Friday, February 12, 2010

Having a Passion for Writing... Why I'll Never Best Gershwin... and Free Book Friday

Free Book Friday!
I got a buttload of books at the Authorpalooza!

Your choice. To enter, leave a comment on today's topic. Want a second entry? Tweet about it or blog about it, and then let me know in the comment.

1. Blogging Presentation

I gave a presentation on blogging the other night at the SCBWI thingee, and I'm trying to figure out how to give access to the notes through my blog. So, I'll work on it this morning and it should be here by this afternoon.

2. One last word on the odds and passion.

The other day I was playing the piano. It's a 1940's Wurlitzer, and although it's old and ugly, it reminds me of my Grandma - Yaya - who could play the piano by ear. Okay, that sentence didn't come out as well as I'd planned, especially the "old and ugly" part sounding like it reminded me of Yaya, who was anything but ugly... anywho. Her picture is on top. 
Remind me to tell you some stories of Yaya because she is a hoot. 

So, I was working on a really hard song, and Sam comes in the room.

Sam: "Sounding good. You still working on that Gershwin?"

Me: "Yep."

Sam: "How long have you been practicing it now?"
Me: "Hmmmm." I had to think. It didn't seem like that long. I often turn to working on it when I need to organize my brain. I thought back to all the pianos on which I'd been playing this song. "I bought the music when I was in college, and started practicing before I even met you. We've been married 11 years..."

And then I did the math. I've been playing this song, trying my darnedest to learn it, for fourteen years. Fourteen years.

Some days I can play it all the way through, but these days are rare, and not without a lot of four-letter words and wringing fists toward the sky, shouting, "Curses, George! Why do you hate me?!" 

And I don't know if you're familiar with Gershwin, but most of his chords don't sound "right" in the first place. Every single wrong note sounds like a third-grade school band marching through a library.
And I got thinking about how this can be similar to having a passion for writing. 

With the dreaded Gershwin:
1. I'm never planning on performing it. In front of people.
2. Even if I learn all the notes, I lack the inner syncopation for Gershwin.
3. I'm guessing arthritis will set in before I perfect it.

I don't do it with the intention of someday making a living at it. I don't think of it like that. I do it because I love it. For me, the piano is something I turn to when when I need to impose order on chaos in mah brain.

My point is, it's okay to abolish gargantuan intentions!
1. Allow yourself to have a passion for something without being crippled by the fear of public rejection. You can write as much as you want without ever taunting the Fluffy White Bunnies.
2. A passion for the road can be just as fulfilling as a passion for the destination. More so.
3. Someday, if you find you've created a strong enough Flang Mace... can decide to take on the Fluffy White Bunnies. (Heretofore or henceforth known as FWB's.)
If you want, you can write for the joy of writing, and the FWB's never have to know.

Have a great weekend!


  1. Excellent post. Enjoy the journey or the end probably won't be all that good, anyway.

    I do want to point out that a love of writing (and piano playing) can/must be cultivated. Very few of us are born with the innate drive to put words to paper (or plink out notes to the same song for 14 years). :) Nothing is essential or fun until you have some experience in it and at least [believe you have] a touch of skill.

    Also, we rarely start to learn a skill without some goal in mind. You want to learn to play Gershwin. I want to write a book. Even if it's never published, I want to be able to say I did it. We can worry about how good it is later. :)

    Meanwhile, the more I write, the more fun I have, and the more writing becomes a passion instead of a means to an [improbable] end.

    FWB's... beware!

  2. Robin- So so true! I changed the post to say it's okay to abolish gargantuan intentions.

    Learn the song for the love of learning, not performing.

    I totally agree that the love of writing must be cultivated. Very good point.

  3. And yes, this doesn't mean I don't have any goals when I'm practicing the song. Only that I don't have goals of performing it for money.

  4. Great message! It's so hard to keep the passion and not let other things interfere. Life would be so much better if we all lived this way though :) It's too bad bills need to be paid.


  5. Thats what I need to hear. I have a lot of fun things I've been wanting to try lately. Sewing, photography, writing. However I haven't really done any of them for fear of not being able to keep up with everyone else out there who's doing it way better than I ever could. Who cares? If I enjoy it thats all that matters. Really.

    Good luck with the piano. I never could read notes and after 1 year of lessons I quit. My 6 year old now plays way better than I ever could. I'm having her teach me.

  6. the love of writing and the love of running must be cultivated and are very hard to convince myself to do, but are both things i want to excel at. i fel great after either one, its just either sitting down and typing or lacing up my shoes that is the hard part.

    i need someone who will yell at me if i don't do these things!

  7. I enjoyed this post - I like to play the piano too, but I'm nowhere near being able to play Gershwin. I'm not that worried about what the world thinks for my story, but I do lose the passion sometimes. Thanks for the reminder. Did you see my book review about the TDD and The Way he Lived. Loved The Way he lived and liked TDD. I really want the Losers Guide to life and love. Have a good day Brodi and your Yaya sounds great

  8. What song is it? I know that Fascinating Rhythm is a pain because of the...fascinating...rhythm. And some of his other stuff is just insane.

