Year before last I took a guitar course. It was an “advanced” course but that only meant I was in the part of the class that knew at least a little about the guitar. The alternative would have been “beginners” guitar which wouldn’t do since I’d been playing guitar for over 40 years.
The idea had been that by taking a course I could re-enthuse myself, bring the guitar back into focus in my life and start playing again. I had never been a great player. I had a few bits and tricks I could lean on if I wanted to impress, but mostly I liked to strum and sing. I knew quite a few chords and did a great sitting around the songbook. Put a page with not-so-fancy chords and lyrics in front of me and I could usually play it, provided I had a passing acquaintance with the song. I liked doing that. It was one of my things. A place I could go and something I could lean on. It almost always made me feel good when I did it in public.
In public wasn’t where I’d learned or practiced guitar. That’s not where anyone learns, at least not to begin with. I spent lots of my teenage hours in my bedroom with chord books and guitar training manuals trying to figure out how everything went together. I never learned from anyone – just books. I never played with anyone. It was just me. The guitar was my companion when I was on my own and lonely. It was a friend.
For quite a number of years now my guitar has languished in its case. Perhaps I’m not so lonely, perhaps I don’t need whatever it gave me, but I haven’t been drawn to pick it up. Once in a while I’ll be called on to play because the spirit of a gathering calls for a singalong or there’s an occasion, but I haven’t been drawn to pick it up just for myself. Hardly at all.
So two years ago I took a one week (5 days, actually) course with Anthony Garcia at Camp Creative in Bellingen in New South Wales. Anthony in an extraordinary classical guitarist and composer who is also a warm, funny and fabulous teacher. I had a fantastic week regretting that I had brought my steel string guitar and had failed to bring any significant callouses on my fingers. I learned a lot. It was a great week – I might tell you about it one day (like I might tell you the story of my guitar which is also a good story). I felt turned on and inspired. I felt like the week had done what I wanted it to and brought the guitar back to life for me.
For a couple of weeks. I’d started keeping the guitar in our bedroom for easy access and played it a few times in the first week. Once or twice in the second week. After 4 weeks or so Eve asked me to move it because it was taking up too much space. I didn’t play it again for months. I’ve tried putting it up on a stand in the living room. While I like it as furniture it hasn’t been played much even there. I miss that damn guitar and it’s right there in front of me.
All this has been running through my head as I’ve contemplated how to restart this blog. It seems to me that its trajectory has been so typical as to be almost a cliche. A tentative start, regular posts for a while – excitement building as I see that some of the posts get a largish readership. Attempts to find a voice and a purpose for the blog. Then things in my life start to get busy, I don’t post so much. Then I don’t post at all for a while. There is a wonderful, inspiring burst of a post about having nothing to say, and then saying nothing. Followed by nothing.
I know I was getting something out of writing this blog. It was touching a part of me that doesn’t get touched a lot. It was good for me, I think. And as it faded away it started to feel a bit like my guitar. It’s there, there’s nothing stopping me, and… it’s still there and there’s still nothing stopping me. So I ask myself “how is this like my life?” How is it indeed.
When I played guitar by myself in my room I used to write songs. I no longer know any of the songs I wrote, but I think I know where to find them. Once I see the chords and lyrics I’ll be able to play them. I wonder now if they were any good. I wonder if that even matters.
In January I’m going back to Camp Creative in Bellingen. This time I’m going to take a song writing course. I thought that signing up for a song writing course would get me started writing songs all by itself. It has, sort of. I started to write a song on the guitar – still got a few scribbled lyrics somewhere. I’ve recorded a couple of short bursts of melody and words onto my iPhone but haven’t listened to them. I even got a copy of Garage Band for the iPhone so that I’ve got no excuse, but I haven’t learned how to use it yet. When the course happens I’ll write a few songs. I know that will happen. And if, after the course in done, I never write another song, I’ll still have those songs.
I wonder if they’ll be any good. I wonder if that even matters.