What Does Bob Know About Art Anyway?

“You don’t learn how to be an artist by going to school. It’s something you’re born with. It’s about observing the world – but laying down your own truth.” 

The quote above was at the end of Jim’s post today, credited to Bob Lefsetz. Before I continue on about Lefsetz I want to say that I could clearly see what Jim was trying to achieve with his post but by heck did he go about it the wrong way!

I believe it was Jim’s response to a ‘fan’ on SMOG having a bitch about Berenice’s ‘inability’ (in their eyes) to play the keyboard parts to Simple Minds songs correctly or fluently. The criticism was harsh and quite frankly unjust. All a guise for another “please can we have Mick, Derek and Mel back” endless fucking moan. I’m not going to get onto that topic – been there, done that…sssoooo fucking over it it hurts! 

Rightfully Jim highlighted that by listing her talents, Berenice is a more than capable musician and musical artist. Her parents are musicians, her brother, etc. She’s worked with countless others and produces work used on scores for television series, and collaborates with Glenn Gregory on the project Afterhere, among other things. If I listed all her work and credentials, this part of the post would go on for some time.

What brought it all crashing down for me (Jim’s post) and got my hackles up was the fucking Lefsetz quote! To me, it instantly sabotaged the whole reason why Jim was highlighting Berenice in the post in the first place. 

Let’s break this down. I believe someone can have a natural aptitude for something – especially when it is something that’s creative. Those that have it can find their development of their creativity ‘easier’ – ie: less strenuous, less methodical, less complex (perhaps), less developmentally difficult to achieve than those with seemingly no natural aptitude for the creative arts. But to say we’re ‘born with it’? Like an elusive “ta daaa” – just magicked up to you from…God…? No! It just isn’t true. 

I AM GOING TO LEARN HOW TO ARGUE THIS POINT IF IT KILLS ME! I want to put my counter argument across effectively and coherently, so the outcome is that Jim reconsiders ever quoting Bob fucking Lefsetz ever again! 

I feel let down on Berenice’s behalf with that quote because it takes away the hours of learning. The hours and hours of artistic development that has happened to get her where she is now. It takes away Jim’s counter argument to Mr Bring-back-Mick-Derek-Mel that Berenice has a rightful place in the band right now as the keyboard player as she is more than qualified to be there. 

Bob Lefsetz – a man who studied Art History at Middlebury College in Vermont (Wikipedia, 2022), really should know better from that education of his that artist development is LEARNED and you are NOT ‘born with it’.

You can develop art without schooling, yes, granted. But you are not born with these skills. Much like you’re not born already walking, talking, being able to use a toilet, knowing how to feed yourself, or cook, do mathematical equations, or write words down on a page, or draw a cat. 

My last week of study was REALLY hard. What I write here on my blog comes (mostly) naturally to me. It’s lovely when people tell me that I write well and I have a good way of expressing myself but I want to build on that. That is why I am doing this diploma at the OU. I want to progress. I want to GROW. I want to develop artistically. Because TRUE artists DEVELOP – THEY ARE NOT BORN WITH IT – THEY LEARN IT AND MAKE IT HAPPEN! 

What I was learning with my study this week – none of that comes naturally to me and it never has: creating characters, scenes, imagery, developing plots, etc, etc. I ended the study week feeling that it was something, with time, that I could develop and possibly end up having some grasp of and maybe even be good at…with a lot of practice. 

I was ssooo scared of this week of study. Scared and, to be honest, somewhat cynical. Because we have this wonderful, romantic notion that writers just spew forth their work. That it’s already all just there on their heads and they write it down. NO! The most incredible thing I learned this week was just what an incredibly hard graft it can be for some writers to get a novel produced. The many, many hours it takes, especially with redrafting and editing.

Towards the end of the week of study we were invited to (as we are during every week of coursework) take some optional further study. I generally always work through some if not all of the optional further study each week as I have the luxury of time on my side that a lot of my fellow students don’t. This week there were some audio clips to listen to with writers talking about the creative writing process and how they go about character development, genre of writing, narrative and structure (plot and story arcs), and lastly about redrafting and editing. One of the writers speaking was Tim Pears and he spoke about there being two types of writer; those who were good at redrafting and editing their own work, and those that needed help from an editor. Initially he felt that he fell under the first category and that he was quite adept at editing his own work. After a time he realised this was NOT the case and produced much better work with an editor helping him. Before we listened to the final audio clip, we were asked to think about how long we would think the writing of a novel would take on average. I thought I read somewhere some time back that it took about four months. For a first draft at least anyway. Some tweaks, etc…maybe six months, possibly eight. Published within a year, right? Well…Tim Pears said it would take him EIGHT MONTHS to get a first draft together and the redrafting and editing would take another TWO YEARS!!!!!

