Both Hands on the Spiel
I practice playing my instrument because it yields rewards, or at least immediate feedback as to the value of my concentration. The work put in allows me to play. I’m not a professional musician, but I have some skills, some training, some discipline. I study music and musicians as an inspired hobby, a way to engage in emotional communication and spiritual, cultural exploration.
As a writer I am often envious of music as an elevated art form. Word choices seem to more often get in the way of good writing than poor note selection interferes with enjoying a song. Having something to say is only part of saying something. Engaging an audience in print would be considerably easier if each sentence embedded a drum track, a hook, and a bridge to the topic.
Advice on how to write better is an expanding market, perhaps because we writers feel so vulnerable without back up singers. I write for a version of myself that is you. My audience of one is recognizable in passing. Unlike my saxophone, the click of the keys on my laptop give me no sense of place, of satisfaction, unless I sense someone is turning the page with me to see where we’re headed.
The minute it takes to read a thoughtful passage may yield hours of introspection. A good article, story, or poem ought to at least spark a conversation, if not initiate a call to action, or a tempered response. When I consciously switched from writing to entertain my friends and family to creating an online forum for the purpose of ‘establishing’ myself as a writer I began writing what I imagined was expected of me rather than what I knew to be true to my perspective.
Some of that focus change emerged as better writing. I also noticed an increase in productivity because I had a few deadlines and I gave writing essays as much emphasis as writing poems. Writing became serious business and when I sold enough copies of my book to buy a cup of coffee and a tank of gas I knew I had arrived at the door of my destiny, until one morning when the work of writing suddenly paled against the pleasure of playing a blues with both hands on the piano.
A good friend, and dear reader, counselled me about being too result driven in my postings. Measuring the product, at the expense of enjoying the process, is a recipe for dichotomy. The sameness creeping into my lines wasn’t me discovering a voice as much as a desperation for recognition and revenue.
I wish I had a better cliché than it suddenly dawned on me that what I liked best about writing was listening for the impossible to hear dialogue it sets up between, and among, the writer and reader. But as the not quite early sun peered over the tops of the Monday morning garbage collection trucks back beeping down our road I had a vision of your coffee cup, half finished, because you started to enjoy a grouping of words that seemed especially fashioned for your edification and enhancement and you had to put even the simple, automatic action of sipping necessary caffeine on hold to absorb the meaning of the words and the demeanor of the author.
We are only connected as long as I engage honestly, as soon as I roll the dice to entice I reduce this magnificent opportunity to hucksterism. I do sometimes chuckle when people tell me they wish they could write like I do when the truth of the matter is, I wish I could read like all y’all. Thanks for listening. Pass it on, hit reply, buy a book, you know the drill. Peace.