Thursday, June 2, 2011

Art, learn from the masters or just learn?

I have always thought that learning to play songs someone else wrote, was stupid. Less than (or more than) stupid, insipid. Degenerative.

In my writings, I've entered contests for prose fiction and screenwriting and seen success. But at this point in my life, I feel I never want to enter another contest, ever.

Why is that? I am not sure I know, really.

But is that bad?

I have been thinking all this time, kind of in the back of my mind, that it was bad. But then I really started to think about it recently. I was watching the HBO show, "Treme" the other day, a show about New Orleans. I love that show, I love the character's passion for their town, for the music, for their History. One of the musician characters made a comment to high school kids, about how you listen until you can simply feel it. He was saying, to paraphrase, that these beloved Jazz musicians are simply spilling poetry from their instruments and you simply need to close your eyes and "listen" to understand what they are saying.

And that clicked with me. That was what I was saying. NOT to play other's music, but to learn your own, to play your own. You can never only play your own, if you've heard music before. But now I think maybe my stupid, my own insipid way, is slower (it's taken years that way) but there is a kind of logic to it.

As for Treme (brief aside here) I have to say the carryovers from the show The Wire, have continued to be brilliant and entertain: Wendell Pierce, Clarke Peters. Not sure if there are more. And not to mention all the real professionals included in this show, peppered here and there.

As for newcomers, Lucia Micarelli, what's to say? I'm in love? What a talent!

More seasoned actors Steve Zahn, I've never liked him more. I like his exuberance, even his blind foolishness at times. But his passion for music wins me over every time. As do all the characters, those on the side of art and music, except for the criminals, drug addicts and sleazes of which there are a few anyway.

OK, okay, now back to our regularly scheduled show....

My heroes of music have never inspired me to mimic their rifts, but to listen to them talk, to try to understand how they view their Art. Eric Clapton, Adrian Belew, Robert Fripp and others. You could argue, "Well, you're not a professional guitar player are you?" No, you're right. I liked keyboards too and I'm not a professional pianist or keyboardist either. To become a pro, you do need to move quickly, learning the masters is the way, I'm sure. But I think I'm trying to get at something else here.

The same goes for my writing, in a different way. I started reading young, because no one would read me the comics in the newspaper until they were done reading the entire stupid newspaper on Sundays. I read voraciously (mostly because I was grounded so much as a kid). I always found writing fairly easy. I was probably a writer from birth, predisposed to it and only needed to be taught the mechanics of my particular language.
Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA

I got a B.A. in Psychology from a PNW University, Western Washington University. A great campus, my favorite in Washington state. Someone asked my while in college, why a Psych degree? I said, because I want to be a writer. She said, "me too, but I'm getting a Fine Arts degree." I said, "Will that works too, but it's heavy on the mechanics of writing and I wanted to learn the mechanics of Human Beings.

She thought for a moment and said, "Wow, that really makes sense to me, maybe I should switch my major?" I freaked as I didn't want her parents coming after me with shotguns and said, "No, we need all kinds, so I would stay with your major, that may be what you need. I just have different concerns. And we can still both be good, well read, successful writers." She went off happy.

Later, as I was graduating, someone asked if I was going to go for a Masters Degree. I said no. I felt that at that point, I could either become a writer, and artist, or I never would.

Twenty-five years later, I'm still hacking away at it. I'm not saying you shouldn't follow the Masters, that is a good way to go. I'm saying that for me, for some reason, I couldn't so much do that, as find my own path. My son was much like that also, frustrating when you are trying to teach him math in grade school but he has to plot out things that were settled a hundred or thousand years ago. It was slow for him, but now he is so far beyond me in math and physics I will never catch up to him. So there is some value, but for people with brains and minds that work in a certain way. Maybe.

Two years ago, I got really serious about my writing again; mostly because my kids are grown and now out  of the house. And I find that I have gotten much better over the years, without working full time on it. I'm sure I would have been far better now had I been actively working at it, but it gives hope to those who thought they could never make it. If you only at some point, stop, shift gears and go for it. Hope, is good. But it's nothing like focus, determination and doing it your own way. Listen to those who know, don't waste time you don't have to, find short cuts when you need to. But get there. You can do it. I can do it.

And, since now I have the luxury to do what I will....

I am.

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