It's got a surprising amount in common with gitar pickin', too. Specifically, arcaedia was here for a couple of hours this afternoon (I took her out for sushi to celebrate, though I probably shouldn't say that, or all the agents will be expecting their clients to feed them) and she asked me to mutilate a couple of songs for her. So I did, more to show off the guitar than any presumed talents of my own, and she (she plays piano) mentioned that piano was easier, because you can see your hands. And I explained, no, actually, the trick with guitar is *not* to look at your hands, but let the muscle memory tell you where to put your fingers. And then I demonstrated, by playing somewhat better with my eyes closed.
And it occurs to me that this applies to writing too. So much of it is drill--teaching yourself through repetition and self-correction (which is what editing is, really) what to do and what not to do. (And it's just as easy to reinforce bad habits as good--which is one of the reasons I think reading slush is bery useful for aspiring writers, because that whole denial thing we do ["Oh, it works when *I* do it"] doesn't hold up to repeated exposure to other writers making the same amateur mistakes.) And the thing is, in some ways, it really is easier when you can internalize those skills enough that you don't have to watch yourself doing them. In other words, when you don't have to constantly look at yours hands.
(One of the tricks to juggling, by the way, is also not to watch your hands. You watch the apex of the balls' arc.)
Anyway, I was just muddling through "City of New Orleans" for the third time tonight (my neighbors must love me) and I emailed truepenny to comment that my love for that song knows no bounds, despite the fact that there are several chord changes I just bloody skip right now, because Bm? Not so much happening any time in 2006. And I said something to the effect of that I was cheating like a cheatery cheating cheater, and she replied:
"Hey, you cheat until you're good enough not to have to."
And I realized, yanno, that goes for writing too.
There's a way you keep improving at anything, which is to keep aiming just a little beyond your ability. To keep trying to do things that are too hard, in other words. Pushing your limits.
On the other hand, if you stay on the edge all the time, it gets a bit frustrating. And you never actually accomplish anything. It's important sometimes to just play, even if you kind of suck.
Or more than kind of, really. And to find ways to circumvent your shortcomings. Even if it's just plain not playing the damned barre chords just yet.
So that's what I learned today.