Tuesday, September 10, 2013

confessions of a quiet blogger

 OK I feel guilty.
This blog earned the attention of some regular readers because it chronicled the making of some interesting stuff. Some of these readers, I know, check in from time to time hoping that I have some project- preferably related to boat building or sailing-something anyway to give them a creative fix because they are stuck in an office somewhere or because maybe one day I'll make that thing that they always wanted to make, but can only dream about  because of present, pressing circumstances.

Or maybe my hopeless restlessness rang a chord in them somehow, or maybe the TV is just too boring.

But since I retired I've tried to give myself some time and space just to recover from a twenty year business trip, and my creative energy is pretty much taken by my very late attempts to learn a bit of guitar. I always said that one of the attractions of this is that being really, totally rubbish at something at my time of life is very healthy for the ego. If you work hard in life you generally find a bit of respect somewhere from something that you've done, and it is easy just to keep doing the thing that creates the respect. That's normal.

But learning something really hard is a wonderful way of reinventing the ageing brain; creating a few feral synapses and putting a life's work in perspective.

I haven't written about these things because I feel like a fraud. You check into the Middlething and you expect the writer to say something that makes some kind of sense. No-one wants to hear about some old guy struggling with music theory and fingers that have their own theories about how a chord ought to be shaped.

It has been a couple of years now, and I have to report that I'll need quite a few more to do anything worthwhile. I'm taking lessons and working quite hard at things but there is no escaping the fact that this is a whole new discipline- a new language and it needs a new vocabulary of the mind and hands.

I love what my hands have done for me. But I'm asking them to do a totally new bunch of things now, and they aren't always grateful.  I look at them, and I think of all the cast-iron, rock-solid excuses I've had since I was a kid, as to why I couldn't or shouldn't learn an instrument, and they no longer wash.

It is a really beautiful thing to aspire to and leaving it so late is an inconvenience, but I know I'll feel more relaxed about my life if I continue to reject the excuses and just knuckle down.

I feel positively embarrassed that I didn't do this fifty years ago. I love music so much, and I've spent so much time with musical people, but I only ever understood it from the craftsman's point of view, not the musicians.

 I'm mature enough now to accept that the attempt will be enough, if I persist. I don't harbour any illusions about becoming competent or performing or getting respect from this. But I will  increase my musicality, I will understand the nature of music better, and I do love the process of training my brain in a new way.

 The nature of learning is wonderful in itself to ponder. The processes that I need to go through in order to learn a piece are mind-boggling when I consider how much I could do with a piece of wood or a word processor in the same amount of time. And it is quite interesting that I feel that way, because I am becoming more than slightly aware of the limits of time and the finite nature of possibility as I age.


  1. Rob
    In complete admiration and I want to hear your musings. Learning is a life privilege given to us. As an educator seeing anyone learn anything new is a deep joy and privilege to behold. The triumph and achievement felt having struggled to overcome many barriers just to gain a small but deeper understanding of something new is how we grow, and should never have its value under estimated. My passion and career has been about how we all learn. Age is an irrelevance. I took up boat building and sailing having never done either before. Am I any good at either....nope! Have I learned new things, made new friends, learned lots about myself, become a better person in some way as a result.......oh heck yes.....where do I start.
    Learning is one of the things that makes us so human

    Thanks for inspiring me......again!
    Arwens meanderings

  2. Great post even without the construction photos. Can't wait for the music video.

    1. Cheers PR- pre-warning the Colac woodworking biannual show is coming up in the first (I think) week of November. They want me to bring a guitar and harp, but I'm still thinking.

  3. I came for the saltiness, but stayed for your observations and writing style. I'm happy to read about whatever is on your mind :)

    1. Thanks for hanging in there John. Nice indeed to hear from you

  4. I love hearing how you say what is going on. You inspire me to take more risks while playing music, because I've always wanted to learn better how to improvise and do harmonies and backup. No better time than the present! Thank you for that insight.

    1. Very grateful for that feed back Scott. I think I understand where you are coming from. It is so easy to get into a rut when unchallenged, or unable to decide where to find the next challenge. I struggle because I love complex, subtle music but am really tested by the physicality of learning it and the intellectual challenge of understanding why it is the way it is...so I try to develop musicality in parallel with voicings that take me forward...but sometimes at a pace that leaves me struggling to remember the simpler stuff I learned merely months ago. But it is all good if we just concentrate on enjoying the thing in front of us at the moment!

  5. Robert

    I admire your spirit and I'm really glad to see your acoustic guitar back in play.

    I don't know if it helps in your own journey, but I've come back to playing music after over 20 years of actively avoiding any involvement except listening. The avoidance was a type of love sickness, an effort to put an end to the whole thing because the practicalities of finding a drummer, a bass player, a singer and a place to make far too noise finally defeated me.

    Working back in through acoustic music, and pieces I can play all by myself and take entire responsibility for technically and musically has changed the way I spend my private time.

    Like some of the others above, I love reading your thoughts, even if I originally came here for the vicarious boat building.


    1. I'm glad you're still there Kym, and thanks, especially for your perspective. I suspect your journey could be part of an interesting conversation about the hazards of learning guitar..I'll try to put something into words that might be worthy of more insight from you. I certainly relate to the thoughts about keeping it simple, and not dependent on amps, personnel and venues. But playing alone has its own special challenges doesn't it?

  6. "No-one wants to hear about some old guy struggling..."

    Ah. No, sorry, here's one more word from the world around you, the one not contained in the jelly between your ears, to say, "Yes, I do want to hear about an old guy struggling."

    I, too, am now among the Old Guys. Though I never, in my youth, thought I'd live to see the age of thirty, I just celebrated my sixty-seventh birthday. There may have been a whole day or two in there that didn't include any consciousness of struggle, but not many. Yes, life is good, but it is also incredibly challenging.

    I am grateful for anyone and everyone who is willing to be identified as a brother or sister who also struggles, no matter what the issue.


    P.S. Yes, I did find you through the boat building connection. No, that's not why I'm staying.
    All the best.

    1. Chris, thank you for responding so thoughtfully to this post. I'm really thrilled that this blog has something to offer. I wonder if struggle of some sort is a pre-requisite for a thoughtful life? If it isn't forced upon us by ill health or other circumstances many of us seem to choose it as a way forward into a better headspace. I know though, that a chosen struggle is a lot easier to deal with because you can always turn your back on the problem if you need to. I understand though that many don't have that choice.