Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Chain

I've been listening to Ingrid Michaelson almost exclusively in recent days. I just seem to be in that mode, that mindset of bittersweet honesty. Plus her voice is incredible. The next few posts you see will probably reflect this.

I finished my novel on Monday. 50,055 words in a complete novel in 29 days. Officially declared a winner by Score! It was difficult. Not the most difficult thing I've ever done, but pretty intense. I learned some things from it I'm sure. But the first thing that comes to mind is

1. Writing a novel is difficult, but not impossible, even for a normal person like me.
2. When writers say their characters take on a life of their own, they're telling the truth. It really happened to me. I wouldn't know what I was going to type or what they were going to do, but then my fingers would start going and they would do and say things. It was marvelous and scary. And most of what came out was horrible, but as this is my first novel, I'm not that concerned about it. My friend Maggie pointed that out and it made me laugh. I said "It's complete crap." and she said "Well, it's your first novel." Like "Of course, it's just practice, you can't be good at everything the first time through." and implying that there will be other novels. I appreciated the reminder and encouragement.

That being said, I have started to think about other novels I want to right. One is a collection of modern-day Aesop's fables with one character consistent through all of them. Things like what to do once one has encountered the "blue screen of death" in computers or things like that. Mostly silly.
I also really want to write that novel about my family. I think it would be incredible.
So, I again open the invitation for anyone to join me on these ventures. Whether it's during actual Novel Writing month or outside of it.

And now with that being said, I received an email this morning from one of the official NaNoWriMo people about what to do from here and he emphasized the importance of continuing to write every day, as exercise, like practice as an athlete or musicians. You must continue to use your "writing muscles" if you want them to develop. So for the umpteenth time I'm going to promise to write in this blog more frequently, and I will probably fail at that again, but I will have good intentions.

So for today's installment of "Wibbles practices writing" I will tell the story of my Chicago audition a week ago.

The Grant Park Symphony Orchestra in Chicago, IL held auditions for principal oboe in Chicago on November 25th. The finals were on the 25th and the preliminaries, which they called semi-finals to make you feel better about the progress you had achieved by simply being granted an audition and showing up to it, were also on the 25th and the 24th if necessary. They were necessary. This means a lot of oboists auditioned for this one position. I had prepared for the audition fairly well, practicing almost consistently and always thoughtfully. I had a lesson with Betty Camus of the Cleveland Orchestra who gave me very good things to think about and tried to prepare me for the reality of auditioning -- this particular position has been open for the past several consecutive summers; that means this orchestra is not in the convenient habit of hiring the person who wins this audition ... expectations should be set low for the auditioner. Regardless, I decided I might actually have a chance to win the audition. After all, I was "qualified" ... my being granted an audition determined that, since "only qualified applicants need[ed] apply." Already that says something, right? About me? I'm qualified. Then I had good feedback from people who give good feedback only when warranted. I was feeling good. But as I started getting closer to the audition, I decided to lower my expectations a little more, so as not to disappoint myself too very much. I thought I'd settle for advancing to the finals, because that indeed seemed a reasonable goal. I went to Chicago early, because I have friends that I was staying with there, I like the city and it's the smart oboe thing to do ... so your reeds settle and adjust to the new climate, and if necessary you can make new ones. Let's get something straight: I don't make reeds ... I'm terrible at it (but that's not totally relevant). I practiced a few times while there. I hung out with my friends. I went to masterclasses of people I don't know and missed the portion with the person I did know. I did a trial audition for the people I was staying with because they're amazing musicians AND they love Jesus. Plus they are really good at Life. All of them. It's amazing. They've definitely been given more than their quota of awesome-at-life-ness. So I played for them and learned some important things ... I would NOT be playing the blue reed, and I had a problem starting my phrases. I'm fine once I get into them, it was just getting them started that was particularly problematic. Mrs. Awesome-at-Life helped me with this a little bit, coming up with some non-oboe theories which worked remarkably well for the oboe. Or for me, at least. But after I played for them, I lowered my expectations again, to not advancing, but merely playing as honestly and truly to myself as I could (which is probably actually raising my expectations, even though it feels like a compromise to the human musician in me). Then they prayed for me and I went to bed. I laid there for a little while, thinking about my scarf in the other room. That conversation with myself went a little something like this.

"My scarf is in the other room, where son-of-Mrs.-Awesome-at-Life is sleeping. That means I can't get it in the morning and I really want to wear it to my audition. Son is still awake right now, I could go get it. But if I did that, I would have to get out of bed. That is both cold, inconvenient and awkward, as I'm in a sleeping bag which makes a lot of noise when you move, and it is not easy to get out of. Maybe I can just sneakily get it in the morning when I leave. No, that would be rude and awkward, especially if Son were to wake up. It would all be over. I should get it now, it would only take a second and then I'd be on my way to sound sleep, which I need since I have to get up so early. No. I'll just leave it. I won't need it. I'll be fine, really. Okay."

Then somewhere after that I fell asleep finally. And I slept VERY soundly. My alarm went off and I only snoozed once, I think, before getting up nearly-obscenely early to shower and prepare for the audition. Everything there went fine. I returned to my bed to discover a text message from my coworker telling me she was praying for me and wishing me good luck. That was the beginning of God using every tool in his arsenal to tell me He loved me. I'm not even going to tell you all of what He did. But suffice it to say ... it was awesome. Definitely the best part of the day. Mrs. Awesome-at-Life took me to the train station with some hot tea in hand and there I waited ... a little longer than I was planning, because apparently I misread the train schedule. Then I got sad. Then I said "I left myself plenty of time and I can't do anything about it anymore." And I relaxed and listened to my iPod, going over one of my most beautiful excerpts to prepare and enjoying my hot tea.

