"Writing itself becomes the subject of the writing course..."

 — Michael Carter       


It’s Hard Being Easy

February 10th, 2015 by

Looks can be deceiving.

I remember watching a heavy metal band acting as though the real power in their guitars was coming through their mighty strums. They’d grimace and reach as they’d play a power chord.

The theatrics was always fun to me as a youngster. But the truth is that power chords are generally among the easiest chords to play on a guitar. I learned this when I picked up guitar at 14.

In contrast, the other day, I was reminded of guitar-legend Eric Clapton’s nickname, given to him by his peers: “Slow hand.” He plays such intense leads on the guitar and plays them so slowly that they look easy.

Looks can be deceiving. The really difficult parts to play on a guitar are often made to look easy. It looks easy because the guitarist practiced the piece over and over and over again, learning ways to make the fingering possible without having to jerk from one end of the neck of the guitar to the other. This takes practice, of course. And it is not easy. It just looks easy.

Some writers make their writing look easy. That also is a trick. It simply looks easy. It isn’t. It took a great deal of work to make it look that smooth.

Like the disciplined guitar player, successful writers go over and over their writing until they are able to express complicated ideas in the simplest way possible. As Kurt Vonnegut noted of Shakespeare, “To be or not to be” only has one word of three letters in it. Yet the concept is not easy (66).

The trouble is that beginners think that this is easy. It is not. It takes practice. Vonnegut himself had to write two books before his deceptively simple style, his way of sounding like someone “from Indianapolis” emerged (66).

It takes practice; what looks easy usually took a great deal of work and labor.

Works Cited
Vonnegut, Kurt. “How to Write with Style.” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (24.2): 66, 67.

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Comment by Joseph Bentz on February 12, 2015 at 10:59 am

Yes, whenever I read a review that speaks of a writer’s “effortless prose,” I think, it may be effortless for the reader, but I bet it was agonizing for the writer. I enjoyed your insights about the guitar.

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