Learning how to play guitar is the one thing I always look back on with wonderment. I'm reminded of "What ifs?" every time I pick up a guitar. Where would I be? I have sort of a survivor's guilt about it that makes me want it for everyone. Not the "guitar" exactly, but something like it for everybody. Something that would love them back the more they love it. Something that would remind them of how far they've come and provide clear evidence that the future is always unfolding toward some small treasure worth waiting for. At the very least, I wish everyone had a way to kill time without hurting anyone, including themselves. That's what I wish. That's what the guitar became for me that summer and is to me still.
—Jeff Tweedy, Let's Go (So We Can Get Back), 65-66
I really like Jeff Tweedy's book for many of the same reasons I liked Springsteen's and each of Austin Kleon's. All have in common that they give me hope and push me to do more. I didn't feel like writing when I started this (I wanted to curlin a ball or bolt from school) but I've made it my job to do this work. There's no pay yet but I've set myself to creating at least one thing every day. Creating is a vehicle, like a bicycle I'm pedaling down the road. If I stop pedaling I get too comfortable and forget pedaling. Eventually the bike slows and I come to a stop by keeling over.
Last night I watched high school kids play instruments and sing. Really though I only watched one kid (mine) and listened for her voice. She loves to sing, loves it completely. During her chorus's second song she and another student who can project from here to Guam rocked me back. I could hear her voice within that group, hear it stand out and then blend in. Tweedy might say that her signing voice loves her back more even than she loves it.
Most students were still on-book but music comes easy to my girl. Dance comes slowly and is always difficult, but music is right there, low hanging fruit. Still, she has to work at it. She sings in chorus, in the musical, at home, and with a voice teacher. There are things she can't stand about how things are run in the department (I sympathize and agree) but her only question about her voice is what can we do next together?
Leo Babauta talks about practicing on the edge. I like that. To get better, to grow, I have to push myself out on the edge. There are limits but most practice should be on the edge. I write Morning Pages and in my Writer's Notebook but most of my practice of late is here, in public.
When I ask students to share I know they feel it's like dancing naked on the cafeteria table. It's vulnerable. No matter how many times we agree we're judging the writing not the writer, there's no denying who is on the table and the state of their undress.
But getting up on that table, tastefully dressed of course, is a must.
My daughter is moving out on the edge more and more. There was a time she was good enough to go easy and still stand out. Times have changed. She has to work and do more interesting stuff, things that stretch her and require learning new skills including how to work the complicated politics of a high school music/drama department.
It's not like she and I will master the edge. It keeps receding. To paraphrase Father John Misty, there are horizons that just forever recede. I'm doing alright with the blogging and building an audience. I'll keep working on that, but I'm moving toward the next edge now, feeling my way one word at a time. Tweedy might suggest that the pen loves me back the more I love it. Yeah, that sounds right. Now I want to find out just how far we can go. I'll get out on that edge and not worry too much about getting cut.