Rusty Chops -- The Solution

I'm currently at the very begining of a new story. So far, I've written five so-so pages. I haven't totally connected yet. I'm not in the zone. It's not coming easily so I allowed myself to be distracted by a new story idea and blamed a heavy work (day job) week on my lack of productivity. I have the next three days off. I need to dig in. I need to haul butt. And I will. ("I will," she said, shaking a defiant fist at the doubt gremlins.) I may not be particularly inspired just now, but I am motivated. This is a contracted book. I promised to deliver. Enough said.

This morning, I instantly pegged why I'm dragging my feet. It's because I feel rusty. I've been working on revisions for the last four weeks. Three weeks on a manuscipt One week on a synopsis. Yes, I was writing, but, for me, revising a completed work is not the same as creating a story from scratch. I haven't flexed those particular creative muscles in one month. I'm out of practice. Out of shape. Rusty. Getting this story off of the ground, getting back into a productive routine, is going to be a struggle.

Well, crud. That's not fun. How much easier it would be to keep researching that new story idea or allowing the day job to get in the way. Except for that pesky contract. And, oh yeah, my dream career. Writing.

This 'rusty' epiphany comes on the heels of a brush with my old dream career. Singing. I performed last night, my first singing gig since July. The first set was rough physically. Not on my body, but my voice. I guess singing in my car on the thirty-minute drive to the gig wasn't sufficient warm-up after not working that particular muscle for almost three months. Heh.

My limitations were apparent on the first song. I had no range. Anytime I tried to reach, I choked. Literally. What should have been a cake gig was now a challenge. Not only because it taxed my voice, but because it tapped my insecurities. I wasn't in peak condition. I was not going to sound my best. I was going to disappoint the audience, my band, and, because I am my own worst critic, myself. All of these thoughts went through my head in the first three minutes of this gig. I had 237 minutes to go. (Kind of like the first three pages of a 300 page book, no?)

Thing was, this was a contracted gig. I couldn't pack up and go home just because I had rusty chops. I had no one to blame, but myself. I wouldn't be so rusty if I sang, even if only in the shower, every day. But I didn't. Fact: I had to make it to to the end of the gig. I was out of shape. This was going to be a struggle. Not fun. Crud.

Iggy, my keyboardist, sang the next song, and within those four minutes I devised a solution. Note to self: Don't go for the high notes until you're more warmed up. Sing within a comfotable range until you hit 'the zone'. You don't have to dazzle right off the bat. Consider this a rehearsal. No one's paying attention anyway. They're either eating dinner or watching the baseball game on those TV's over the bar. Don't expect perfection. Relax, focus, and keep going.

The second set came easier. The third and fourth sets whizzed by. I wasn't in peak condition by the end of the night, but I wasn't rusty either. I had more range, more confidence. And because I worked within my immediate limitations, I didn't sound half bad. I made it to the end and no one pelted me with insults or drink garnishes. Success.

This morning I can't help but comparing last night's gig to my current story. My writing chops are rusty. Note to self: Don't strive for perfection. You don't have to dazzle right off the bat. Consider this a rehearsal. No one's paying attention anyway. Your editor's editing other stories. Your audience is reading other books. Relax, focus, and keep going.

Of course, that signed contract will keep me motivated, but what if I didn't have that professional deadline? Well then, I guess I'd rely on my dream for motivation. Though I may feel rusty now, if I keep at it, I'll soon be loose and in the zone. Less struggle, more fun.

On that note, I'm off to flex my creative muscles. Note to self: Relax, focus, and keep going.


Gabriele C. said…
You should set aside 10-15 minutes every day to sing scales. I do it even when I'm suffering from my spring allergy and sound like neighbour's randy tomcat. The first time I got that bloody allergy and didn't sing for six weeks and boy, was my voice rusty. Like you, no height, no legato, nor friggin' breath. So I made it a habit to sing every day if possible.
Bruno Amato said…
You WILL, You WILL!!!!...Kick A** Beth and take names!!!
FeyRhi said…
You might feel a bit shakey at this moment but before you know it your fingers will be flying. It's the 'Zone' and it's calling your name *G*
Anna Lucia said…
Gabriele's right - singing's such good exercise and good for stress (and the soul) too! I used to come back from lessons exhausted!

As for the rest....

First Draft.

First Draft.

First Draft.

First Draft.

First Draft.

First Draft.

If necessary, print it out and stick it to your monitor. It's a FIRST DRAFT. Like you say, you don't have to sparkle right off the bat. :-)
Beth Ciotta said…
Gabriele, even when I was singing full-time, six-nights a week every week, I never warmed up. I know. I know. So wrong. I geared up mentally, but not physically. So weird. A very bad habit that I have never broken. I also never stretched before dance gigs. Probably perpetuated my current bad knees situation. My mind set was always to just 'hit it' and 'be on'. I'm realizing now that that 'mind set' has flowed over to my writing. Hmm. Does writing this blog count as 'singing scales' in the writing world, do you think?

Oh, I can't imagine that you EVER sound like an allergy-ridden, randy tomcat. LOL EVen when rusty I bet you sound beautiful. :) Hats off to you, a singer who keeps her voice well oiled.
Beth Ciotta said…
Bruno, awesome pep talk there. Thank you! I'm takin' names!

FeyRhi, I almost hit 'the zone' last night! I could feel it, well lmost feel it. LOL

Anna, your comment made me think about how I never sing for pleasure anymore. I can't think of the last time I just 'broke out in song'. Where is that little girl who used to sing 'Born Free' and Downtown' at the top of her lungs while swinging on a swing or riding her bike, or heck just walking in the wild? Maybe I need to rig a swing to the tree in my backyard. LOL

I'm thinking it's maybe because I sang for a living for so long. Night after night, year after year. It's kind of like I'm all sung out. I certainly hope that never happens with my writing. Speaking of...

First draft.
First draft.
First draft.
Larissa said…
I HATE it when a new work starts out like that! I always find that I need to dig into the characters a little more when that happens. Don't know if that's your issue...sounds like you know what it is, but that's usually mine! *g*
Constance said…
Beth, writing this blog definitely counts as 'singing scales'. There is no pressure here. We'll be standing by to harass...err, encourage you. :)

Of course, this is from someone whose voice is such that when I answer the phone, I'm usually asked if my mother is home...
Bethany said…
Rusty? Who's rusty (bowing my head in shame)? After spendings weeks in revision mode, starting a whole new story completely throws me off track...

Take deep breaths and then take those baby steps. You'll get there!
Beth Ciotta said…
Hi Larissa! I know these characters because it's a continuation book. Although that very thing did happen to me on my previous western. Not 'knowing' the herione well enough held me up for weeks. No, this is just a matter of focusing and getting in the zone. I'll get it. Eventually. ;)
Beth Ciotta said…
Constance, harass away. I can take it! :)

BTW, I get that 'is your mother home' thing all the time too. I'm guesssing, like me, you sort of sound like Minnie Mouse?
Beth Ciotta said…
"Take deep breaths and then take those baby steps."

Right back atcha, Bethany!! :0)
Constance said…
I was told I sound like a 12 year old. :( On the other hand, I can honestly answer that my mother's not home. *snicker*

Of course, both my boys sing baritone in choir. Go figure. I would be more of an ADD mezzo-soprano, meaning I meant to sing the words properly, but got distracted and wandered up and down the scale...

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