Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What you might have been

Developing a Creative Process, part 2
This is part of a series of posts on the nature of art, why I'm not as good at it as I'd like to be, and how I'm trying to be better. For the rest, see the tag Developing a Creative Process.
I am fortunate enough to have a couple of friends who think about art very differently than I do, and I've been pestering them about their creative processes and perspectives in hopes that it will help me develop my own instead of staying slave to the storm.

My second reaction to Bella Ruse (@bellaruse) saying they wanted to try some new sounds was a comparison of Joseph and Kay's ridiculous amount of skill to my lack thereof. They're both really well-trained multi-instrumentalists who have been writing, recording and touring together for a couple of years now. So Joseph being deliberate about a sound or a mood is easy for him in a way it's not for me; he's got the chops and the theory to make that shit happen tout de suite.

Sure, I could learn. I could study theory and practice my 10,000 hours until I'm a master. Am I going to? Probably not. My livelihood doesn't rely on it. But when Bella Ruse says, "We like our music now, but we want to try a different vibe," that means that Kay sits down and learns how to play guitar. Like, scales and shit. That means Joseph gets his Finn-from-Glee on and dorks it up on the drums. I admire this a lot.

Another person I really admire is Joey Lee (@joeyverse). If he says he's going to do something, he will -- and that is exactly the person I'd like to but probably never will be. Joey writes young-adult fiction (in addition to an embarrassingly long list of other skills), and at this point he's gone through the creative process so many times that he can describe it pretty effortlessly. Actually, he started doing just that on his own blog (which I totally take credit for).

Joey just finished the first draft of the sequel to his novel GEARS. Going into the writing phase of TREAD, he had a bafflingly specific outline to work from. He knows how many words each scene should be, how many words to write in a day to reach his deadlines, what writing level is appropriate for his audience, and a million other facts that are essential to the success of the work.

Not this giant.
So how does he know this stuff? I think two things: 1. he hangs out in the right places with the right people to glean this information from other people (SHOULDERS OF GIANTS, and all that) and 2. he's already done it a bunch. I guess this is where Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours come in.

It's hard for us amateurs and hobbyists to catch up with those who fully commit themselves because they've not only been doing it longer, but they've been hitting it harder and reinvesting every time. Knowledge and experience work like compounding interest. Start with a little of one, get a little bit of a return on the other, reinvest, repeat. Sure, I want to punch Kay for being able to sight-read Debussy, but I wasn't there when she worked her ass off to gain the skills to be able to do that.

(Because I wish my parents did it to me, I will more than likely force my children to study piano and/or violin from an early age because I think eventually they will be glad for it. Then when Brachiosaurus and Triceratops are grown, they will probably think, "I would never put my kids through what my parents put me through," and I'll end up with amateurs for grandchildren.)

So where does this put me artistically? Right between working hard and hardly working. I am writing, writing, writing lately, and doing it with a high level of introspection so that I'm hopefully gaining as much experience as I can. Writing is a strength so I'm focusing on it. Since practicing guitar isn't, I am trying my darnedest to make those giants hold still so I can piggyback. But also, this:
It is never too late to become what you might have been.
- "George Eliot"
Really, that perspective is a lot more... optimistic? goal-oriented? intentional? than I am. I don't want to "be" anything. So why am I doing it? Why am I thinking about it and writing about it?

Why am I a taster? Why a jack of all trades and master of none? Or maybe it's not just me. This popped up just as I was about to hit "Post" --


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I love it that Brac and Cera were mentioned here.