As I once explained to a friend, I don’t have hobbies. I have serial obsessions. I know I’ve talked about this before, and how it often relates to research for the stories and books. I owe at least some of the impetus for the Yamada series to a fascination with ancient Japan and Asian mythology in general, which probably grew out of my general fascination with world mythology. Never met a mythos I didn’t find at least interesting. So in general I have to say that this penchant for serial obsessions, at least where the writing is concerned, is a good thing. It has kick started a lot of stories and probably every novel I’ve ever written. But there’s an aspect to the inpulse that I don’t think I fully appreciated until very recently.
When I decided to take up the guitar—okay, that’s probably wrong right off the bat. Decided? Most likely I had an impulse to take up the guitar, and then later rationalized that decision in terms that I’ve already described in previous blog posts. I mean, sure, all true so far as they went, but the impetus, the actual beginning, was all impulse. That’s how it starts. So I know this is another in a long line of serial obsessions. My second clue was when I, almost without realizing it, accumulated five guitars. I mean, seriously. Do I need five guitars? No. I have a much better than serviceable student guitar, and for lessons that’s all I need. But then I discovered a line of high quality and ridiculously cheap US made guitars and, well, now it’s a collection. As covered earlier, I also bought a beat-up Squier™ strat and basically rebuilt it. I’m not happy with the finish, so I’m going to do that one again. I bought a “broken” Peavey Predator™ with the idea of using it for parts for my other Predator, only to discover that my original Predator wasn’t going to need anything more than chrome polish. Then I discovered that all the “broken” guitar needed was a new output jack (that’s how I got five guitars instead of four—though in my defense I am planning to sell that last one to make room for an acoustic). The point of all this being that it’s pretty obvious to me—and all near me–when I’m in one of my obsessions. There will come a point where the urge to get into the inner workings of a guitar will fade, probably, though with any luck I’ll be able to actually play a guitar by then, since—hurray or alas—these things can take years to loosen their grip, and I do practice.
So at least I know what I want to get out of this particular obsession, but here’s the kicker—remember that new aspect I was talking about way up at the beginning? That’s the bonus that almost always arises out of one of these serial obsessions, a bonus which I usually refer to as an unfolding. Serendipity. Such as an interest in Japanese swords inevitably led to an interest in Japanese swordsmiths, and how the art was being preserved. Or the interest in Asian mythology kick started an ongoing interest in Asian fantasy cinema. In the case of the guitar, it fed into a, well, I won’t say renewed interest in music because it was always there, though strictly as a listener. Rather it’s a widened interest.
Confession time—my musical tastes were formed mostly in the 1970s through about the mid 80’s, and were limited to rock in various shades. Melodic and progressive, mostly. Internet radio wasn’t around and mostly what was available was either “classic rock” or Country radio, so almost by default I kept listening to a lot of the music I’d grown up listening to. I knew about punk and grunge but wasn’t drawn to them. I blush to remember an exchange on another site where I was talking about the greatest rock instrumentals with someone only a little younger than me when someone pointed out that neither of us had mentioned any artists who had started less than twenty years ago. And it was true. I couldn’t even name a guitarist other than Jack White in that category. But it wasn’t just that. Not only am I now discovering newer artists like Joe Satriani, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Robert Randolph and Joe Bonamasa, but I’m now picking up on a great many artists that I managed to miss the first time around—Sonny Landreth, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin, for a start. These guys are mostly toward the Blues spectrum, which I knew was the father and mother of rock and roll, but then there was and is so much I don’t know.
This particular serial obsession has wound up broadening my horizons, but then they usually do that. Musically, this time, and even though it’s often a pain in the rear end for me and my loved ones to work through one of these things, there’s always some benefit to go along with the annoyances. They’ve made me a better writer. Maybe even a better person. Just so long as I can keep the guitar collection under control.
You clearly suffer from IAS, Instrument Acquisition Syndrome. There is no known cure. You should definitely read the book GUITAR ZERO by Gary Marcus, a pscyhology professor who took a year off to learn to play. My wife says “The average person who plays guitar owns four of them. The average person who doesn’t play owns one.”
I’ve actually heard of that book. Now, if only I could afford to take a year off.
I personally cannot imagine ever starting to write without my piano playing and cannot imagine continuing to write many decades later without continuing to play music!
I hope I will one day have that priviledge.