Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Having been an active musician for the vast majority of my life, I have often lived with moments of great doubt. I’ve known nearly since the beginning that no, I am not the second coming of Mozart. In fact I’m not even musically skilled enough to have qualified for being his porter.

Every time I pick up an instrument, I’m aware that no matter how much time I put in in the practice room, I will never be as good as so many people I admire. The most sobering thing is to subjectively listen to something I’ve recorded. All I can hear is the holes, the duff notes, the place where I could have done better.

This is part and partial of being a (mortal) musician. We always strive for perfection. Many of us never attain that lofty level. In fact, I’ll bet if you were to talk to Mozart himself (or anyone in the pantheon of immortal musicians), you’d never have someone tell you they ever played anything absolutely perfectly.

So when I listen to myself making music with feet of clay, I now shrug and promise myself that next time I’ll do better. This isn’t to say I don’t try my hardest every note I play. I’ve just come to realize that I will never obtain the true grace of perfection.

(The reason I’m telling you all of this is that I’ve been forced to listen to my trumpet playing over and over the past few weeks since the band I’m in the process of forming is doing an audition demo so that we can get some gigs.)

Of course this semi-negative – but wholly realistic – attitude permeates my writing. I always feel a sentence or a phrase could somehow be better if I only worked harder on it, dug a little bit deeper. I learned early on that this is the best route to complete stasis. Writing is a series of choices. The longer the writing, the more choices that must be made. Every phrase is a choice. I will make good ones, bad ones, even cringeworthy ones. And there will be the occasional brilliant one. As with music, there will be authors I’ll read whose prose leaves me shaking my head, knowing I will never be that brilliant, that adept. Shakespeare can make me feel as if my brain is going to explode. He’s able to reach through the years and grab hold of you in a way no other writer can.

It’s bittersweet, but I fully understand my place in the musical and literary firmament. I can only hope to entertain, enlighten a bit, and occasionally (very occasionally) reach out and grab someone emotionally. It’s the best I can hope for and I have learned to accept it.

All that being said, my forthcoming Roses for a Diva is the best frigging new novel you’ll ever read by me this fall!

Sorry, I never said that I was humble, now, did I?


Donis Casey said...

No artist ever lived who didn't feel the same way. I'm constantly having to use the second-best word to describe something, because I KNOW the perfect word exists, but I can't think of it.

Eileen Goudge said...

You speak for us all, Rick. I can't even read a published book of mine without thinking I could have done it better. Awkward sentences reach from the pages like tentacles to wrap themselves about my throat (speaking of cringe-worthy turns of phrase) Works-in-progress? Egads. The last rewrite is the one where I undo all the "fixes" from the previous rewrite. A lesson in the downside of aiming for perfection.

Rick Blechta said...

The worst thing is doing a reading unexpectedly (they didn't tell you beforehand) and coming to a sentence that you can so clearly see now was completely substandard. Do you read it as is or edit on the fly?

I've gotten good at editing on the fly, but then, in 8th grade I once held my history homework in English class and made up a book report I hadn't gotten around to the night before...

Charlotte Hinger said...

I can't bear to reread anything I've written after it's published.

Rick Blechta said...

Who does your readings, then, Charlotte?

I have to admit I'd love to be able to hire a really good actor to do my readings, especially someone who can do accents really well. My books sort of need that. I had someone like that once for a charity event. It was Peter Oundjian, the conductor of the Toronto Symphony, though, and even though I begged him to do others, he regretfully had to turn me down. I have no idea why... (But he was that good.)

Eileen Goudge said...

I seldom do readings these days, Rick. Maybe that's why. I can't read aloud words I wrote without mentally editing :)