Monday, November 30, 2009


There’s a difference between where I am now, on the one hand, and productive silence (where you’re not writing but your silence is moving you towards new work) on the other. Where I am right now feels necessary and unavoidable, but not necessarily like it’s moving me towards any kind of writing.

On the other hand, who knows?

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Shedding skin is an itchy procedure. Snakes get real cranky when they’re halfway there.

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So after all the drama about “OMG is this the end,” it looks like Springsteen doesn’t feel like the E Street Band is anywhere near finished. Nice interview with him in Billboard this week, conducted just prior to the show I saw in Nashville. What amazes me is that the guy’s had basically the same job since he was a teenager and he still clearly loves his work. If you could bottle that kind of undying passion & enthusiasm and sell it…

Getting paid squillions of dollars for doing what you love probably doesn’t hurt the enthusiasm, of course.

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Music just makes words seem inadequate. With just a few notes, a chord or two, you can convey a feeling as complicated as “triumphant but wistful, without regret” so clearly that everyone listening feels it too. You can convey feelings and images so complicated that there aren’t actual words for them. Add the dimension of performance, and musicians have a whole language that, as a writer, I barely have access to.

The same could be said for visual art as well, of course – there are things you can say with a certain intensity of blue, a certain slant of light – but I don’t have the vocabulary or the framework for that. Music, at least, I can hear with comprehension – even if I can’t produce it myself worth a darn.

I foresee guitar lessons in my future. I took lessons for a few years in high school, but it’s been a long time since I was anywhere near serious about playing – long enough that I think what I want to do is start from the beginning. I know it’s not the same as having an actual teacher, but I think I’m going to invest in lessons via Nils Lofgren’s online guitar school. He’s one of the most amazing guitarists I know, and with any luck the lessons will give me just enough to keep me interested and focused and give me a reason to sit down & practice every so often. I don’t think I stand a chance of ever getting good enough to get paid for playing, but I would like to regain enough chops to do a little songwriting. I used to write songs now & then and always enjoyed it, but was hampered by the inability to create music that could provide a strong enough framework to support complex lyrics, so my song lyrics were always kind of dumb and simple compared to the poems I was writing during the same time period. I’d like to revisit that effort. But to do so will require the acquisition of musical craft.

So that’s going to be my Solstice gift to myself, I think. And yes, I’m going to start at the beginning with the beginner lessons, make myself go from the ground up. Because the hard part of having been serious about playing & then letting it go for years is that my expectations are all out of whack – I pick up the guitar and my hands jus t don’t do what they’re supposed to, & I find myself trying to play things that I just don’t have the technique to do anymore. And because I’ve never stopped listening to music my ear is still good, so I can hear how much I frankly suck. If I start at the beginning and get somewhat disciplined about it, I think I can get my chops back. Might take a couple years.

And maybe, once I start playing again, the creative, articulate part of my brain will wake up and I’ll find my way back to poetry again. I sure hope so.

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Still have an essay or two brewing, I think. Watch this space.


Jessie Carty said...

i can hear your brain percolating :)

have fun with the lessons. i've been wanting to take some kind of musical lessons for years but i've just never done it.

Relief Map said...

Music just makes words seem inadequate.

Anne, so long as it's good music, I couldn't agree more.

I'm sure If I weren't a writer, a musician I would be.