When I think about ‘pies or practice’ two things come to mind. Firstly: how much I love pies. Secondly: how much I need to practice on my guitar. Actually there’s a third thing that comes to mind, and that’s how there’s absolutely no link between the two whatsoever. It would be tempting to suggest that I desperately wanted to practice my guitar, but was helplessly trapped beneath a hundred-weight of pies. Or, perhaps I could pretend I suffer from a strange variant of synesthesia in which the sound of a guitar playing smells exactly like pie. Maybe I consistently have the best intentions of practicing my guitar, but need to consume the traditional pre-guitar pie before I can even consider picking up my plectrum. And then need to rest while the pie goes down. And then of course I’d need another pie before I could start playing. And so on.

But, no – those would all be lies.

I can’t even make a thematic link between the two: the more pies you eat, the bigger you get; while the more you practice something, the better you get. And yet we’re always taught that bigger doesn’t necessarily equal better. A structural link maybe? A pie has an outer shell with a delicious interior while practice is a non-physical concept and therefore lacks both an inside and an outside…. hmm

I could add that I definitely need more practice making pies. Over the last few years I’ve found myself more interested in trying to cook my favourite foods instead of always buying them pre-prepared (I’m talking things like pies, pizzas, breads here, not the your average ready-meal kinda foods). I’ve only tried to make pie two or three times and each time it’s come out a bit lacking. One one occasion I didn’t cook the meat in the right way – it was cooked, just chewy because I didn’t stew it long enough. Other times the pastry hasn’t been right … I think I might have neglected to blind bake it (I haven’t upgraded my skills to the point where I make the pastry yet btw).
Actually, now that I think about it, pie-making is a really time-consuming process. Maybe it really should just be one of those things I just buy in the shop, or have at a restaurant.

While my fingers gently bleed

And that leads in no way at all to the saga of my guitar. Many years ago I was a decentish guitar player, I used to play every day, and was even in the requisite band when I was few years out of my teens. Sadly in more recent years my playing has dropped to the point where my fingers threaten to bleed if I pick up the guitar for more than half an hour.

I had every intention this year of getting some serious practice in: I cleaned up my guitar, restrung it (and I really, really hate restringing guitars), and then carefully left it sitting in the corner of the bedroom where it’s hardly been touched this year.

I’m a fairly self-conscious player. I know how painful it is for others to have to listen to an amateur twanging away at his strings, so I’m reluctant to play when other people are around (the obvious irony being that if I practiced more, I’d probably play well enough that the rest of the family wouldn’t complain too hard about it – or they’d at least complain with their voices, instead of sharp sticks and rocks). I don’t like playing when the kids are asleep, in case I wake them up. Then again, I don’t like playing when they’re awake because I feel that if I have time enough to play guitar then I should be using that time to play with them.

As you can see I’ve rationalized myself away to the point where there is almost exactly zero opportunity for me to practice my guitar.

It’s not as tragic as it sounds. The one thing I have been practicing more this year is the thing that I really wanted to put my time into: my writing. It’s seven weeks into the year and I’ve already completed a new short story, which is phenomenal for me given my usual pace. I tend to view short stories as a sort of practice run for characters, themes, plots, or simply for the discipline of writing: if I can get into the habit of writing short stories regularly, then I’ll feel confident about my ability to complete a novel one day.

The 52 Blogs project has also kept me writing at least once a week – you could say it’s getting me into some ‘best practice’ blogging. In all honesty, if I don’t bake a single pie this year, or crack out a single Neil Diamond / Roxette mashup on my acoustic, as long as I keep up my writing practice I’ll be very happy indeed.

Now: time for pie!