Thursday, April 8, 2010

"I've Always Wanted to Write a Book . . ."

I've always wanted to play the piano.

I spend a lot of time at a computer. That goes with my job. Sometimes I stare at a blank screen with a blank brain, and other times, when inspiration is on fire and luck is sitting beside me, the words flow. But there are times when I have to get away from it and I can come up with a number of time wasters, um, diversions to distract me.

One of those is the piano. First, let me point out that these are not my legs in the photo, in case there was any confusion. Even the Steinway isn't mine (where to put a concert grand . . . ?). I've always yearned for the talent of Billy Joel, Elton John, and the late, great Freddie Mercury, all of whom make playing a keyboard look so effortless. So effortless that I got fooled into thinking, hey, it's easy! I could do that too! Back in the mid-70s, I decided to give it a shot and signed up for piano lessons with the mother of a friend from my high school days.

I slogged through all the exercises and learned the keys, and even, at the insistance of my teacher, reluctantly participated in the humiliating ritual of a recital. I was the biggest kid there. The rest of the cast was, at most, 12 years old while I was twice that and sneaking outside for a cigarette now and then. I was a pretty good student in that I was willing and happy to practice three hours a night. I'm sure the other kids didn't--there were no Mozarts among us. Still, despite the lessons and the practice and the recital, I came to realize, hey, this isn't easy at all!

After dragging my spinet from one apartment to another, I finally sold it about 15 years ago. And even though I never went near it except to dust, I was immediately sorry. I missed it. In the meantime, technology had made a huge leap forward in electronic keyboards. So had teaching methods. I could get CDs, DVDs, and great books with titles like Piano for Quitters, and avoid the stern, exasperated teacher standing over my shoulder sighing with impatience. Wow, I can do this! Again! So a few months ago, I bought an electronic keyboard on eBay and a shelf full of instruction.

Yeah, I plunk around and fortunately remember some of what I learned early on, but it's still not effortless. I've had readers tell me I make writing look so easy. That's the biggest lesson of all--it might look easy but it's not. It's hard work, and practice, practice, practice. If you really want to write a book, remember that. Put your backside in the chair and write. You'll hit some clinkers, but that's okay. Keep working at it. Hone your craft and sharpen your skills.

Now I'm off to practice Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Geez, it's hard, but I'll keep working at it.

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