    I am currently working on a vocal piece for my audition portfolio (musical theatre, it's by Stephen Schwartz, he wrote Wicked and Pippin and Godspell) and it's in 7/4. WTF.

    So this must mean that you got Emily Wing Smith to sign my booky for me? Yesh? I <3 you!

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. So, I retweeted both of your tweets about your blog post. Does that count?

    So, I like your analogy of piano playing. I also play the piano and I have also been trying to learn a song for about 14 years (Canon in D). It's hard work!

  11. I've actually been thinking a lot along these lines lately. I want to be a writer but living in a small country like mine, things get even more complicated. Then the doubts kick on: Will I ever accomplish my goals? Should I give up on it altogether?

    So thanks for the post! it's encouraging :)
    And I RTd about the contest (Entre_Libros)


  12. I have piano music that I've been working on for that long too. And like you said, it's because I love the song and the process of beating it out on the ivories that I play it. I have absolutely zero intentions of a public performance now or ever!

    It's like a personal Everest for me... I play it and wrestle with it and when I'm done I've relieved the inner angst and I'm ready to tackle to more surmountable problems in life!

    And if I ever do hold a concert I'll be sure to invite you and the FWB!

  13. Mel- I know. Bills and financial obligations ruin everything, don't they?

    Debbie- When I was a teen, I wanted to quit piano. My mom told me to think about it for a week, and then make the right decision. After a week, I told her I'd thought about it, and I wanted to quit. She told me I made the wrong decision, and wouldn't let me. ha ha.

    Californiameaghan- Good point. I'd be happy to yell at you anytime you need it!

    Mary- I'm nowhere near being able to play Gershwin either!I did read your reviews. Great job! You are going to enjoy Emily's class.

    Robbie- It's his Rhapsody in Blue. 31 pages long. It's a beast.
    Here's a woman (apparently from the 80's) playing the version I'm learning:

    Sry- Thanks for reading!

    Jenni- Yeah, Canon in D is another one of those lifetime learning songs!

    Sharli- As Dorie always says: "Just keep Swimmin'. Just keep swimmin." Don't let the doubts win. Where are you from?

    Kayla- Me too! Can you imagine a double concert, with hundreds of fluffy white bunnies for audience members? That would be so cool.

  14. Robbie- here's a better version. Not from the 80's.

  15. I wish I'd taken piano longer. Especially since I've had to accompany in church recently--it's a sad, sad day when I'm the only piano player in the room. The Gershwin makes me want to find a small hole to quiver inside.

  16. Jenilyn- That's exactly what I feel like doing after fourteen years of trying. If I made a video of how far I've gotten, people would be scratching their heads, thinking "Fourteen years, and that's how far she's gotten?"

    At least I feel like after a week of practicing, I can at least master some hymns...

  17. Whoa, that is an amazing piano piece. I am impressed at your patience with it.

    This post makes me think. What is there that I have a passion for? Not much. I should probably cultivate some passions in my life.

  18. Jenny- It doesn't sound nearly as amazing when I attempt to play parts of it. Even the parts I know well. It doesn't even sound like the same music.

  19. fwiw, just to brag about my lovely wife, she is a fabulous piano player. Give her one practice run through and she can basically play whatever is asked.

    On another note--she had never played the organ. When she was asked to be an organist for our church, she said yes. She then went to church and practiced on the organ and is now terrific with it as well.

    Brag session over.

  20. I'm new to your blog and have been highly entertained with what I've read so far! Just after a recent move, I decided to re-learn the piano (no Gershwin here!!!), so after much searching bought one off of Cragslist! 2 weeks later, my 3-year-old daughter broke the 10 keys surrounding middle-C. Bummer, haven't done much playing since then... too depressing.

    My sister and I are both avid readers and are always bouncing around ideas for stories or characters who haven't found their story yet... we just need to take those and write them somewhere!

    Thanks for great insights into life and I'd happily flaunt a Kill the Fuzzy White Bunnies! bumper sticker!

  21. Sam- the only reason I lied about knowing how to play the organ is because I thought if I could play the organ, I wouldn't be asked to do anything else for the rest of my life.

    It didn't work. But now I can play the organ.

    Shauna- It's a good thing the ten keys around middle C aren't important or anything. :) I believe there are many characters, watching us from up in the sky, just waiting for us to put them in a story.

    Or maybe that was just a movie about procreation.

    Anyway, Thanks for reading the blog. I'll reserve a bumper sticker for you!

  22. Did you know you can download the whole "Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch" dealio on iTunes?

    I highly recommend it.

  23. Sal- Thanks for the tip. Now I'm watching the whole thing on You tube.

  24. *happy sigh* I needed this. I'm frantically putting together my masters thesis in creative writing, and I've just been crippled with my lofty dreams and worries for the future. I needed somebody to say 'dream big, but have fun' today. And you did. :-) Thank you.

