Monday, July 06, 2020

My “Fur Elise” Problem.

I was never any good at playing the piano. You'd have to say my parents did everything to encourage me – nice piano, music lessons, constant demands to know whether I'd done my practising – but somehow it never took. It might have had something to do with the fact that the piano was in the unheated drawing room, or that my first teacher was a small stout man who called me 'wee girlie' (twee not sinister, I hasten to add) and the second was a tall, thin, acidulated woman who would sing, 'One-and-inna-two-and-inna' to keep me in time as I played. (Her name was Templeton, and it's amazing that I agreed to marry my husband. No relation, fortunately.)

It might also have had something to do with my discovering that if I made my fingers go like sticks it got everyone very satisfyingly cross. (I was a very annoying child.) But above all, it had to do with never learning to keep going and ignore mistakes. I had to stop and put it right, which, since I wasn't very good, meant constantly and it's amazing how long it can take to get to the end of “Fur Elise”.

It must be something that goes deep in my psyche and it's carried on into my writing career. Perhaps it's a perfectionist thing, though I'm certainly not famous for that in any other direction – look at my knicker drawer, or rather, don't, please!

I know many, possibly even most, people do a first draft, then a second and on and on until it's right, but I simply don't understand how it's done. OK, I write the first chapter, edit it, and move on. Then I write the second chapter, and something happens that doesn't square with what I said in the first one.  If I reckon this is just the first draft, presumably I just set that to one side and move on, planning to sort it out later in draft 2.

But I'd have a constant itch at the back of my mind if I didn't go back and change the first chapter so it squares with the second, and then when the third chapter introduces something that needs revision for chapter one and two, I go back to do that as well. It's a constant to-and-fro process, and I suspect that people who just go hell for leather and write on regardless will get a much faster paced story.

I'd love to be able to persuade myself to do that, though I think there'd be a blood, sweat and tears spell later sorting out continuity. I have to say, too, I do like it that when I get to the end of telling the story, I only have to do tidying up rather than embarking on a rewrite. So I just have to accept it – you can't change human nature.

To round off the story of my career as a pianist, I gave it up for some time. Then I was lucky enough to find a truly wonderful teacher who brought me on by leaps and bounds so that sometimes I did have a piece or two I could play through without a mistake, but it was a brief purple patch and I don't play now, having skipped the basic slog that would have kept me going through the years.

When I was protesting about practising my mother used to say, 'You'll regret this when you're older.'

And she was right, as she always was.


Christine said...

If I did it your way, Aline, I'd get into a loop and never finish. I just have to keep going, once I have started. It's harder to hit a moving target!

Aline Templeton said...

Interesting, that 'get in a loop and never finish' - yeah, sometimes it certainly feels like that, but it does come right in the end!