Guitars and Writing and Me

Last night I watched the oldest Junior Hall perform at an Open Mic night. He’d played before but this was the first time that the Beneficent Mr. Hall and I had been allowed to come watch (which is kind of funny because the Beneficent Mr. Hall paid for the first guitar that started Junior on his road to guitar playingdom–EIGHT years ago).

Naturally, we thought he was brilliant. But he was sorely disappointed in his playing…he’d been nervous and didn’t play that well, he thought. Whereas I thought how hard it is to get up in front of a bunch of people and sing your own lyrics and play your own music and was totally impressed that he could stand up there and bare his heart and soul.

Listening to him berate his efforts sounded a lot like…me. And lots of writers I know. No matter how well we write, we’re still insecure about the words on the pages we’ve written. No matter how often we’re published, we still look at our published pieces and wished we’d said this (scathingly brilliant sentence) instead of that (string of stinky crap).

After a bit (and a parental pep talk and a couple folks who said they liked his voice), Junior Hall was ready to go. The performers are given a CD of their 15 minutes of fame, and he was sounding more hopeful. He said he’d listen and take notes on what needed work– and that he’d be back the next week to try again. And when the Beneficent Mr. Hall and I got in the car to leave, I thought of…yep, me and lots of writers I know and how important it is to have a critique group–or a trusted someone or two to share our work with, maybe get a pep talk. Because that’s what we need as well when we’re not feeling good about our written words. Then we can take notes and try again.

Should John Mayer be worried about Junior Hall? Not yet. But I wouldn’t count that kid out completely–he’s pretty determined, and downright inspiring. So of course, I’m thinking about me again. I’ve got lots of notes to look at before I face the manuscript–and try again.


17 thoughts on “Guitars and Writing and Me

  1. I’m with Sally…LOVE this and I have nothing brilliant to add. I could probably add a string of stinky crap, but you probably wouldn’t appreciate that too much :). Go Juniorest Hall!

    • Thanks y’all! Courage comes in all shapes and sizes, huh?

      (And yeah, Kara, I’ve got my own strings of stinky crap to deal with–:-)

  2. There’s a space between thinking our work is brilliant and thinking our work stinks. I think most good/great artists, writers, musicians etc usually find their way to that middle ground where they recognize they did well but still find something they can work on, can improve – not in necessarily in a negative or derogatory way, but just in regards to their craft.

    • Yes, I think that’s an excellent point, Madeline. Though finding our way to that middle ground can be a tricky business. 😉

  3. Cath- You are so right about Junior Hall’s situ relating to all of us writers. I don’t know about you, but even when I think my writing is decent, I worry whether I’ll “make the grade” when I take it to critique group. And of course, we know they are there to support us and help improve our story. That insecurity monster just shows up, doesn’t he! Well bravo to Junior Hall and bravo to you and the rest of us for having the courage to keep getting better!

  4. I love this post, Cathy! It’s so true that we can second guess our talents, & that our children can too! Loved the line about “scathingly brilliant” vs “string of stinky crap”! 🙂

  5. It’s so easy to look at someone else and see just how wonderful they are, while we look at ourselves and see only what needs improvement. I agree there’s a balance somewhere between the two and I think it’s found in posts like these which show a supportive group of writers offering wisdom, humor and encouragement.

    • Dang, Debra, I’m almost choked up here. But it’s so true–I couldn’t do what I do without the support of you (and I’m including the singular as well as plural forms of you.) 🙂

  6. Aww, Cathy. This post put a lump in my throat and a swell in my heart. How wonderful and supportive you and the beneficient Mr. Hall are to your Oldest Junior Hall, the guitar-playing son. And you are so right about the insecurity of artists and the importance of having a support group.
    Hugs to you and your family.

  7. Even Paul McCartney once played like the Junior Hall. So yes, perhaps John Mayer does need to worry. Isn’t it wonderful to see your kids perform? Tell him I hope he had fun.

  8. Aw, y’all are so sweet! Oldest Junior Hall may have to break down and read his Momma’s blog, just so he can see all these lovely comments!

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