Personal-fail-time! Or, how a writer can resemble an obsessed piano-owner.

Heh, well THAT was a bust, eh? What can I say – the internet has been depressing me a bit for the last many weeks/months. I promise, I will try to get my shit together with this blog. But before that, I need to untangle my brain when it comes to the writing thing. And the being-a-writer thing.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not beating myself up. Much. When I say, “fail,” I mean to embrace the failure. Everyone should fail sometimes. You can’t get better without some setbacks, I guess.

One of the things I am ironing out is my choice of internet-time. I’m burned way the fuck out on blogs and advice. My feedly is a long list of sites that used to interest and inspire me, but which now depress and disgust me. Not saying they’re bad sites, but  – eh. There’s only so much snarking and debating and whining I can take, whether it’s about books, the publishing industry, the evil Amazon empire, or another rehash of how to write a book, why you need an editor, how not to behave on twitter, blah blah. Oh, and let’s not forget how to handle “bullies,” aka reviewers. I’m just – sick of it.

I’m also frustrated with myself, for what it’s worth. I’m so stuck as a writer it’s not even funny. Actually, it is funny, considering the ranting I’ve done in the past with regards to sucking it up and ‘the muse is all in your head, so shut up and write.’ Karma, bitch. Or irony, however you want to look at it. Heh.

Recently, I made the mistake of glancing over at GR, and found I’d gotten my first negative / DNF review. Bah. Know what really sucks, though? The reviewer made a totally valid point. In fact, they did a pretty damned good job of nailing my biggest flaw as a writer. Which sucks hairy goat balls, but gives me food for thought. And I guess that’s better than the flailing and floundering I’ve been doing for the past weeks.

But, hell, even if they were full of crap, you know what? It’s their opinion. So, kudos to me for not crying about how bullied I am, I guess. (Seriously, I can’t express how disgusted and disappointed I am with this whole business of writers pulling the ‘bully’ card on negative reviews.)

Okay, lest this be a completely pointless post about me me me and my angst, let me tell you about a pianoland client I have, and maybe it’ll somehow wrap around and relate to this writing business.

I have this client who, as far as I know, is a pretty accomplished pianist. I’ve never actually heard them play, although I see a bit of fairly advanced music laying around when I go to their place. They have a great deal of money and love for the instrument, however. In the past several years, they’ve gone through a number of very nice, high-end pianos and have finally (for now), ‘settled’ on a 9-foot Hamburg Steinway ‘D’ concert grand. It’s a beautiful instrument. And I’m not one to buy into the Steinway mystique, either as a pianist or a technician.

This client payed more for this instrument than my house is worth. Possibly close to twice my house’s current value, in fact. They hired a Steinway-trained master technician to fly over from Europe and spend two days regulating and voicing this piano to concert quality.

And still…

The things this client keeps digging up and asking to have done to this piano… I suspect they spend a lot of time on piano forums on the internet. Where like-minded enthusiasts ‘goob’ about pianos, about the latest and greatest gadget or technical adjustment to ‘improve’ an instrument. Probably like performance-car enthusiasts, they’re always looking to tweak, to add that extra edge to their piano.

Since the master technician came out, we have installed a touch adjustment system to lighten the touch across the board. We’ve discussed installing a special tone bar to the underside of the piano. We’ve added little, tiny clamps to certain strings to clean up the tone of certain notes. I’ve made more adjustments to the tone, and to the style of tuning. Said client has even asked about a different technique of voicing that involves some heinous kind of brute force I refuse to exact on such a lovely instrument, as well as applying chemicals to the hammers in the piano (which isn’t uncommon, but I don’t personally do unless it’s a last resort, which is rarely, rarely the actual case).

And the thing is, it’s not like this client is making shit up – the adjustments we’ve made are legitimate adjustments. Conversely, it’s not that the piano is a POS, either. I don’t even like Steinways, and when I first sat down to this piano, it was a dream to play. I mean, yes – if you spent this much money on a piano, you’d want it to be perfect, too. But no piano is ever 100 percent perfect. Not one. However, a company like Steinway Germany (let’s not talk about Steinway NY, thankyouverymuch) – they’re not going to let a concert grand leave their factory floor in anything less than damned-near-perfect condition. Just to get that part out of the way.

