Friday, April 16, 2021



This is my concertina. I've been playing for about ten years now and I just recently reunited with my wonderful teacher from Cape Cod, Jan Elliot. Through the magic of Zoom we're able to continue my lessons.

I am learning to play the famous French song by Charles Trenet, "Boum!"

"Boum!" is a World War II era anthem, and since my novel-in-progress has flashbacks to Paris in the forties and my hero's mother danced to the song and sent encoded messages to la R√©sistance -- well, I thought it would be a good idea to learn the song!  

Jan is the most patient teacher ever and she has a great technique. She calls it telescopic and microscopic. Here's how it works: for the telescopic part, she has me play the entire song all the way through, without stopping, even if I miss the notes and play really badly. It's all about getting the flow. And this technique has taught me an important performance lesson. When I mess up, I must smile and pretend that I actually meant do to that! See, I'm playing with the music. I'm improvising! I'm just checking to make sure you're awake!

And then Jan has me play microscopic, which means I take one section or phrase and play it over and over again until I get it right, until it creates a kind of groove in my brain.

I think it's the same thing with writing. First, there's this sweep where you write fast and big and full of imagination with broad wild strokes and seemingly unconnected ideas. You throw open the doors for the muse to come on in and toss the furniture around, make a mess, and perhaps even find out what's hiding underneath the sofa. Ah, a clue! An ax! A stolen ashtray! My mother's necklace! My boyfriend's college ring!

And then, I go back and I work on a micro level. I look at what I've got so far and see what makes sense and what might work in the bigger flow of the book. And then, I smooth it out. I focus in on one section at a time.

This telescopic-microscopic way of looking at your work can be applied to so many things, from music to writing to dancing to composing and to even cooking! In fact, I just took a Zoom swing dance class through the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga and the teacher taught the same way. First he broke down the steps as little "phrases" and we learned the steps one by one and then slowly through the course of the class, we put them together. By the end, we were able to dance the entire song. 

So your creative prompt for this week is to look at a creative project and ask yourself how the telescopic-microscopic approach can work for you.

And your word of the week is: DANCE

Have fun!




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