Sage advice

by | Sep 24, 2008

I used to play classical guitar.  I stopped when I realised I couldn’t make the sounds in my head come out of my fingers, and I’m still not sure whether this was a wise or foolish decision.  Perhaps by now the Bach Preludes would have untangled themselves and I could do the hideous stretch needed on the Choro de Saudade.  Perhaps.

But I’ve been thinking recently about my teacher, the brilliant, messed-up and long-dead Brian Black, who told me a story, probably apocryphal, about the great Segovia.

The story goes that Segovia was visiting Perth (or Australia – the place isn’t important), and a rich woman asked Segovia for a private masterclass.  Segovia refused, the woman insisted, and eventually Segovia gave in.  The woman sat down, played her piece, and waited for Segovia to comment.

After a long, uncomfortable silence, Segovia said, ‘Madam, if you have nothing to say, say nothing.’


There are probably many morals to that story, including the one that says money doesn’t buy you talent, and, knowing the macho culture the classical guitarists I knew strutted about in, something about women not having the goods for the guitar.  *Insert counter-argument here.*  But it always comes back to me when I’m struggling with the whole writing/life/work, can-I-really-be-bothered-doing-this thing.  Do I want to say something badly enough to keep on?

Well, yes.

There’s also the question of pleasure.  Maybe the rich woman loved the guitar, and Segovia robbed that love from her through his cruelty?  Writing fiction is intrinsically pleasurable.  And addictive.  (It also, if you go by Margo Lanagan‘s latest, leads to an enduring love of red wine.)

So, if you want to write, get rid of the Segovias in your mind, and write.

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