Sunday, June 13, 2010

I Love to Practice; I Hate to Practice

Why is it so hard to get myself to practice?

I love telling stories. I love creating them. When I'm involved in the magic of a story that's unfolding just right, I feel like I could go out and hike to the top of a mountain (and I could, but getting back down would be a problem -- more in another post on why it's harder for me to hike down hills than up them).

And yet. I'll do the dishes first. I'll check my email and read my daily dose of Doonesbury (I'm up to 1998 in my year-and-a-half-long trip through the entire Doonesbury archives -- did I mention that I'm a bit compulsive?) I'll give the cats their treats. I'll reread a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery or an old Heinlein novel. Here I am right now, writing my first blog post instead of working on that adult version of Sindbad the Sailor or that vulnerable true story of hiking the Lost Coast alone in 1982 when I was age 22, strong-legged, and sad too much of the time.

Practicing brings up emotions. The true story I just mentioned: to really talk about that long, lonely, wonderful, miserable time in my life means embracing who I was then. Deciding just how much I want to share. How much can I recreate that young man? How much distance should I keep from him? The Sindbad story I want to do: will it be original enough? I've been telling mostly to kids for the last couple of years: can I still engage audiences of adults? Am I doing a racist stereotype "Arab" voice for one of the villains?

Practicing doesn't always go well. Sometimes I just sit there. Sometimes the best I can do is to read a traditional story out loud from a book. Or tell a story in funny voices, doing everything "wrong." Sometimes I try every technique I know and a story just lies there.

But oh, when it goes well, I feel so good! It's like I'm touching some elemental magic, riding a sparkling river down a sensuous canyon. It's like I'm opening a door to another world. I once heard Greg Brown, the folk singer, say that he wrote songs every day not because he felt that the world needed more mediocre folk songs but so that when a great song was ready to come through, the gates would be open.

That's the way I want to live as a storyteller. So I'm posting this first blog entry -- and going to practice!


  1. I know what you mean. Practicing is hard, and not always for the obvious reasons. I know I have issues with practicing around it being BORING. I'm so driven by the people interactions that not having an audience--or in my case, not having the other singers in the small group--means I just. Don'. Wanna.

    Glad to see you blogging!

  2. Yeah, I know what you mean around the boring. I don't always hit that one but I know there's times when I just can't bear to practice a story again. Actually, I hit that more often when I'm trying to record a story and I've just tripped over my tongue for the fourth take in a row.