Foremost among the things eleven + years of blogging has taught me is how important it is to use my own shortcomings whenever trying to point out how misguided we as humans can sometimes be. It's possible this pointing in vs. pointing out - as difficult as it can be, especially for an egotist like me - is one of the reasons comics often get their biggest laughs using themselves as the butt of their jokes.
I've aspired to be a good improviser on guitar for a long time. But only quite recently did I begin to understand why that aspiration has continually eluded me. And that understanding came to me as I prepared to write a blog post, one that could have easily ended up in the "pointing out" camp if I hadn't stepped back.
My aspiration to be a good improviser on guitar has been thwarted because of one simple fact: I have not spent enough time studying, de-constructing, and then assiduously copying the great solos of world-class improvisers. Thousands of hours spent practicing the instrument and additional studying of many other aspects of the guitar have helped make me a better overall player. But not devoting the needed time to learn great solos - guitar or otherwise - has left me with average improvisational abilities. Painful lesson? You bet. But arriving at it honestly beats using examples of the aspiring songwriters or memoirists I've met to make the same point. Pointing out their shortcomings is lazy. Better to state the obvious: Unless an aspiring artist from any field is working from recognized models while honing their craft, that artist is bound to come up short, just as I have as an improviser.
Acclaimed novelist Ernest Gaines was once asked the best way to become a writer. His elegant answer: "Read, read, then read some more". There is no shortcut, magic bullet, or other way. Take it from me, the one pointing in: Study, deconstruct, copy. Then be patient and await your emerging voice.