Lastly, I just want to mention Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘10,000 hours rule’, playing Devil’s advocate as I do so because Gladwell’s theory has by and large been debunked, but – the fundamental piece of it is  – that it takes MANY HOURS of practice to develop skills is the key. Okay, we can also bring in the thing about giving chimps typewriters and after X amount of time they’ll produce the works of Shakespeare, ya da ya da – but the point of it all is – NO ONE IS BORN WITH IT!

If you’re born with it, why would you need to practice? Why would you have to hone your craft? Why would you produce some great work and some not-so-great work? 

And Bob Lefsetz can kiss my ass! (What is it they say about opinions and arseholes? 🤔😜)

And…I should reference this all properly, get my referencing skills honed…but this is for my blog and I cannae be arsed. Having said that, the Wiki reference to Lefsetz’s schooling is a clickable link.

Learning The Craft And Not Chasing High Marks

More on what I shared yesterday – re: Summer Punch and taking the first steps into truly creative writing. The following was written out in my writer’s notebook on Sunday…


I have nothing to prove to anybody but myself. The learning is the most important aspect of my study. The acquisition of knowledge. The reflection of improvement through applied ‘trial and error’. Lessons learned from making mistakes. Not being scared to ‘slip up’ or ‘fail’. Knowledge is gained from trying and accepting failure – not by chasing ‘rewards’ or good grades. This I must remember and remind myself.

I have been so fearful of this creative writing unit this week that I haven’t been enjoying it. This is the reason I am doing this module! So I can learn to improve my writing skills. I think it has already started to do so and I am already putting much more thought into sentence structure and how I organise my words and express my thoughts.

To really improve my writing and become a better writer I need to step out of my comfort zone and I need to stop placing so much emphasis on grades. Of the grades I get on my assignments. Of course, I don’t want to fail my module! But if I do, I may learn more from the experience as a result.

‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself’ (Roosevelt, 1933). I have to stop fearing failure. I need to remind myself that to fear failure is to already fail. Apply myself to the right things for the right reasons.

References:
The White House (2022) Presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States.
Available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/franklin-d-roosevelt/
(Accessed: 26 April 2022).

Summer Punch – Creative Writing Coursework

Yes! I am going to talk about study on my ‘Simple Minds’ blog – sorry. Take no notice of it if it doesn’t appeal. There will be more on this to come tomorrow and you can ignore that too, if you so wish – but in between running this blog and being ‘obsessed’ with all things SM – this is what my days consist of.

This week has been on creative writing and taking the first steps in learning the craft. One task we were given was to write out a scene that would be placed within the broader scope of a short story or novel. It needed to have some fundamental elements to it and to the best of my ability I gave it a try. I’ll elaborate more on this tomorrow, but for now, I just wanted to share my attempt at writing the scene out on here. Not sure why? Just so it could be viewed by other sets of eyes other than my own – but not many. I think fewer people look at my blog than they do my Facebook page so I feel a little less …. vulnerable here. Anyway…here goes…

This is the second draft. The third draft I removed the first paragraph as ‘dead wood’ but it might actually still work and be needed in the context of a broader story.


Wishaw Street is a short, steep street with a steady incline at one end and a steeper incline at the other. Edwina’s house was located near the apex on the steady incline end of the street, while Leonora’s house was closer to the apex at the steep incline end. Their houses were on opposite sides of the street. 

Today Edwina was feeling happy. It was the summer holidays and she was proudly riding around on the street with the new bicycle she had been given for Christmas. The handlebars gleamed shining chrome in the bright, warm sunshine. She loved her new bike and the sense of freedom it gave her as she rode around with it. 

At first Edwina hadn’t noticed Leonora at the side of the road until there was a shout of ‘Your bike is crap and so are you. Go home!’ Leonora and her family had now lived on Wishaw Street for four years. Edwina could barely remember a time since they arrived in which she didn’t feel confined to her own back garden through fear of Leonora’s bullying threats and cruel intentions. 

Today Edwina had had enough. Leonora’s latest insult was the straw that had broken the camel’s back. It was one thing to insult her personally, but to insult her wonderful new bike was a step too far. Leonora had mouthed her final insult. 

Incandescent with rage, her cheeks burning red hot and nerves churning away in the pit of her stomach like Jupiter’s Big Red Spot, Edwina dismounted her bike. Abandoning it in such a haste that it fell to a heap on the curbside. A sharp pang of guilt striking Edwina as the audible thud of the bike hitting the curb reached her ears. ‘My precious bike!’, she screamed inwardly. 

