Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The hard work of having a blast

Today's been hard work.

This morning I was trying to master the art of lying on a surf board and paddling it in such a way as to catch a wave. As someone who's body-boarded a lot over the past twenty years or more, I thought this would be easier than it turned out to be.

For a start, instead of using your legs for propulsion - as you do when body boarding - you have to use your arms because your body is prone on the board with your legs up in the air out of the water. Then there's the problem that a little shift in your centre of gravity on the board tends to tip you off it in a somewhat embarrassing way.

There was a point when my brain was yelling at my body 'you don't have to do this; you're on holiday.' Bu it was wrong. I did have to do it because I had chosen earlier in the day that today would be the day when I started to see whether I could ever get the hang of a long board. And it's hard work. But, of course, nothing worthwhile ever comes without effort and toil.

I reckon that if I did what I did this morning for an hour every day, I'd get the hang of lying on a surf board and paddling it into position in about six months! So onward and upward...

This afternoon we were chilling at Graham's studio (art rather than music) and I was trying to finish a song that I started about 15 years ago. It's gone through many drafts but I've never been happy with it. The tune's great - a sort of early Elvis Costello-influenced durm und strang. I've always loved it but never thought I'd sing it because of the words.

Following a lunchtime chat about the process of creating in which Graham reminded me that it's 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, I set about reworking the lyric. Writing, crossing out, testing combinations of sounds and words, finding the rhythm and metre of the language, even sometimes counting syllables and seeing if, within the lyric, they actually communicated something.

It was hard work. At times it was like pulling teeth; at other times it was like being just below the crest of a hill, knowing that a great view was about to hove into view but discovering that there is still a lot more walking and climbing to do before you get there. It's like having a word circulating in your brain, coming and toying with the tip of your tongue and then running off into a dark corner and disappearing without trace.

Eventually, however, I got there. The new lyric says something very different from the old one, I think; and it says it better. Indeed as I ponder it, I wonder what it is saying - which is good because slightly elusive and elliptical is what I was searching for. I'll need to give it a few days to simmer and I'll need to try it out a time or two before I know whether it's finished.

We tend to think of holidays as a break from work. But perhaps they are about work of a different kind; the work of enjoying and expressing ourselves, good work that leaves one feeling knackered but strangely satisfied.

I'll have to try it all again tomorrow - especially the surfing - to see if I'm right.

1 comment:

Robin said...

Not entirely unrelated, a friend of mine sent me a copy of J.John's eLetter today: http://www.philotrust.com/viewemail/219 . I'm sure there could be countering views but I thought it was quite interesting.