In this guest blog post, Anita Rose Merando examines the creative processes of singing and writing, and the random, sometimes fickle and unforeseen ways they flow from us and into their final form.
The Nature of Process
It is not glamorous or exciting, grabbing attention, or commanding the spotlight. In fact, most of us prefer to keep it hidden away, out of sight. Yet, if pressed to express my belief in a single word, I must insist that I believe in
As a teacher, singer, storyteller and most recently, a writer, I find myself steeped in process. Why is it that I suffer through failed attempts only to wake up eager to try again the next day? I seek understanding; I question and pry, romancing all the permutations, dwelling in the darkest recesses, attempting to shed light on this path.
If I cook, does that make me a chef?
If I work out, does that make me an athlete?
If I plant flowers, am I a
I don’t know.
However, lately, I feel I am a writer.
So each day I write.
I remember teaching at a school requiring timed exercises in all subjects. In the school yearbook, one student wrote, “You do not know the value of a minute until you have been timed.” I feel that the writing process is a little like that. I write and I write daily, sometimes for prescribed amounts of time, and for the first time in my life, I see its value.
I write to
I also sing, and I know that I am a singer.
I cannot imagine going through the day without attention to my voice. I listen for and to voices, almost without realizing that I am listening. I study voice with great respect and rigor. Scales, breathing exercises, yawns, and random noises. I feel for the way air passes through my body, across my tongue and the roof of my mouth. I wait for the air to escape my nostrils, its cooling sensation telling me that I am breathing correctly. I examine my body for tension, from my toes to the tips of my hair. I look in the mirror for what could possibly be distorting my sound. In this way, I learn intimate details about myself, and when no one is there, I sing naked in front of the mirror, looking for the one place that I am twisted or contorted, disturbing the flow of air that alters the pureness of sound. All that for just the air!
And then, how do I get the right sound to communicate a phrase or better yet a word or still a single syllable? Shall I move it forward or back along my tongue? Do I breathe into it? Lean back from it? Straighten or soften the tone? When it sounds just the way I want it, can I ever be sure that it wasn’t done before, in just that same way, by Ella or Billie, or by someone just throwing it away on a street corner or at the local Karaoke club? Was this moment that I honed to perfection just something from the collective consciousness that cannot be distinguished as anything new to say? If it was a real gem, will I ever be able to replicate it?
So it is when I write.
Now that I have started, I know that I have to keep writing. It is not an option, simply to
It is not as easy as examining myself for holding and tension. Then I am already starting with something concrete, flawed, but definite. When I write, there is nothing there, just thought and feeling, and a blank page or screen. There is the feel of the pen or keyboard, the smell of the coffee or wine. There is the hum of fans or heaters and the sounds of life being lived. However, they are not the frame that I hang my ideas upon. That is reserved for me, with me, within me. It lives in my knowledge, experiences, musings, and wanderings. Once I let my inspiration escape onto the page, there is the time spent honing each phrase, or word, or syllable, feeling for the rhythm and pulse. Then, when I get it ‘just so,’ how will I know how many others have said it before, in elegant prose, sophisticated narrative, more clever and revealing than I could ever hope to be?
As my voice teacher reminds me, I journey toward the imperfect voice, one that is pure, but believable in its flaws, and so it is with words to
So, I continue with the process, writing