Edwina was now trembling, not from fear of what she was about to do having any repercussions but from the despair of having been driven to take such drastic action. Crying uncontrollably. Tears streaming down her face. Salty water trickling into her open mouth as she gasped for breath and inner strength, Edwina walked up to Leonora and punched her on her left cheek. 

Still crying inconsolably, she turned around, collected her disregarded bike and walked with it the short way back to her front garden. Once again disregarding her bike near the porch by the front door, Edwina opened the screen door and ran into the arms of her mother standing in the living room.

View From The Kit

Not bad, huh? (see below)

It took a little while to get into it but as soon as I had the lesson with Cherisse, it lit the touch paper and got me hungry again.

She has me learning new stuff and at first it seems like I’ll just never get it. I try the beat and I have to keep reading the notes over and over and it never seems like it’ll go in and then all of a sudden…THERE IT IS!

Since Thursday I have been putting in solid practice. 45 mins to an hour a minimum of twice a day. Thrice on Saturday and Sunday.

And to answer your question, Scott? Yep. Today I got back into playing along to songs and being reminded just how LITTLE rhythm I have on the hi-hat. My hi-hat playing truly SUCKS FUCKING ARSE! Honestly. But I have to believe it’ll come. I CAN get rhythm! I HAVE rhythm!

On Sunday I was sitting at the kit and, when I fuck up, I look at those photos on the wall. I look at Jim and just think “I want to be better! I want to be able to play, for you. For myself foremost but…”

You know if there was ever a time (like it would happen!) , just for fun in which he said to me “play me something” – to think I could sit at the kit and just, play a little something. Even just 8 or 16 bars, and it sound like I can hold a note and have rhythm and just…sound okay. You know? Not…knock his socks off. I mean, fuck, that would be fab but it ain’t gonna happen in a month of Sundays! But if he just thought “not bad”. Didn’t laugh at me, or I thought I was shit and said “give up! Now!” Then I’d be happy.

Having those photos there inspires me. Spurs me on! I honestly thought they’d intimidate me (like he tends to do when I am standing near him – as much as I adore him, I kind of fear him too…because I feel an inept and stupid idiot in front of him – all the time – EVERY TIME) or, more predictably, DISTRACT me. But they honestly don’t. They drive me on. Motivate me to do better. To keep going.

I’d like to think he’d be there thinking “Come on, girl. You’ve got this!” when I constantly fuck up. Lol

Can’t help but think what I’d be like playing now had I been able to start learning when I was a kid like I wanted to,

Oh, well…never too late, eh?

Fiddling With The Kit

I’m starting to get to grips with the new kit. Need to do some height and space adjustments to get it right in the sweet spots I want it in.

Some audio below of me fiddling about. You can hear some of the plethora of sounds you can get from the module settings. The are 10 styles of kit to choose from and then many variations from there.

For those wanting to know exactly what the kit is, it’s a Yamaha DTX452K

 

 

200703-174602.mp3

 

A Little Peace…

Recently I have been told by a few people that I write very well. One suggested I contact a music magazine and lodge an application to work for them. This person had written articles themselves for the magazine in question and they gave me the email address of the editor.

I didn’t do anything about it. I would fear pursuing it. It is one thing to write at one’s own leisure your own thoughts and feelings or to write your own musical reviews and share that content on a blog that you have sole say over. It’s quite a different thing to work for someone else and work to a deadline. I’m not sure I could do it.

Just today a person asked me if I write professionally. The answer is no I don’t. There is one minor thing I do in which I write small pieces of text, but I don’t work to a deadline and my “boss” for the most part gives me free rein over what is written.

But could I ever write like this?

That, I strongly doubt. Granted, I have not spent over 40 years of my life writing professionally. And for many years prior to that most likely being quite good at English, enjoying the language and writing stories. Jim did.

I never had the imagination to create imaginary places. Never felt I had “the gift” for that kind of thing. Compared to what I’d hear from others in class, my stories sucked. So as a consequence I guess I felt like writing was just “not my bag”.

Until I read Anne Frank’s diary. To read her diary is to find that, no matter how insular you feel. No matter how insignificant your world may feel to you, you are living a life and you have your own dramas, hopes, fears and dreams. And yes, ultimately her story was so much bigger than what was going on in that tiny annex…but the way she made the minutiae of that circumstance feel is just SSOOO compelling!

Could I have worded how I felt about her diary like that as a 13 year old reading it for the first time? NO WAY! But it was an impetus for me to keep a diary myself. And YES, my life was far, FAR more insignificant (in no way suggesting Frank’s was). BUT…I was writing. I was using language. Trying hard to teach myself a level of expression that was escaping me from not being at school. I just kept wanting to teach myself.