  25. Tiger- those lofty dreams weigh heavy sometimes, don't they? Good luck on your dissertation, and congrats on going for the Masters.

    I love writing. But every once in a while, I have to remind myself I love writing. I think this is totally normal.

    Thanks for reading the blog.

  26. This is a great message. It seems that with almost everyting I ever loved doing--writing, singing, dancing, piano--I tend to go overboard, trying so hard to be perfect that it takes the fun out of it. I need to step back and remember that I do these things because I want to and because they're my creative escape from my analytical day-job.


    whatinabox at gmail dot com

  27. The thing about music is--you can't revise a performance. I love music, too, but one perk of the writing biz is that if something really stinks, you can change it.

  28. Oh Brodi, I just love your blog. I didn't know you were learning a Gershwin piece! Which one are you working on??

  29. I'm proud of you for pressing on with the Gershwin. I just took piano in high school, so I'm not that proficient, but I can appreciate the effort. I had a goal of doing that with "Fur Elise", past the part that most kids can play-- you know, the rest of the piece! You enjoy your Gershwin, even if no one else ever hears!

    Please enter me in the contest-- I'd love to win Beautiful Creatures.

    **I tweeted about the giveaway:

    **I blogged about it as well:

    Thanks for the chance to enter!

    Laura Hartness
    The Calico Critic
    CalicoCritic at gmail dot com

  30. Inabox- Exactly. We need to allow ourselves to be imperfect.

    Kaylie- That's true. Until it's in hardcover and on the store shelves. :)

    Leena- Rhapsody in Blue. It's madness, I tell you. Madness!

    Laura- So, did you accomplish learning the rest of the piece? Thanks for finding the blog. You are entered thrice!

  31. You are amazing. I can't believe how many talents you have. I bet it feels great every day to be Brodi Ashton! lucky to have you as a friend.

  32. Cole- thanks for reading!

    Lis- Yes, every morning I wake up singing:

    I like being me
    And that is why you'll see
    I'm somebody special
    Happy as can be

    Oh, wait. That's what my first-grader sings.

    I don't know why you think it's a talent... it's been fourteen years, and I haven't learned the thing! What's the word for "opposite of talent"?

    I'm glad to be your friend too.

  33. I love that! I have been struggling to write for a while. I think the idea that I HAVE to publish it and people HAVE to read it sometimes makes me quit. It's just for me. And that doesn't ever have to change!

  34. Melissa- Exactly. If I thought every word I wrote had to be read by someone else, I'd never write.

  35. Thanks for the post. I think that is something i really need to deal with, becasue sometimes I won't write just because I think someone else will laugh at what i wrote, so thanks for reminding me that it really doesn't matter.

  36. I'm new to your blog and smiled as I read your post. I turn to my piano in a similar way: to unwind, to order something into existence, if only through cord structures and staccato.

    PS: I bet your class @ SCBWI conference was great. I attended a SCBWI conf here in LV last month. It rocked!

  37. This is getting really eerie....

    You play the piano too?

    You might as well be my twin. Want to go to work for me on Monday?

    Good analagy though! Down with the fluffy white bunnies!!

    (And I posted about your post)

  38. Mariah- Glad it helped. Thanks for reading.

    Terresa- Always good to meet a fellow piano player. That's so cool you got to go to the SCBWI conference in Vegas. I love Vegas! (I went there for the first time in years a couple weeks ago.) Thanks for finding the blog.

    Cam- That is very eerie. It's like we're dopplegangers. One of us good... one of us evil. But which ones? Dun Dun Dun...

  39. Always behind - but still checking in. Loved this post Brod. So glad you are still playing! I think you have a real talent. Funny how things like that act to calm, help us think better, organize like you said.

    To Mr. Gershwin ... stand by... I believe Brodi will wallop your piece one of these days!

    And I LOVE that you think of Yaya each time you play. She was one of a kind. Is it her piano???

  40. I think a piano recital is in store for me the next time i'm in utah. I know I'm probably to late for your free book friday entry... I'm really wanting to get my hands on a copy of dark divine too! shoot!

  41. Cath- She was a firecracker, wasn't she? The piano isn't hers... Hers is at my mom's house. I bought the Wurlitzer from someone else.

    Shell- You're never too late for Free Book Friday! Until tomorrow, that is. Then you'll be too late.

  42. Cam- there was never any question... :)

  43. I will never play Gershwin. Heck, I'll never play a lot of things. But I'm okay with that.

    Just like I'm cool with the fact that I will never be much of a runner. You can't fight bone structure, folks! :D

    But you know what? I'm a good half-way through a crochet project that I thought was going to be way too hard. That's right, I'm kicking butt in crochet.

    :D :D

  44. I think everyone agrees that you've got to work at stuff to succeed and at the same time put a lot of love and attention into it.
    Unless you enjoy yourself it wont be brilliant, it may be fine or mediocre but not really really good.

  45. I totally agree with you. I also play piano and it drives me up the wall trying to it. Good Luck on the piece! = ]