Saturday, July 5, 2014

What's Your Instrument?

As long as I can remember, I dreamed of taking the arts world by storm. I envisioned myself an artist, a prima ballerina, a concert pianist, actress... usually all before noon. My childhood was spent searching for the perfect instrument. Gymnastics, clarinet, clay, painting,  theatre... You name it, I did it. My mother sang in a band, so music was never an optional program. I was on the forced-entry list every time she needed a performance partner. Never minded a bit, I might add. Although my voice never matched her range, we both agreed I could throw in a whole lot more rasp. Yes, I gloated over this, and took every opportunity to belt out a Janis Joplin tune to prove it.

I took a lot of lessons. Spent hours practicing. But never quite found my instrument. The pictures in my head never rendered quite the way I wanted on a canvas. There is a lot you can do with technique and practice, but at some point, the definition of a true artist is the ability to transcend the medium, and I just didn’t have it.

Same thing with music. I am in awe of those people who can coax a tear from a guitar. I took lessons in my teens and twenties. Practiced until my fingers bled and then some. My teacher, a wonderful life-long friend, Renee Rowell, finally shoved me out the door. “I have taught you everything I know.”

Technique does not equate art. It elevates everything to make it possible, but doesn’t create masterpieces.

Spent a long bleak spell where nothing in life seemed to go right. Made every mistake possible, and lived to tell the tale. Ended up with four amazingly wonderful children, and that makes every moment of it worthwhile. So, I wouldn't change a thing, even if I could. But, my lofty dreams were buried under the distant sands.

Then something incredible happened. I got bored.

It was on a vacation with no cell phone reception, and since it was one of those “Get away at the cabin in the woods with your in-laws, and nothing at all to do,” things, with far too much emphasis on the nothing to do. (Those of you familiar with my cell phone addiction are laughing, so stop it.) In any event, I did have a laptop, although interwebz was iffy at best. And... a word processor. Once upon a time, I enjoyed writing stories. It might kill some time. Or at least keep me from killing anyone.

I wrote the majority of a first draft of a complete novel in ten days. No plot, completely by the seat of my pants, just writing the ideas as they came to me. It’s still sitting there on my production list, because I clearly didn’t have the technique to really create anything more than a passable first attempt. But, I finished the damn thing. And three days after writing THE END, I signed up for, and completed my first NaNoWriMo challenge. That’s where you write a 50,000 word novel in the space of thirty days. Now I had two complete manuscripts. Well, huh. Now what?

Bingo! Talk to some writers. Learn how to turn those rough lumps of clay into something. I sought out writing groups, and soaked up a lot of information. Listened. Read. Wrote. Revised. Submitted. Won. Published. Produced. This did not happen overnight, it took a lot of time and effort. There is no substitute for actually doing the work. Practice until your fingers bleed, and then some.

My health did some wonky things in the past six months, and due to treatment, the limited filter I have between what I think and what I share seems to have gone away. And, that might be the best thing in the world. I say this, because after some rather unflinching posts to social media, I've gotten a flood of messages and emails from people who tell me my words moved them to tears. I will forever be in awe of those who can bring me to tears with the power of their movement in a dance, or a song, or a perfect photograph. Until this moment, it hadn't hit me. Never in a million years would I have guessed that in my quest to find an instrument, what I would end up with was my mind.

Love you all!

Just a couple of the dances that have inspired me to tears recently. I still wish I could do this.