event, but I just couldn't bring myself to start. At first, I was depressed and in denial, so no part of me felt creative or inspired to do anything, especially write a song about how I was feeling.
Then, when I got a bit used to the ebbs and flows of grief, I still couldn't bring myself to do it. "I can't capture how much my mom meant to me in a song! It would take several songs, and I don't know where to start!" "I'm in a good mood today, I don't want to make myself sad, right now." These are some of the things I told myself when I tried to start writing a song. I had a major case of writer's block and wasn't ready to relive such intense emotions for the sake of creating a song. Now that I think about it, I believe I started this blog as a solution to my inability to write a song. Writing blog posts about my mom felt more impactful, and I had the inspiration for it. (It's funny how creativity will spill out of you even if it's in a different medium than you expected!)
All that is to say, when I heard about Uke Camp and that you had to write a song from a daily prompt in an hour or two, I knew this was exactly what I needed to get out of my songwriting rut. Don't overthink it, just create. So, I signed up and mentally prepared to fully participate. "Three songs in three days. You can do this! And maybe you'll be inspired to write mom's song after. Who knows, if there's a prompt about someone you miss, then you HAVE to write it!" I swear, half of my existence is just talking myself into doing things, but as usual, I'm so glad I did!
Uke Camp was exactly what I needed, and honestly, it was the sweetest, most wholesome little thing! People from all over the world and timezones tuned into this hour-long zoom call to connect with each other over a shared interest. We discuss the challenges we faced with songwriting and self-expression. We learned new ukulele progressions and insights on how to overcome creative hiccups. We also supported each other on the "campsite" Facebook group page where we shared our songs in their beautifully imperfect, I-just-wrote-this-30-minutes-ago states. It was amazing to see how the same prompt and chord progression inspired so many variations of songs. Not one song sounded like the other. Each song was uniquely crafted from that person's perspective, artistic choices and personal style. Listening to the different songs was by far my favorite part!
Uke Camp also reminded me how fun songwriting can be! The first prompt was to find something in your house with instructions and to write a song about it. I wrote a song about how to use a face mask to relax! So many cute and silly songs came from this prompt, and it reminded me that being creative is supposed to be fun! Allowing myself to be silly and removing the pressure of perfectionism, was the antidote to my songwriting rut. I had to find the joy in it again, and once I did, I found myself inspired and living out the camp's slogan, "Find your voice, Ignite your creativity." '
I stayed dedicated to Uke Camp and accomplished my goal of writing three songs in three days, but let's not forget how this experience started. The divine force that brought Uke Camp to me was still orchestrating its plan throughout that weekend. There was no doubt in my mind this was a "fate thing" when Caroline revealed what our last song prompt of Uke Camp would be. The prompt was to think of three things/people/times you miss and write a song about them.
"Okay God, I see you... It's time to write mom's song." I literally had to turn my Zoom camera off because I was SHOOK! Ain't no way God made a whole Uke Camp just to give me the tools I needed, as well as the permission, to finally write this song, but that's exactly how it felt! It was as if he knew I needed a push to finally release the pent up grief tied to writing a song about my mom. I didn't even seek out this camp, it literally found me and gave me exactly what I needed. Again, believe in what you want, but I stay believing in God, 'cause ain't no way this was random!
The other two songs I wrote during Uke Camp came fairly easy to me, however, I knew day three's song wasn't going to be the same. Instead of writing the song in an hour, it took all day, but I finally got that song out of me. It felt like a much needed exhale. I cried while writing it. I cried while recording it for the Facebook campsite page. I cried while reading all the campers' loving and supporting comments. I cried for the three things I missed, which all related to my mom. Shoo, I'm crying now just reliving this moment as I write about it! This Uke Camp will forever hold a special place in my heart. It not only rekindled my passion for songwriting and helped me release some hidden grief, but it also made me feel like a higher power was looking out for me, sending me things I didn't know I needed to show me that I'm not in this grief journey alone.
Here are two songs I wrote during Uke Camp. The second prompt was to write a song from the perspective of an animal. I wrote mine about baby sea turtles! You'll have to wait to hear my song for my mom, I'm definitely going to get that one produced and up on Spotify soon! ;)
Thank you Caroline for hosting Uke Camp and making that prompt! Thank you Mary-Alex for introducing me to Uke Camp! And for those who may be interested in attending the next one, Uke Camp will be back March 29th-31rd! How much is it? IT'S FREE! Y'all know I'm ballin' on a budget.
Self-Love Date Tip: Check online if there's any virtual camps, or community groups for hobbies you have. They could be free or donation based! It's a great way to find people who are passionate about the same things you are, and it's so much fun!
Follow Caroline for more info on the next Uke Camp!