I read books. Not sweeping epics of prose, just regular novels. I tried with Shakespeare. Lord knows I tried. But I attached myself more to James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. I read the poetry of Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson and children’s books by May Gibbs and read the 87th Precinct detective novels of Ed McBain. I read “trash” too. Sidney Sheldon novels and Anne Rice vampire novels. I went from Anne Frank to Anne Rice.

I asked for a concise dictionary for my 15th birthday and read it like a novel.

At the library, I would look at the encyclopaedias and VOLUMES of dictionaries and wish to have them at home. You weren’t allowed to borrow reference books. I could never understand why.

To be asked in recent times whether I write for a living is amazing. To be told by others that I have some kind of “flair” or “way” is wonderful. And just maybe on the odd occasion I allow myself to accept such compliments and think I am worthy of them. But for the most part? No.

Beyond Jim’s beautiful way with words and expressing himself was this…

How could someone believe “an eye for an eye” is good? Because, isn’t that ultimately what war is? An eye for an eye? Fighting fire with fire? Two wrongs don’t make a right, do they?

Why is it such a childish thought to want peace? Not to have wars? And why do we never learn? Why are we destined to make the same mistakes over and over?

How is pacifism NOT the answer? How is love not the answer?

I want to end with this. Because it is just so beautiful in its simplicity. No big words. Just the basics and the question of “why”?

Drum Lesson And Practice – June 29th, 2019

Yesterday was the first tuition I’ve had in two months. Gareth was great. Started me back right from scratch, really. We went right back to basics. We worked on stick grip, rudiments, grooves and fills.

I can’t really talk a lot about it…not really going into much detail. And it felt a lot to take in yesterday because I was so apprehensive about it, but really excited too. There was a lot to take in. Well, it felt a lot yesterday and because I’m so anxious about it all, not everything sinks in immediately.

I checked with Gareth that he wouldn’t mind me recording the lesson. He was fine with that. I won’t be sharing any of that, but I will still share a bit of my own practice here and there.

I’m really thankful that he’s okay with me recording because as it was with Cherisse, upon playback, things register better. My brain absorbs the information better and I always have it to reference it.

I’m about halfway through listening to yesterday’s lesson…and I just lost it. Gareth had me playing along to (rather ironically) No Woman No Cry…and I just started blubbing like a fool. I could just feel it and I could see him in the room with me, helping me keep to the beat, dancing around the room to it and it was just lovely thinking about it…and I just lost it, I feel like an idiot! (I’m crying all over again typing this out! I’m such an oversensitive idiot.)

I’ve just wanted this for so, so long. It was like the 8 year old me was in that room yesterday, learning.

As you get older…once you get to adulthood, you just think all this stuff is just too late. That it’s too late and you’ve missed your chance and it’s all gone. “Don’t bother now. It’s too late. You’re too old. You can’t afford it. And you’ll never learn. You’ll never pick it up. Your mind is young enough. You won’t be as much of a sponge.”

I still feel like that. The adult me says…”You’re 48! Why bother now? Where’s the money gonna come from? How will anything sink in?”

And then I was listening to the lesson and how it was all sinking in and just listening to the playing. Hearing myself play to Bob Marley…and it’s joyous and liberating and wonderful and that 8 year old is there inside saying “Wow. This is cool. I’m getting this. And my teacher is cool. And we’re having fun. And I’m learning and playing…”

And now my face is an absolute mess!

Such a silly cow.

So yesterday was wonderful. And I still want this. More than ever.

But how I continue to do? Who knows…

We’ll see.

Drum Practice – June 23rd, 2019

Woke up mega tired. Didn’t sleep that well. Had silly trivial things (in the context of things) on my mind. Set out early today and got to Mill Hill in plenty o’ time.

I walk past the entrance to a park on my way to the rehearsal rooms each week. So with a bit of time to spare this week, I thought I’d take a quick detour. It’s an ordinary looking park. A decent size for play, etc. A few dog walkers were about. A lady passed me with her cute little Pomeranian in tow. I sat on a park bench for a few mins, setting the world to rights. Lol

I try and hit the studio each week without any overriding feelings of anything. Nothing too positive or negative. Just trying to stay balanced. It obviously doesn’t always work!

I’m getting used to the little routine I have when I enter the room to set up. Get the little recording device out and get that going. Grab the iPod Touch, over-ear headphones and ear protectors, to alternate between them as and when. Adjust the kit. It still drives me nuts (adjusting the kit), but it just has to be done. The day I have my own kit, and it is just ready for me every day….I’ll be kissing my drum kit with a greeting! Lol

I had two goes with my mix of songs. I tentatively tried to play along with fills and things. Really not as easy as it seems it will be doing the stick practice at home.

