• Brian E Pearson

Back to Basics

Distraction is the devil's tool. Whatever it is we have set our mind to do, it's not retreat that threatens its completion. It's diversion. It's veering off to this side or to that, even just a titch, to examine something close to, but not exactly, what we were trying to do in the first place.

"Musicians" by John Malinowski

The Christian tradition calls this sin, which we tend to think of as all-out rebellion against God. But the word actually means to miss the mark, which is a different thing altogether. More of us simply lose our way in the woods than abandon it altogether. We get distracted.

Writers know this all too well because so much of their work is solitary. No one will see if they just take this little side trip in their mind, or flip through a magazine as if for inspiration, or gaze out the window at the snow flakes falling, until they turn to rain, and flowers begin to bloom.

Musicians know it too. But their distraction is a little different. It's called gear. The Road to Perdition is known in some circles as Guitar Gear Road. There is always some new thing you need--a new guitar (well, duh!), an effects pedal, a different amp--and there are racks of magazines devoted to guitar gear, telling you what you need next, in case you don't know already. Guitar Gear Road never ends. And it never leads you back to the reason you headed out in the first place--to make music.

I have recently gone back to playing my acoustic instruments. I love my electric guitars. But all too often I pick them up to get a sound, to tweak a setting, to experiment with an effect, anything but just playing the things. Acoustic instruments don't give you that option. There are no knobs or buttons or pedals. There's just ... music. Which was where I started, a long time ago. "Oh, ya," I think. "This!"