Just Sayin’: That Certain Something

I don’t know Jeff Littleton personally. I’ve never met him face to face, but this I know. He is a writer with a capital “W”.  Got me to thinking. (Okay, that’s a feat in itself). That aside,  I began to wonder just what it is about his writing that is so … so … well, professional. Whatever that “thing” is, Doni has it too. In spades!

So do several other writers published here. It’s like the difference in someone sitting down  to a piano and playing a ditty by ear and someone sitting down  reeling off Rachmaninoff. Both are talents, to be sure. Both are enjoyable. Both (if done right) can command a handsome recompense. But … but … there is just a polish, a rhythm, a cadence to some folk’s writing that sets it just a bit apart from those of us who ‘play by ear.’

I don’t know what this ‘thing’ is that we call talent. I doubt that anyone can define or measure it. Let’s face it, if it could be defined and measured,  one could write a whole book about it and get very wealthy. But what I do  know is this: These folk who seem to have just a bit more of that ‘thing’ than the rest of we mortals, seem to exist in almost every endeavor and especially in the arts. I have a sneaking suspicion that that ‘thing’ is closely related to very hard work in the form of practice.

You know that old story about someone stopping Jachia Heifitz on a street in New York and asking him how to get to Carnegie Hall, to which he made his famous reply, “Practice, practice, practice.”  I believe that this is probably true in any path or persuasion.

Talent? Of course. That is an unmeasurable slice of the pie. I don’t know how it is in some of the other arts, but I do know that in music there are those who have the raw talent but do little to cultivate it. What a waste! And conversely, there are those who love a particular art and expend a great deal of time in practice and  hard work but just never quite seem to be able to  get the ‘art’ part of the equation in hand.  Compare that to ‘paint-by-numbers.’ The colors are all correct and in the right place, but it is stilted and must be viewed from very far away.  The technical skill is present, but the art is sadly absent.

The joy, the real reward to the rest of the population, is in finding someone involved in a particular endeavor who not only has that ineffable ‘something’ extra but has also put in the time and effort to actually polish their art.

Guess I’d better go practice my music!

Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years.
A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes . . . she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.

Adrienne Jacoby
Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years. A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes … she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.
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8 Responses

  1. Avatar Stan says:

    Thanks for a perceptive and well-written article. I've never had a proclivity toward writing in the art form style. As to forms of artistic expression, I would add another category–hobbyist. Many of us are retirees. Some may have natural talent and others are serious and are willing to put the practice/research time in to improve. However, I think that many of us just do the stuff for fun. We didn't have time in the past with our jobs, careers, and/or family obligations/demands. I think most people have some degree of creativity hidden inside which eventually forces its way out. Remember Grandma Moses? I'm thankful for those with writing talent and I really enjoy reading. Thanks!!!!

  2. Good thoughts. I agree that it's a waste when someone has a talent and doesn't cultivate it. Sadly, that often requires parental pressure (with a balance). But I also agree to a large extent with Malcolm Gladwell and his "Outliers" thesis that it takes (roughly) 10,000 hours of practice and participation to get really good at something, and the younger one starts, the better. This is especially true for playing a musical instrument, where physical dexterity is often critical.

    As for "playing by ear," I've listened to recordings of Yehudi Menuhin and Stéphane Grappelli playing jazz tunes together. I'll take Grappelli any day.

    Larry Edwards

    • Avatar `AJacoby says:

      Nothing like muscle memory, whether it's dance, sports, playing an instrument, sculpting, drawing, etc.. And the younger the better because every day few more of those neurons get set in stone.

      As with everything in life, whether is parental involvement or ear vs. formality, it's all about balance, balance, balance.

      Thanks, Larry

  3. As a songwriter, I feel like all the songs are stacked up inside of me — and I have to go through ALL the lousy ones to get to the good ones. So I plug along, getting down one song at a time, believing "there's a pony in here somewhere." 🙂

  4. Avatar Joanne Snyder says:

    I've always thought that all children should be exposed to experiences that would help them discover their "talent". Building, climbing, playing an instrument, drawing, writing or space arrangement! I've always hated the word "talent" because it can diminish the effort and time put into developing a skill. Many people believe that artists of any kind are great because they were just born that way. After reading your article I have to admit that to be exceptional in a field you do need the thousands of hours of practice and experience and you also need that "spark" that not everyone has. And in truth, maybe many writers and artists we think have that "talent" made it for themselves by "practice, practice, practice."

  5. Avatar CoachBob says:

    Just remember: "Practice" doesn't make perfect! Only "perfect practice" makes perfect! "Just Sayin'…."

    • Avatar `AJacoby says:

      Bob, you are so very right! My mother used to remind me of that every time I practiced. Now I remind my stdents.

  6. You've got that certain something, too, dear Adrienne. Just Sayin' 😉 So glad you're here.