Friday, May 16, 2008

An Extended Metaphor For Your Thoughts

My oldest two kids are taking piano lessons. It's great to have it in the house again. They are even using my old books, so there is a sweet remembrance when they play songs that take me back to being seven again.

My daughter, though, also has two theory books she is working through. Her teacher is a classically trained voice teacher, and thinks theory is very important. My daughter probably knows more about chord inversions than I knew existed. This week she has spent several hours trying to complete the theory work. She spends her time on the couch with a pencil drawing and labeling and hardly has time to sit at the piano to play the pieces she should be practicing for the end of year recital in two weeks.

My point? Writing is like this. I can spend so much time learning the "theory" - the craft - of writing, reading books about it, reading books by people who have mastered it, reading blogs and websites, that I don't have time to practice. And in the end, it may make me a better critic, but it doesn't make me a better writer. Unless I practice. Unless I actually sit down and write.

I spoke to my daughter's piano teacher and told her she was spending so much time on theory she didn't have time at the keyboard, and we adjusted the homework. And my daughter is much happier. Who wouldn't be happier playing the music than learning how it's made?

And I - I have stopped reading so many blogs and books and I have stopped worrying that I am doing it wrong, or that picking first person present tense is going to be the kiss of death and researching to find out if I am right, and I am now just writing.

There is joy in writing. Even when it is hard, even when I stare at the screen wondering where the story is going from here, there is almost nothing else I'd rather be doing. Okay, maybe skiing. Or laying on a beach. But for a living, or a hope of a living, there is nothing else. The keys of the computer are like the keys of the piano: music, life, breath. Joy.

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