It’s amazing how often this happens. You are desperate to get a certain something achieved so you slog your socks off for what seems like an eternity - yet it just doesn’t seem to be going your way. You follow expert advice, you brainstorm, you do your warm-ups, you practise like hell. You do all the right things, in fact. Eventually, after a superhuman effort, the thing you are working at reaches a stage where it’s sort of OK - but still, it’s not really there. Something just seems to be lacking. So you leave it for a bit and go away and do something else, but it keeps festering at the back of your brain. Then one day you go back and try again from a fresh angle. And suddenly, as if by magic, it all falls into place. It clicks.
I’m no psychologist but I’ve observed that this is a common pattern with any skill or achievement. A long struggling and striving phase tests your commitment before you are rewarded with eurekas. I’ve found it to be the case recently with both the writing and the music.
My first draft of novel two has been behaving very badly. Yes, I know you shouldn’t expect much from a first draft; I know that it’s ‘simply shovelling sand into a box so that later you can build castles’ (Shannon Hale). But although the characters and plot have been in my head for months, the process of getting them into words has been extremely heavy going. The novel just refused to bounce along the way my first one did. I ploughed on as writers must, especially when they have a two-book contract (sorry – I had to throw that in! Not boasting or anything. Just saying.) Now, at long last, I can report that the project has stopped dragging its feet. It’s realised I’m not going to give up and it’s decided to take off. Just like those spring fledgelings who kept on floundering clumsily on the ground... but then suddenly mastered the art of flying.
The same goes for the songs I’ve been learning for Foxwillow Trio. At the start there was a ridiculous amount to remember: the key and chord sequence for each song, the cues, the timing, the fingering and the complicated formats, all to be played by ear and by heart. After months of practice I managed to play them reasonably well. But only recently, after a another spate of struggling and a little break, has the music really started to cooperate with me. Now I notice a huge difference. The songs have got right inside me physically, mentally and emotionally. They are in my muscle memory, in my brain and in my heart. After masses and masses of effort the music now pours out – effortlessly! Hooray! It’s clicked.