Go to more shows. A lot more. There were a few months in 2005 during which the frequency with which I attended concerts was much higher than it had been before or has been since. That was because I was dating someone who took me to a whole lot of shows. I didn't love every band we saw. I fell extremely hard for the Mountain Goats; most of the rest were good for an evening's entertainment, at least; a very few seemed like a waste of time. But every show was mind-expanding and good for my musical development. A lot of my best stuff was either written during that period or is based on ideas I had then, and I'm pretty sure a big part of the reason those ideas came to me was because I was going to so many shows. Musically, I'm still reaping the benefits of that four-month period.
Welll, 2005 is getting to be a long time ago. My frequency of concertgoing keeps dropping, as does my frequency of new music buying (because I prefer to buy music at shows, directly from musicians). Guys, I haven't had a really new musical idea in a while, and it scares me. I need to stimulate my thinking again, and one of the best things I can do to that end is to brave the cold and the hipsters and just start going to shows around town at least a couple of times a month. There are all kinds of side benefits to doing this: it's something that Alex and I can do together for fun; we can expand each others' horizons by taking each other to the things we each most want to see; Bloomington feels small to Alex, but it's an insanely great music town for its size, and I think it won't feel so small to him if we take advantage of that; both of us will probably be more motivated to finish our work while we're at work if we have planned, unreschedulable evening commitments like concerts. But mostly, it would just be good for me to hear some music I've never heard before.
Take personal responsibility for scheduling and playing shows instead of relying on anyone else. When Alex oniugnip and I moved in together in July, we had big plans to play out a lot. I'd play the keyboard and sing, he'd play drums, we'd practice in our basement, we'd use his car to get to shows (a nontrivial part of the equation -- I'd say that about two-thirds of being a musician consists of moving heavy, unwieldy, expensive stuff around), and it was going to be awesome. Well, so far, we've played one show, and that was great, but on the whole, this endeavor has caused us more grief than enjoyment, and it's my fault. Many months ago, I asked Alex to be in charge of finding us shows, because I didn't want to deal with making phone calls, sending emails, talking to coffee shop employees who make me feel inadequate, answering questions about what kind of stuff I play, making business cards, burning CDs, and on and on. I hate doing all that stuff. I just want to get up and sing. Alex agreed to help, because he wants me to be happy and have chances to play shows. Unlike me, though, he was kind of reluctant to actually perform, and desire to perform is the only reason (other than money, I guess) that anyone's ever motivated to take care of all the administrivia that causes a show to happen, so of course he never actually set up anything. I then proceeded to use his inaction as an excuse for why I wasn't playing shows -- as though I wasn't just as capable of setting them up on my own.
So, this year, I'm calling myself on my own laziness and prima-donna behavior and taking responsibility for setting up my own shows. I managed to do it in undergrad -- and back then, I was a worse musician with fewer songs living in a smaller town with worse gear, no decent practice space, and no car! The advantages of my current situation would have been a dream come true for me at age 20. So I need to stop wimping out and making excuses. It will probably get easier as I do more of it. And, honestly, even if it doesn't get easier, I'll just have to suck it up and do it anyway, because I don't have a choice. No one is going to do it for me.
Take at least a semester off from choir. This one's the hardest. There are a lot of reasons to stay in choir. It undoubtedly makes me a better musician: it's several hours a week that are dedicated to serious singing, and it introduces me to interesting repertoire. It gives me an easy, guaranteed outlet for performing a couple times a semester. It gives me a chance to hang out with a bunch of fine musicians and absorb knowledge from them. It's good for my ego: I can be proud that I'm apparently a good enough singer to go to voice-major auditions at a world-class music school and more or less pass for one of them, at least to the point where I get put in choirs that consist mostly of voice majors. And it's even good for my GPA. Why wouldn't I do something so great?
The problem is that it's too easy of a way out. I've been using the fact that I'm in choir as a catch-all excuse for being otherwise musically inactive for the last year and a half. I've hardly written anything new, and I've only played one show. I love and need to perform, and playing a show of my own is about thirty or forty times more satisfying than singing in a choir performance. But the tiny hit I get from a choir performance is just satisfying enough to opiate me until the next one, and just enough to demotivate me to go to the trouble of finding shows on my own. So, it's a crutch that I need to stop leaning on. There's a side benefit here, too: by dropping choir, my schedule suddenly becomes much less constrained, allowing me to take more interesting courses and get requirements out of the way faster.