Monday, March 17, 2008

It takes one to know one . . .

I wasn't born with any musical ability or sensibility whatsoever. It took years of hard work, practice, and dedication to arrive at that place where playing a guitar is almost a subconscious event for me. I don't really have to think about it. I can do it with my eyes closed. I can even worship while playing without missing a beat (for the most part). But it wasn't always that way. And after all this time, I still can't tune a guitar by ear. I can, however, hear when it's out of tune.

When I first became the worship leader for my church youth group I wasn't very good. The lyric sheets (with the chords written above the words that indicated the correct timing) had to be in front of me or I was lost. I had to listen very intently to the other musicians and the singer so I wouldn't lose my place. Despite all of this concentration (which explains all the dumb faces I used to make), I made multiple mistakes per song. The result: no one noticed (I actually got compliments). No one noticed except my fellow musicians and the 1 or 2 musicians who happened to be in the audience that is.

However, even though the general public did not notice my mistakes, no record company on the planet would have signed such a sloppy musician as I. I would have had to prove my technical ability before I would have been allowed to waste tape on their dime.

For example, I went to a concert by classical guitarist Peter Fletcher. Outstanding musician. At one point in a particular selection - he messed up. So I thought. But he did it on purpose. Or shall I say with purpose. He allowed the strings to vibrate against the fret. Usually this is a mistake. But he did it while doing a walk down with the top (bass) string creating a wonderful effect.

See my point? If I do it, it's a mistake. When he does it, it's genius.

How does this apply to writing? Even though the audience can't hear (read) your mistakes, they're not the ones running the studios (publishing houses). You have to prove your technical ability before they allow you to vibrate the strings (break the "rules") with purpose.

Of course, all of this is very SUBJECTIVE. Some really good writers will never get published and some not so good writers will. This is the nature of the human element. And, contrary to popular belief, editors are human, too.

Is this fair? Maybe not, but it is the reality.

On the other hand, one of the mistakes really great technical musicians make is that they play to impress other musicians. So the result is usually over the heads of the general listening public. This is why they rarely produce a hit. The key is to evoke emotion. No matter how simple the song. The great ones can do both.

See the parallel? Story is king. A great story poorly presented is still better than a bad story perfectly executed. But it probably won't get you published.

1 comment:

Nicole said...

You're right, Dayle.