Monday, November 17

Finding the connection

My husband—that’s him, the cute one on the right—is a music guy. He writes some and sings a lot.
He plays the guitar on a daily basis and has for all the years I’ve known him. Just as I salivate over new laptops and sewing machines, he can stand and look at a new guitar long enough to memorize the grain in the wood before picking it up and playing it. When he finds one with a good tone and a neck that feels good under his fingers, I may as well go shopping elsewhere and come back later to pick him up; chances are good he’s forgotten I’m alive.

But sometimes nothing sounds good to him. There are no songs he wants to sing, no chords trying to find their way out of his fingers—the music just isn’t there. On days like this, he picks up the guitar and puts it down. He plays but doesn’t really enjoy it. His mood is often...moody.

And so he waits.

Then one day it will be back. He’ll be asking me to print out lyrics or buy sheet music from an online retailer. When he learns the song, it will sound wonderful to me on the third time through, but he will not be satisfied even on the 103rd. He’ll be enthralled by the learning, though, by whatever it is that makes the connection between a musician’s fingers, ears, and heart.

It’s the same way with writing, isn’t it? Sometimes the words are just gathered up in a big pile in the corner and won’t come out. When you go looking for goal, motivation, or conflict (oh, yes, conflict—does anyone have some I can use?) they’re among the missing—probably buried in the corner under the pile of words. Even when you write your pages because...well, because you have to if you’re contracted, hoping to be contracted, or a disciplined indie writer—even then the music isn’t there (see above metaphor).

However, when Duane isn’t “feeling it,” I still hear the music in what he plays. His voice is mellow, the chords he plays complicated and exciting to an ear that can do nothing more musical than listen.

Oh. Yes. There it is.

I forget it all the time, and I don’t think I’m the only one. When a book is done, when it’s been read and re-read, edited and re-edited, the reader doesn’t know which days you were dragging the words out of the pile in the corner. She doesn’t know your process of elimination for choosing conflict was eeny, meeny, miny, mo. She doesn’t know about that three days six months ago when all you got written were the profound words “Chapter 7.” Chances are good that the scene in Chapter 13 that never felt right to you sounds just fine to her reading ear.

Only I will know how great the days are when the connection between my writer’s fingers, ears, and heart is strong and clear. Only I will know how seldom those days really come around. The truth is, when I read over a completed project, I often don’t remember which days were good ones and which ones were awful.

I love my husband for all kinds of reasons, I like him for even more. And I admire him and his talent, most of all when he has those days that he doesn’t feel it, that nothing sounds right or thrills his musical soul. I say most of all because even then he picks up the guitar and plays and sings. He is still a music guy.

It reminds me that on this day when I’m not feeling it and that conflict is hiding so way deep in the pile in the corner I think I’ll never find it, I’m still a writer and I’m still going to keep digging. Maybe today will be awful or maybe I’ll find the connection. The important thing is that I keep looking. Because I’m still a writer.


                              

28 comments:

  1. Right on, girl! I love the metaphor of music as applied to writing...works for me, too.

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    1. Thanks, Judith. It helped get me started this morning!

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  2. Yep. I agree with every word. Especially the part about the cute guy on the right. ')

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  3. What a beautiful post, Liz. You certainly understand and love your husband, and now I feel I know him a little, too. For all us creative types, it's important to remember that the "down" days when we're not feeling it won't last forever.

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    1. Thanks, Alison. The bad part is that every time it happens, it feels as though it WILL last forever! :-)

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  4. I agree, somedays you don't feel it. And that's okay. But I'm energized by doing other things and sure enough, my mind wanders to writing. I like how you "get" your hubby. :)

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    1. We've had lots of practice. This doesn't mean we don't still have days of Who ARE you? :-)

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  5. Grinding through the down days is just part of the process. We've all been there and got through it. Lovely post!

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  6. Another great post, Liz! And, once again, it's like you're in my head. How do you do that? Sometimes, the writing is just an exercise, just a way to keep the words flowing so that on the day that things do come together, I'll remember how to make it happen. Thanks, sweetie! (Oh, and yeah, Duane is pretty darn cute!)

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    1. I think most of us have places were we have basic "alikenesses." Ours tend to come to the fore at the same time!

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  7. Great post, Liz. As artists, I think we can all agree that we have good artistic days and not so good days. You just have to grit your teeth and get through the not-so-good ones, as your blog discusses.

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    1. Thanks, Hebby. I do have to remind myself that the bad ones don't show up to the readers--and what a blessing that is!

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  8. Beautiful thoughts here, Liz. It's proof that when we don't hear the music, or can't find the right flow to our story, we just need to keep on playing/writing and somehow it will all come back. Magic. I think. : )

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    1. Magic was my "word" for this year, and it's amazed me how often the word has come up or magic has shown itself. Thanks for coming over, Roben!

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  9. Well stated (as always), Liz. Some days the magic's not there, but the only way we'll ever recapture it is to keep trying. So if you'll excuse, I must return to my manuscript. :-)

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  10. Your love for Duane (and his for you) is so pretty and real ... I'm awed by the two of you. :) And I love this post. It's so very true. Going through the pull-the-words days is not fun at the time, but I can always look back and learn something or see some dimly shining light that I couldn't see in the middle of it.

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    1. The "looking back" is sometimes a gift unto itself, isn't it? The "this isn't bad at all" realization can make my day!

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  11. It always has amazed me that some of the parts that I've struggled with--pulling out my hair---have been ones that my cp's thought were good. And more amazing, is that I'd be darned if I could single out a one of them now.

    Kind of like giving childbirth--the pain fades as the love grows.

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  12. I mostly hate the days when the words are at my fingertips, but life is taking me in another direction. With three new babies in the family this year and moving into a new house, the writing is suffering. Now the holidays are right around the corner and everyone is coming to grandma's house.
    I intend to double my efforts after the first of the year.

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    1. There are times like that when I give in and write some things in longhand. I'm not always able to get it right when I transcribe it, but I don't want to lose it! I hope you and your family have great holidays--I think three new babies in a year is an embarrassment of riches! :-)

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  13. I think it's the same with every form of art and every way to express ourselves. We always have to wait for just the right thing to inspire us or motivate is to create.

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    1. That's the thing, though, Chrys--I think some of our best stuff is done when we don't have the inspiration but we just keep plugging away. Thanks for coming by!

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