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bear by san

March 2017



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writing matthew

trailers for sale or let

So I just spent fifteen minutes picking gamely away at "Greensleeves" and got through it correctly exactly once. Even though I am playing the absolute idiot's version, just the basic melody, no ornaments, no arpeggios, no frills.

And you know what? I'm not upset about that.

Because it takes practice. You have to train your hands on what to do, and you have to train your brain on how it gets done, and you have to learn to do it. And that's okay. And you start off with easier stuff, with beginner's versions, and eventually you move up to harder stuff. You learn how to do more complicated things.

And more things at once.

And easy things better and more perfectly. And then you learn how to do the complicated things in such a way that they look easy.

The thing is, you don't just automatically start doing the hard things when you have been practicing the easy things for a while. Oh, no. You see, you have to try the hard things and fail. And you will never actually know that you are ready to try the harder things unless you keep trying them and failing, over and over again, until eventually you realize you aren't failing as badly... and then eventually maybe you are even getting it right.

And if you try to learn everything at once, you'll never see any progress in anything, and that will rapidly become frustrating. The thing is, practice actually does make you better at things. Seriously! Even when you are old like me! The more you do it, the better you get!

The trick is, you have to do it with attention. Doing it in a half-assed fashion does not help.

The funny thing is, this goes for writing too. Even though, for some reason, writing fiction is the art where people think they should just be able to wander in an do it perfectly the first time out. And of course that's not how it works.

See, artistry is not a gift. It's an acquired skill. There are certain gifts that can make it easier--auditory eidetic memory for a musican, synesthesia for a visual artist, a gift for proportion in a sculptor, an acute ear for dialect in an author (just to pick a few at random)--but the actual art of making a painting breathe or a story come alive, that's learned. And it's learned through hard work, apprenticeship, and just plain doing it a lot. And finishing projects. And pushing one's self past the boundaries of where one is working comfortably.

And working with attention and focus and intent.

And failing.

Lots and lots and lots of failing.

And maybe next time I'll get through "Greensleeves" twice without fluffing a note.

You never know.

Tomorrow, I think I will start writing again.


This is so why I play the piano, although I have to add that when I used to practice, it was the only time I'd swear aloud (using the worst words I could think of)...practicing is *tough*!
I recently got a DVD of a couple of episodes of Pete Seeger's folk music TV show via Netflix. Seeger says repeatedly that playing the guitar is as easy as walking, and each time he follows the comment by adding that that only takes each of us a few years.
I'm going through this right now with Dance Dance Revolution. I am now to the point I suck only enough to embarrass myself at cons, but no longer enough to injure myself. Mostly.
I always say, 'practice helps more than luck does, though it doesn't hurt to be lucky. '
I am?


Well, thank you.
So I just spent fifteen minutes picking gamely away at "Greensleeves" and got through it correctly exactly once. Even though I am playing the absolute idiot's version, just the basic melody, no ornaments, no arpeggios, no frills.
And you know what? I'm not upset about that.

well, that's neat. I think each person brings different strengths to learning various instruments. I'm beginner-ish at guitar, and when you mention working on "House of the Rising Sun" and so forth, I am most impressed. but I do relatively well at sight reading melody lines, because of my background with the clarinet, and in fact "Greensleeves" is the one I'll flip to and play to cheer myself up when groaning over something else.

I wish my background in piano meant I was better at chords, but alas piano music -> playing is a different animal from guitar music -> playing. plus, my guitar lessons were in classical guitar, so I approach things screwily sometimes.
Because I am attempting to play it does not mean I am playing it well.

And House of the Rising sun is supa easy. Unless you make it hard. *g*
Even when you are old like me!

In the words of the immortal Archie Bunker, "shut uuuuuuuup".
Hurray on "Greensleeves!" And you're absolutely right about the rest.

Heh. I have that kind of a relationship with mandolins and guitars, and of course since I know I should spend time practicing, I don't, picking the damn things up about once a week and twiddling along with half a dozen songs on my stereo, thinking, "yeah, that was easy, I don't need to spend much time on this...;P" and putting them down and doing other things for a week.

Prob'ly why I am not a world-famous musician. Still, I hold my own amongst amateurs...;)
Something someone else said on this topic made me think of the Passover Seder. Right now, when I play around with writing fiction, I'm at the level of the third son, the "one who doesn't not even know how to ask the question". I read yours and other people's rules about writing fiction, but at this point I have only one inflexible rule: "If you let it out in public, warn people and put it behind a link or a cut."
There are no rules, grasshopper. There are only techniques that work, and techniques that don't work.

Anybody who tells you different is selling something.
I would say the one about "Give the reader fair value for his/her time" is pretty close to hard and fast - not entirely rigid because you can't please everyone etc, but close. My personal rule is a current and local adaptation of that one :-)
Wise, encouraging words.
"There are certain gifts that can make it easier...synesthesia for a visual artist...."

Don't count on it, from what I've seen visual artists saying on the Synesthesia mailing list. For one thing, some of them see colors which don't exist in the real world.

As for an ear for dialect -- writers who have that may need to learn what not to put down in dialog.