Hugh Laurie and how I wish I were a polymath…

11 09 2011

Hugh Laurie has just released an album of American Blues, called “Let Them Talk”. I am madly driving around in my car with it on my CD player just so I can listen to it and drive. Blues are great driving music. Heck, they are just great music, especially when you are listening to a fantastic pianist, and the crew of blues experts Laurie has gathered around him to play. I’ve always liked New Orleans Blues, and I’m thrilled people will get a chance to hear them, with the star power Dr. House can bring. Perhaps people will actually start listening to them again, and the Ottawa Blues Festival will ditch the need to include pop and screamer rock in their line-up…sigh.

But I am beginning to feel despair. Here is the lovely Hugh Laurie, multi-talented artist, rower, father, actor, writer, and musician. Is there anything he CAN’T do? (Well, other than shave, apparently) And here am I, struggling to write a single book, teaching myself ukulele because if I play it badly (as I do with all the instruments I try) it won’t much matter (though thanks to James Hill and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, this is no longer a safe claim), knitting misshapen squares and sewing angled straight edges. While I try everything and scrape by, he tries things and brings grace, humour, and humility as well as expertise to them.

We are about the same age, he and I. I feel so unaccomplished.

I think it must be the education one gets at Oxford. Or something. The utter brilliance Brits that come from that system show is wonderful, broad, esoteric, polymathic (which doesn’t mean they know a lot about math). I think my narrow education in the US followed by my nursing education has left something to be desired. My kids seem to feel that need, too, expanding their studies into the why’s of things as versus just the hows and whats. I hope it helps them. Already two of them have accomplished more than I, and they are half my age. And the third is gathering strength for the fight. They astonish me.

It also makes me feel urgent about accomplishing something well. Recently I’ve been entering lots of writing contests as a quick and dirty way to give me deadlines and force my hand into the writing position. So I crank out crappy stuff quickly and can assuage myself that I am at least writing. I signed up again for the three-day novel contest, and got well into a story when it occurred to me I’d had quite enough of writing fast stuff with little redeeming social value. I need to devote the time to writing well. To the dreaded revision, to looking at my stuff with the eye of someone who does have some writing chops to bring to bear. It’s no longer okay for me to do “well enough”.

Of course, this gives my ability to procrastinate full rampant control, but it’s September now, and my brain wants a challenge. It’s time.

So I’m going to put on some Hugh Laurie and his crew, some Muddy Waters and Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles and Long John Baldry, and get my sorry arse to work.

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