Idol Worship Gone Too Far

I play guitar. “Play” is the relative term here. Segovia plays. Comparatively speaking I don’t.

Steve Morse is my guitar idol and he really plays. He studied with Segovia at one time. Played with the likes of McLaughlin and Howe. Over time Morse has pretty much established himself as one of the reigning geniuses with the instrument.

My idol worship has gone too far in that I came to the realization that I’ll never do anything remotely close — neither musically nor technically — to what Morse does. My reaction is to play less. Why bother? Turning something I enjoyed doing into something I could never do well enough wasn’t the most brilliant move I ever made but that’s another story.

Transferring this idolatry run amok to the literary field, has anyone out there had a similar experience with writing? Anybody read something so utterly perfectly fantastic that it just makes you feel like hanging up the pen? And if so — what was that wonderfully demolishing piece of literature?

9 Responses

  1. noI know what you mean but I

    I know what you mean but I always think I am the best. Don’t be apologetic and don’t think negative, unless that is what you are going for. I have read lots of great writers, but my reactions is more?

    “Shit why did I not do that first!”

    With music and guitar well I like punk rock and tom waits. I don’t like art in its pristine and trained and groomed people in suits and all that high society mombo-jumbo I am here for punk-rock-lit the do-it-yourself music — sex pistols, misfits — just go and pick up a guitar or a pen and let it rip because you have nothing less to say then anyone else does. Fame waits for you —you will make it; be positive — be conceited it will piss off some of your friends, so fuck them –have the biggest head in the world — but then again this is coming from an unpublished non-record labeled nobody, but I believe it.

  2. Don’t FretGet it? Fret? I
    Don’t Fret

    Get it? Fret? I play a little guitar myself.

    I really like what Alexanderdeath
    said. I will add this: I know I will never play guitar like certain people. There are chords and techniques which hurt my hand and my wrist and I don’t think I will ever be physically capable of doing it. But writing, I’m happy to say, is different! As my fingers age, my mind seems to be gaining ground. I’m not bragging when I say that I believe I can write something that moves people as much as other books have moved me. Part of it is simply this: Some books that I love, do nothing for someone else. And vice versa. So, what moves you about a book? How did the author bring you to that point? Don’t copy his story, of course, but try to discern his technique. Or something.
    Another thing: You probably play better than you think. When other people hear you, they don’t know all the little things you wish you did or didn’t do.

  3. SometimesWhen I read

    When I read Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel trilogy, I got very caught up in the world and involved with the characters, and I had that sense that I could never write something which would draw people in the way she’d drawn me.

    The cure to that, I think, is to go read some real crap that’s gotten published. Or listen to some signed bands that can’t play to save their lives. Because for every successful genius there are hundreds of successful fakes. And dammit, if they can do it, truly anyone can.

  4. Yes.Every time I read

    Every time I read something by Milan Kundera, I give up. The same with Nabokov. Raymond Carver? Yep.

    Each of these writers do this to me for different reasons, and Kundera is really the ultimate for making me say “Damn you!” and vowing not to write anymore. Because he’s an absolute craftsman all the way through (have you read Immortality? Doesn’t it almost piss you off that a novel can be that perfectly built?) and I don’t have the patience or the skill or the ability to plan things through to do something like that. Not that I’d write like him anyway, but I’m just saying.

    So, anyway, yes. I know exactly what you mean. And certainly, on a plane of logic, it’s easy to see that we should write (or play) anyway, because genius is genius and the rest of us do what we can, but idol worship isn’t about logic. Sometimes it’s hard, knowing that such a high standard exists to be held up to, even if we should let ourselves slide a little bit.

  5. WellI get frustrated with the

    I get frustrated with the idea that I may not get as good as my idols. But I keep at it. (This goes for guitar and writing). Catcher in the Rye was a good book. So was Generation X. So was A Tale of Two Cities. I imagine, “how could I ever write as good as them?” But I keep at it. I also don’t want to end up copying my idols. I keep at it with the idea that I will not be as well-known as those authors. No one is going to tout me as the heralder of the “next generation.” And for the love of it. That’s why I keep squeaking my strings off key or writing at sup-par level but with hopes of improving. For the love of it.

  6. Yes/NoI pretty much realize

    I pretty much realize how poorly I write anytime I read anything by just about anybody else. Now, having grown up learning guitar on the likes of Dylan and Neil Young, I can play and sing unabashedly bad, secure in the knowledge that, if I play with heart, I am being true to the master on which I was weaned. That’s the advantage of idolizing these guys: they made it OK for any schmuck to strap it on and belt it out.

    But when I write, the lesser quality jumps off the page and hits me like that slap Mary-Lou gave me back in ninth grade when I tried to slide my groping hands under her shirt for the fifth time. Except now I get the message.

  7. ahh, sweet rejection, and you
    ahh, sweet rejection, and you see that no two rejections are the same so its always worth writing about, and maybe someone else’s rejection memories be similar to yours and they will relate to your story and describe you as a genuis, or talented maybe.

    i would also argue that dylan and young are no shmucks on the guitar . either dylans acoustic playing on “good as i been to you” is great, and his jazzy improv in concerts can be truly awesome. he can’t play like steve morse, or indeed lonnie johnson, but i would say steve morse can’t play like him either.

    I think that one of the basic precepts of kerouac’s ‘spontaneous prose’ is the validity of any voice. just like on the internet.

    I gave up writing last year when I read tim wintons “the turning”. damn, he is the man. but i got over it.

  8. fair questionI saw the Dixie
    fair question

    I saw the Dixie Dregs a couple of months ago and morse is an itimidatingly good player, but what of it? Why play if it is only with the goal of being “as good as”. I don’t believe art or life has any sort of meaningful way of measuring good. I jog but I will never set any records, I play guitar but will never posess the dexterity or finger length to approach the speed of malmsteen or morse. I write but not to sell books or to be labeled.

    I guess my point here is why is that you play in the first place?
    I hit upon a writer named Samuel Taylor Coleridge in college and he put me straight on this topic.

    If you care to read it, and can bare the archaic language, I would suggest it to you or anyone who seeks to create. His buddy was Wordsworth, and although Sam put out some great shit himself he knew he would never approach Wordsworth’s volume or depth. His real talents were found in an understanding of genius and the process behind it. In this way he showed himself to be just as important and lasting as the artist he sought to grasp.

    just a thought. keep playing.

  9. oh, the joy of delving back
    oh, the joy of delving back into Coleridge again! Thanks, acarolinayankee.

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