May 27, 2010

With a Little Help From My Friends

It’s hard to describe the excitement of having a creative idea and writing it down on paper. It’s somewhat on par with solving a puzzle. This puzzle, though, is invisible and your stomach tells you whether the pieces fit or not. The pieces fly at you fast and you have to put them together before they start to evaporate, which they do, even as you are using them. A lot of times it gets a bit messy, which leads to editing, but that’s a whole other type of board game. Every once and a while, though, the pieces click just right and it’s beautiful—when beautiful is an emotion, that’s good writing.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt like that. Recently, writing has been a chore. It’s something I’m supposed to do on a regular basis so I get better at it. You know, like keeping plants or sit-ups. When I consider what to do for the day, writing is not my first inclination. It falls somewhere after do the laundry but before water the plants. (At least, it will always beat sit-ups.)

I hate it when I feel this way. Most of the time I love writing and it is my excuse for not doing chores. I don’t know why sometimes ideas come to me and sometimes I’m blocked. I don’t know when I entered this latest malaise. All I know is sitting down to write this blog entry seemed hard enough without considering that great American novel I’ve been meaning to get to.

So, what’s the cure? It’s the same cure as for everything else: practice. So, I make myself sit down and write the non-puzzle like writing until that great sweep of inspiration hits me again. Hence, writing starts to feel like chore. It’s a bit of a Catch-22 (but without all the fascinating stream of consciousness).

The last time I felt this type of block, wanting to write but nowhere to go, I discussed it with my friend Aedee. She pointed out that we were always writing in college. It’s easy enough to see why: constant exposure to other art forms and philosophies, big gaps of time, and that college student’s self-importance that creates the need to share your specialness with the world (because that’s what the world’s been missing all this time!). There was something else, too. Aedee pointed out to me that we were constantly sharing our work with one another. We had our own small community of writers and it fostered creativity. It gave the boost of encouragement and feedback that is so often missing when you sit down to write alone and you’re not sure it’s worth it. The group atmosphere really did impact the joy of writing. Upon further discussion of the matter with our friend JS, we decided to form a writer’s group. It was informal, to say the least, but it was just enough of a nudge that my writing and, most importantly, my enthusiasm for writing improved. We called it Last Saturday based on the monthly meeting day.

Finding myself in the same writing predicament, but this time with Aedee and JS in Vermont, I enlisted Rae to help me re-form the group. We’ve only had one meeting so far and it was just the two of us, but it was a great meeting. It got me to write, it made me think about writing, and it sparked something. During Last Saturday, I couldn’t help but notice a small inkling of excitement, a slight sense of possibility, like when you click the first two pieces of a puzzle together.

May 19, 2010

Could Play a Guitar

My friend Rae asked me the other day if I was still playing guitar. Apparently I’ve stopped bringing the conversation up every five minutes. Though my adventures as a Guitar Goddess have not been exciting enough to post, they have not ceased. In fact, I consider “Teach Myself Guitar” to be one of my more successful endeavors.

Though I cannot, as of yet, play anything that the world at large would call a “song,” I can hear a difference in the way that I play. I have a respectable six chords to my name (okay, maybe five; I can’t really play C but I know how I’m supposed to be able to play it if I had Gumby-fingers). I’ve moved strumming with chords from the “Impossibly Hard” category to the “I’m Not Too Bad at This” category, and I’m happily chewing through the guitar lessons on

The lessons are structured so that you practice the basics before you get to the real music (crazy, I know). The first couple of lessons feature scales and strumming exercises so that you can learn to move your hands around a guitar. This skill becomes important when you have to change chords mid-word during a song. Right now, my chord exchange time sounds something like this, “Take it ease.......................................................y.” Though the Eagles seem like a laid back sort of band, I’m sure they never intended that audience members would be able to make a cheese sandwich in the time it takes to play half of one of their lyrics. Thus, I practice the scales and strumming patterns daily.

Luckily I enjoy the technique practices. While, yes, they are rote, I do hear a difference in my attempts at playing songs. I’m confident that playing that one scale yet again will someday result in intricately-fingered guitar solos. I’m sure that if I just keep strumming a C chord, eventually it will sound like a C chord (even if my contorted fingers are callused and bleeding).

I like to think of it as the Karate Kid method. I just need to wax on/wax off enough and someday I’ll have crazy ninja guitar skills. Until then I shall play beautiful scale patterns and “take it ease...............................................y.”