Okay, this has gotten too long. I'll just bullet point the rest of the experience. (Today's lesson in writing: don't spend too long in establishing the setting.)

-- I got to the train station and almost walked the wrong direction, but because the crossing signs worked better to walk a different direction, I went that way -- totally God's providence and hand of direction -- literal direction.

-- I got a text message from my coworker again saying that they would still love me even if I got scared and threw up in my oboe. I laughed out loud.

-- When I got to the park, I didn't see a soul except a Hispanic groundskeeper who clearly didn't speak much English. I didn't know which door to go in and didn't want to dig in my bag for the paper, so I asked her. The conversation went like this:

me: "Hello. Do you work here?"
Hispanic Groundskeeper: "Yes."
[sweep, sweep]
me: "Do you know if there are auditions here today?"
HGk: "Yes."
me: "Which door do I need to go in for the auditions?"
HGk: "Yes."
me: "Ow-dish-eons. Today?"
HGk: "Now?"
me: "Yes! *point to building* which door? *make motions like opening a door*"
HGk: "This door unlocked probably."
[Leads me to a door. The door's locked.]
HGk: "I let you in."
[Takes key ... still on lanyard around her neck ... unlocks door and lets me in.]
Elated me: "Thank you so much! Have a good day!"

-- Then an almost angry tech guy gets mad at me for using the wrong door, but points to me where I need to go.

-- I check in and am assigned number 31. I look at the list of people for the day. I have heard of a handful, but not most. The day begins with number 24. That means there were 23 people who auditioned the previous day. I notice my friend Lindsay is supposed to audition as well. I figure it's over for me. That's fine, I've already re-established my expectations. Honesty. Honesty. Quality. Then I say to God. "Just don't let me be fine or mediocre. Make me extraordinary. Whether extraordinarily bad or extraordinarily good, just let it be extraordinary." He laughs.

-- I enter the group warm-up room. It's very quiet, except a few girls talking who already know each other.

-- I get some of my stuff out, but I can't decide how I want to do it. I get more texts messages from friends encouraging me. I tweet constantly because I'm bored and nervous. I've given up listening to my playlist of excerpts and opt for the playlist of songs I like and that make me happy "Go Time" it's called on my iPod. I start smiling and almost laughing out loud. Definitely bopping my head.

-- I look around at the room and see the other very oboey oboists and decide I don't want to be anything like them. I want to be me.

--I realize my identity is not in any way based or even associated with this audition and its results. Neither is my love of music. I am relaxed and ready.

-- I go to the audition private warm-up room. Everything sounds pretty good. I go to the pre-audition private warm-up room. Standby, I guess, where I learn the final audition list. I am sad. I have to play Brahms Violin Concerto. Of course.

-- I audition. It's fine. But I literally chuckle out loud when I walk into the very nice bandroom. In the middle of the giant room is a box of velvet curtains. I am not behind a screen, the panel is. They have boxed themselves in, in the middle of the room, by black velvet curtains all the way around. It's very funny looking. I laugh and relax. The audition is fine. Very honest to my playing. I am pleased. Although it was neither extraordinarily bad nor good ... that's a little disappointing, but the truth is I'd rather be honest and fine than extraordinarily bad -- because I can be proud of that in a good way, I don't have to settle for joking about how bad it was and "learning the hard way."

-- No one in my hour of auditions advances. Not surprised, but a little disappointed, I head back.

-- I have a marvelous experience in Starbucks on Madison Ave.

-- A homeless man gives me directions to the proper train station (because I tried to go into Union Station which is clearly unoperational as the woman on the recording keeps saying something that doesn't make any sense over and over again like "track 6. track 6. track 6.) he wants me to give him money. I only have a $5 and he's not going to get it. I instead give him the Cranberry Bliss Bar that I had gotten to celebrate my audition.

-- I find I have to wait 50 minutes for the next train back to where I'm going, so I get a mediocre bagel and enjoy my Italo Calvino book while watching people in the train station. One woman is either very angry or has terrets as she walks around cursing under her breath.

-- I get on the train. Have a marvelous ride back to my stop. Mrs. Awesome-at-Life picks me up and takes me back to the house. I prepare to stay for a few more hours waiting for Son to get home so I can say goodbye.

-- Son comes home a few hours early, because he decides to skip class ... since his teacher basically told him to ... Son comes in about ten minutes after Mrs. Awesome and I return.

-- I pack up and go home. Well pleased.

The best joke I got from God: I was walking to my private warm-up room and on my "Go Time" playlist comes the Queen song "Under Pressure." Never a more perfect time. Yes!

Sorry this is too long! But I enjoyed writing it!

The Chain
Ingrid Michaelson

The sky looks pissed
The wind talks back
My bones are shifting in my skin
And you, my love, are gone

My room seems wrong
The bed won't fit
I cannot seem to operate
And you, my love, are gone

So glide away on soapy heels
And promise not to promise anymore
And if you come around again
Then I will take, then I will take
The chain from off the door

I'll never say
"I'll never love"
But I don't say a lot of things
And you, my love, are gone

So glide away on soapy heels
And promise not to promise anymore
And if you come around again
Then I will take the chain from off the door

[begin really amazing section of round/looped recording with building instrumentation]


amyrose said...

I loved the whole thing. I tried writing a novel once... I really enjoyed it. Maybe I'll start it again sometime.

The Wibbler said...

I'm amazed that you read the whole thing! But of all people, Amy, I figured you would.

When will you guys move?

Definitely pick the novel back up. I'll even read it if you want me to, I'd love to, but only if you want me to read it ... :)