It’s simply that this client is a ‘tweaker’. They even admit it themselves. They’ve also admitted they don’t actually practice all that much – too busy, distracted, etc. Which, hey – I can’t criticize that, either – my own piano is in pieces at the moment because I want to make some adjustments before I get myself back into practicing for various projects this summer.

But there does come a point where you have to just notice – I have other clients who play the piano a LOT. And they neither have nor need a 9-foot Hamburg D. And if they *did* have one, maybe we’d do a little regulation and voicing, but mostly they’d just be playing the fuck out of it. Hell, many of them aren’t even aware they have options when it comes to voicing and regulation, much less are bothered to pursue them. They play the piano to play music.

Let me say that again: they play the piano to play music.

Some people get wrapped up in the way the piano sounds. My client with the D – they’re a fine pianist, to be sure. But their ears are focused on every little sound the piano makes, resulting in any little thing driving them nuts. (They’re not the only client I have that’s like this, btw, just in case they happen across this and realize I’m writing about them – it’s not a bash, it’s a metaphor I’m about to get to.) Other types of clients/pianists are more concerned with music being made by the piano person using the piano. It doesn’t matter what they’re playing, even if it’s the shittiest little spinet with a misfiring low ‘A’.

Writing is A LOT LIKE THIS.

*MY* self as a writer, is A LOT LIKE THIS. Well, my struggles lately are related heavily to this metaphor. And the ‘me’ in this metaphor is looking an awful lot like my Steinway client.

You read enough shit on the internet, follow enough bubbly voices on the twitter who yammer about their WC, their favorite lines from their WIPs, their yummy heroes, or their heroine’s favorite shoes; collect enough blog posts about how to write, self-publish, edit, fight online reviewer/bullies, etc… and one day, you find yourself stuck in the mire of words and unable to find the goddamned story. ANYWHERE.

Every little sentence drives you nuts because something might not be *just right*. You have a story – oh, you have PLENTY of stories. But they’re all stuck behind a curtain of fussing and freakouts over ‘omg where is my personal voice and why don’t I give a damn about any of these characters anymore and btw is there something stuck in my proverbial teeth holy shit that phrase smells a little like stale breath where is my goddamned gum my chest is hurting again and I can’t remember to breathe right…’

Am I making any sense at this point??

You know who’s doing a great job at conquering this sort of thing? My friend Rhys Astason with her Ingenue series. And lest I seem like a great big old copycat, let me point out that I did mention plans to do something like this last year – I just dropped the ball, horribly. It was something we’d both been batting around and she took it and ran – and just look at how much fun she’s having with that goddamned ball! So, self, I says – you know it’s never too late to play ball. I’m gonna pick up that bouncy thing, brush the dust off of it, and fuck around with it, myself.

I’m also going to be spending some time rolling out some cheap erotica under a different pen name for cash. Reason? I feel like it’ll be some financial allowance to counterbalance the time I’m going to take getting my actual stories right. That DNF reviewer made me aware of something I’ve been trying to avoid – you can’t phone it in and think no one’s gonna notice. Not that I didn’t bust my ass on my paltry two story releases. But they’re not my best work. If I were to review them, I’d give Deluxe Package 3 stars and The Switch 4, but only for the hottie hot smuts (seriously, I’d fuck myself for that shit). From here on out, anything I sell, I expect to personally give 5 stars.

In the meantime, expect to hear more from me, and keep an eye out for the adventures of Veronica Matthews, a dangerous young talent in a masculine-driven world of music, recording, sex, lies, love, rock ‘n’ roll, tangos, and gorgeous men and women.

P.S.  – Agent Coulson replied to one of my tweets AGAIN. THIS time, he simply said, “ILY.” *faints*


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