Play, Write, and Learn

“I’m going to go home and sell my guitar.”

This is the standard and appropriate form of reverence when a journeyman guitar player hears someone truly gifted. It is now common to believe that repetition (Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, for example) will bring greatness.  Maybe. But hard to believe when you hear a truly talented person play. 

I have played guitar for many years, probably put in nearly 10,000 hours. I am still a journeyman player – decent, good on my best days. But I’m not selling my guitar … it gives me joy to play.

And I’m not quitting writing, either.

I’ve just finished two books that are so well written that I cringe when I compare them to my writing. Golden State (Ben Winters) is a mystery novel set in a future California that looks a lot like current LA. The descriptive writing and development of the main character is so good that the holes in the plot don’t matter a bit. The Tsar of Love and Techno (Anthony Marra) is entirely different: a book-length series of short stories loosely but masterfully connected. The descriptions, aphorisms and observations are brilliant. The book is not something one reads all at once any more than one eats a whole box of chocolates in one sitting. The words are so carefully chosen that they must be appreciated at slow speed. 

Play, Yes, that’s it … admire and learn. And keep the guitar.

Writing with Feeling

I read a submission guideline the other day that sliced novelists into ‘beginner’ and ‘experienced’ using the following cleaver:  “you may consider your work for the experienced category if it has been critiqued by people other than friends and family.”

I get it.  Your wife’s going to tell you it’s great.  Family harmony vs. weak characterization … harmony wins, right?

Well, that’s all well and good as a general case.  However, my wife Beverly is not a general case.  She is an educator of many facets … kids, science outreach, young (we’re talking preschool through elementary), old (adult to ancient).  And, in all those facets, writing has been her central organizing idea. Here’s a reminder from her current writing course that rang a bell with me (hehehe):