The back of an E-mu SP-1200 sampler. (Credit: Wikimedia)

“Do you ever find yourself inspired in the process of research itself?”

My answer to a very thoughtful Micro-Chop reader question.

O n August 7th, 2018, Micro-Chop reader @dlanham_music asked the following question about my writing and my process.

Original Twitter question from @dlanham_music.

I was really taken with the thoughtfulness of his question so I responded with a Twitter thread breaking down how I research and write Micro-Chop articles.

I have since compiled the thread into an article with a few minor alterations. I hope you find it interesting and useful.

There are generally 3 categories of Micro-Chop articles:

  1. I combine quotes from a variety of sources into a narrative about a specific album, artist, or song.
  2. I interview an artist about a specific album, song, or process, then write it up as a narrative.
  3. Combine 1 and 2

To answer, “How do you even source the topics you write about?”

I read articles and books constantly. I listen to music constantly. I listen to a lot of audio books and podcasts too. I always keep an eye out for something that seems like an interesting theme to turn into an article.

I also watch YouTube videos, scour obscure Blogspot posts and message boards, read magazine archives through Google Books, and keep a pretty active eye on social media. There’s so much information out there, I have an unlimited world of good writing prompts to explore.

And, perhaps most importantly, I’ve had amazing producers share their valuable time with me and let me do deep dive interviews. I think talking to people as part of my job running Micro-Chop has helped me learn how to connect with others quickly. Their lives and music are so interesting, so telling their stories is always equally fascinating.

Writing about the topics covered on Micro-Chop never really gets repetitive because everyone’s music and story is different. You see common themes and ideas sometimes, but no two people or works of art are exactly alike. So I’m never bored and I’m never at a loss for things to talk about.

Writing 500 plus articles that are mostly about music has taught me a few important things. People tend to think I know a lot about the topics I cover, but I’m always surprised by how much I DON’T know. It’s really humbling. I want to be an expert, but I realize I only have a tiny sliver of the total knowledge.

So I do find myself inspired by the process of doing research — constantly. I might not always want to wake up early to read through another load of articles and interviews or transcribe audio from a producer interview, but once I get started, I’m hooked.

I want to master the art of writing about music, so I know that every single day of my life — however long that might be — I need to apply myself to that task. I need to be honest about my strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, shortcomings, etc., and work to get better every day.

When you apply yourself to something day in and day out, you start to relish it, even the parts that aren’t the most enjoyable. I don’t always love writing (though I often do) and I don’t always love editing, but I always love the end result of sharing a story with people.

The hardest part of being a freelance writer thus far has been the inconsiderate treatment of editors/clients — which is pretty frequent. I’ve had several websites reach out and request work, receive my work, and stop responding to emails/not pay me/never publish my stuff.

This is almost always done without explanation. It is incredibly frustrating when this happens and so very inconsiderate on the other person’s part. I’m honestly at a point where I spend most of my time and energy on my own site because I’m so sick of having to take this kind of behavior lying down.

But, back to the original point. I’m never lacking for things to write about and constantly inspired by the amazing artists I cover. Running Micro-Chop taught me that most songs deserve an article and most albums deserve a book.

Hopefully I can continue sharing these stories with my amazing readers for many years to come and write many articles and books along the way.

If you enjoyed this piece, please consider following my Micro-Chop and Bookshelf Beats publications or donating to the Micro-Chop Patreon page. You can also read my work at HipHopDX or follow me on Twitter.