“If you want to wait a couple minutes, I can show you how to turn a vegetable into a musical instrument.”
This was not a conversation I was expecting when I went into the shopping centre today.
In fact, the day started off fairly normal. It was the first free Saturday I’ve had in the last few weeks. No travelling or drama, no work to worry about. I had the entire day stretching before me, and I would not let it go to waste.
I packed my bag, drew up a list of writing plans and errands, and made my way down to the shopping centre. The library – or discovery centre, as it is called here – is located on the upper floors of this building, and as such I made a beeline for it. Climbing the stairs two at a time, laptop bag slung over my shoulders, I couldn’t hide the smile from my face.
I didn’t take long for me to set up shop. My laptop clanked onto the little desk I had found, tucked away beside the plays and poetry. Being surrounded by books, writing whatever I wanted, relaxing in comfort of librarians and the smell of old pages.
Suffice to say, it was a great morning.
However, as the afternoon drew near, and the number of people in the library grew, I’d out of steam. I’d started writing up a chapter-by-chapter plot outline of the story I was working on. And though I felt a sense of accomplishment for what I had done so far, my brain was little more than a prune dried out with fatigue and doubt.
Would this finally help me overcome my plot holes? I had no idea. Writing being what it is, I had a horrid sensation of having to change everything in a few weeks time. All the work I had done so far, washed away with a single character’s choice to not follow the script. It has happened to me far too many times, and staring down at the map I had created, I began to worry about whether I could really stick to it this time.
As these thoughts began to take hold, my laptop let out a panicked ping. It was dying. I slipped out of my chair to grab my charger, only to notice the lack of plug sockets under the desk.
Bugger. Oh well. Time for a break anyway.
I packed up my writing kit and set off for a walk. I grabbed some lunch on the way and, munching quietly to myself, I wandered the wide white hallways of the shopping centre aimlessly. All the while my worries buzzed in the back of my head, the cogs of storytelling clanking like clockwork in my skull.
That is, until the sound of guitars drew the sound out of me.
I approached the sound to find a large room, already half-full of people. There was a small collection of colourful chairs in the centre, where a few mums were sipping coffee and smiling, and a large counter covered with leaflets on the right hand side. But my eyes were drawn to the walls on either side – from front to back, the room was filled with instruments. Guitars, bass, violins, drums and so many more.
Children were running back and forth, their laughter bouncing beneath the music like a joyful beat. A couple of teenagers were there, trying out the guitars and smirking to themselves as they played. Even an older man, bald and dressed in baggy joggers, was cracking a grin as his hands moved up and down the fret board of a bass guitar. As I stood in the doorway of this strange scene my thoughts instantly dissappated, replaced with an excited bubble that made a smile burst onto my face.
I tried out everything. I slapped the drumsticks on the drum kit, I made a mum politely grimace as I screeched a tune on the violin. My rough memory of guitar practise came back to me, and I managed to play a half-decent tune until my finger slipped and the guitar made a horrid THUNK as I almost dropped it.
My favourite by far was the electric guitar. Not because I was any good at it, oh no. I was truly and utterly horrendeous. But as I balanced the instrument on my lap, strumming a tune attune to a cat screaming in agony, I felt completely elated. I wasn’t any good, but I knew it.
I wasn’t here to be good. I was here to have fun.
After an hour or so, I felt the usual itch to write once more. I said goodbye to the member of staff I was speaking to – sadly, I wasn’t as keen on veggie instruments as he was – and made my way to a Costa to write.
Surprisingly, when I opened my laptop and stared at my chapter outline again, it wasn’t as dreadful as I remembered. Far from it. I felt a wave of excitement as I read through my notes. Who cares if I had to change it later? Who cares if it is bad to start with? All I wanted to do was dive into this world I had constructed. All I wanted to do was have fun.
There is something empowering about being terrible at something and doing it anyway. To take hold of a pen – or, in this case, an electric guitar – and be absolutely comfortable with making something completely horrendous. I suppose that’s where it all begins; art starts with making rubbish happily and ends with making something with pride.
Shoutout to Anvil Arts, who were in charge of arranging the musical session I walked in on. They help to organise performing arts initiatives in my local area, so if you would like to support what they do, head to their website here. Also, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @ERHollands or on this blog to make sure you don’t miss the next post!