Keyboards stringendo*

It’s official – I am constipated. When it comes to writing, nothing will flow. All I manage to produce is those things that only a rabbit would be proud of…not for nothing do they call it writers block. But where is the Senokot, the cascara, even the vile castor oil, of the pen? Enough already with the unpleasant metaphors, I wouldn’t want people to describe my writing as crap or worse.

There’s a novel by George Gissing ‘New Grub Street’, written in 1891. It’s about a man who’s suffering from writer’s block while trying to finish a novel that he secretly knows is rubbish. This man goes about thinking ‘What could I make of that, now? Well, suppose I made him——? But no, that wouldn’t do.’ And although he’s determined to write, he procrastinates the day away. Just like me, even though there was no internet in the time it was written.

James Thurber said ‘Don’t get it right, just get it written.’ It was in his story published in 1939, The Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing. The moral is ironic in this case, in which sheep don’t do enough research before writing about wolves, resulting in the sheep being easy prey. All very well, but you have to have something to write about in the first place. Maybe I should try doing things that way, though. But not freewrites, I’ve never been able to do those. Maybe I should stop stressing over it, just sit down and write. But I’m an outliner, most of the time. So maybe just run at the computer and do that?

It reminds me of my childhood. Here comes yet another memory. We had a grand piano in our front room. I had lessons for about three years, playing things from a book called ‘Kiddies Carols’ (think ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ at a quarter of the speed – if things had really happened that slowly JC would have been ready for his barmitzvah once the kings arrived) and later, when I got a bit further, ‘Peasant’s Frolic’ and ‘The Little Spinner’ and ‘Für Elise’. Eventually I gave the piano up for the clarinet, which was easier to take on the bus. But the person who could play the best was my father. He could improvise any tune you could name. I remember when I was about 7, singing songs from the book we used in school: ‘Down in Demerara’. Later, he’d accompany my recorder playing: ‘Go and tell Aunt Nancy’. I wish he could accompany me now; I’m singing show tunes, classical pieces, Shakespeare, Ladino songs. Every one accompanied by ‘shut up’ from the rest of the family.

Anyway, this is relevant because there were a couple of pieces that my father had trouble getting right. One was Chopin’s Piano Concerto number 1 (start at 3:59 if you want to know what he was up against). He would run at the piano and just play, before it had the chance to catch him out, to go wrong. So maybe it’s a bit like Thurber’s don’t get it right thing. Just get it played. So I sat down and wrote. The phone rang. The doorbell rang. Someone else came to the door. But I got it written. And here it is.

*Stringendo