I also tried playing the backbeats to Glittering Prize. OMG! If Mel Gaynor was no longer with us, he’d have been rolling in his grave today! Lol. If he ever hears my attempt, he WILL die! Lol. 😂😂😂😂

But instead of just getting frustrated and angry, or despondent and disillusioned…I just tried to make it fun today. Just resign myself to it – in a positive way. Just accept there’s a way to go…but just relax. Just try to enjoy the time more. It’ll make the learning easier in the end. I spoke over the top of what I was “playing” and just took the piss out of myself.

One drumming session at a time. Tiny smatterings of progress MAY just happen that I don’t detect. I dunno. I’ve just got to get into the habit of embracing the frustrations and accepting them happening and see them as fun too. What I am doing is fun! I get to make a racket and hit and bash things for two hours.

This week I just tried to play along as confidently as my lack of actual musicality and expertise will allow. Just to loosen up and just have fun. I’ll even share a bit of my stuff on here, just because I think they’ll be funny. Just me waffling and playing and giving “critiques” to myself on the fly.

Next week, I am very, VERY excited about. AT LAST! I get tuition again! Not with Cherisse, as she is still on the road with Kelly Jones at the mo…and I think will have a few other things after the tour ends. So next week, Gareth will be my tutor. I really am overdue some tuition time. There is stuff I want to get moving onto and implementing. I need some routine with this. If I am serious.

I just feel like…I started the commitment, so I need to give it a good old stab for a while, you know?

Anyway. Appalling but funny snippets to come…and YAY to next week!

Drum Practice – June 2nd

Hadn’t been feeling the best the past few days and suffered a mild vasovagal syncope near miss in London on Thursday in the queue to get into Broadcasting House for a recording of The News Quiz. Sadly, Miles Jupp’s last one. Didn’t know that when I got the tickets.

I could feel the wave. Sat down on the pavement. Controlled my breathing. After several moments, it passed.

I also had…let’s say “an unexpected visitor” on Wednesday…so, yeah. Hadn’t been feeling great. Ended up flaming knackered from London on Thursday. Always do the walk from St Pancras to Broadcasting House and back via Euston and Great Portland Road which is the same distance I have doing my walking for the drum practice – 10km.

So, I’ve walked a half marathon within the space of three days…no wonder I’m knackered!

ANYWAY. Despite feeling very not in the mood for going, I dragged my sorry arse out today. I had already booked my 2 hour session and already paid for my train ticket. So, I know that isn’t a lot of money for most people, but under my current circumstance – £16 is a lot of money for me to squander. I wasn’t having it!

And, you know…certain other factors help keep me driven. A little nagging voice that says “no one likes a quitter!” was nattering away. Even though I was backchatting to it, saying, “I don’t care what you fucking think. Sometimes…there are just…circumstances. Shut the fuck up! And anyway….just for YOU, I ain’t quitting! Not this week. So, button it. Arsehole!” Lol. Yes…I have those kind of ridiculous internal monologues.

Ultimately I just thought, “What is there to lose?” I’d booked my time and my train. I had lots of walking to do, yes. That was the thing that I was least in the mood for, to be honest. But…I did it.

Electrical failures meant trains were delayed and cancelled. Mercifully not MY train. It was delayed by several minutes, but not cancelled. I arrived 10 minutes late and I needed to leave 10 mins early to make a train home that would allow me to get a bus back nearer to home…just for this week, so I had a break from all the walking.

The session went good. There were some things hindering me, as usual. Adjustments to the kit that I successfully made. So that was good. I couldn’t get sound from my iPod out of the amp/monitor thingy. It seemed wired up right…but I just couldn’t hear anything. So I just practiced beats. And I worked on integrating some hi hat pedal play. I felt it was time I needed to work on that, so I gave it a go.

So, yep…the session felt pretty good. Here are a couple of audio snippets of what I was working on…

Lol. That end bit is my “Fuck this – I’m shit!” wail of exasperation.

I’m very, VERY tired. The trains coming back were delayed and cancelled still. So my 2.10pm train to get me back in time for the bus to get me closer to home was delayed and meant I’d miss the bus. So…I did all the walking I’d usually do and I was KNACKERED. AM knackered. But feel kinda good. Feel good in that the session felt like it went well.

Listening back to some of what I recorded today, I sound…okay. Never gonna set the world on fire at this point…but at least I sounded kind of adept today.

Baby steps.