A “new disease.” That’s the term vocal students in my college attached to a particular, and distressing, affliction we all suffered at one time or another. It happened whenever one of our voice teachers added a new technique to the already-long list of “Things to Think About While Singing.” It seemed that concentrating on posture, support, breath control, placement, pitch, duration, dynamics, phrasing, tempo and oh yes — the words to sing — was not enough. It also became necessary to regulate emotion. Too much and we risked ruining the pitch. Too little and we came across as automatons — brilliant but lifeless.
Habit became my friend. I learned to always keep good posture to breathe correctly, to support when I spoke. In so doing, I both strengthened the necessary muscles and made such things automatic so I would not have to think about them when other matters pressed. Habit worked for me, that is until my voice teacher wanted me to concentrate on some new area of technique. I would invariably focus wholly on the new and enchanting difficulty and forget something else I already knew well enough to teach. Whatever it was — a skill, a pitch, a phrase — I could not recall it to save my life and no matter how I despaired. I had to learn the new thing, first, and then the rest would came back to me so that I could go on. In this way, I attained another level of proficiency.
Upon signing a contract for publication of my first novel, I suffered another sort of “new disease.” Up until that point I was able to manage three blogs, a website, various social networking platforms and membership in two critique groups, as well as write and edit DawnSinger, book one of Tales of Faeraven, and produce a first draft of DawnKing (book two).
Right after I signed, I went through a period of transition. I found just keeping up with my blogs a challenge. I forgot all the organizing I knew before the book deal and had first to learn the “new thing.” I felt much like a toddler who has overbalanced and waits, one foot in the air, trying to find a center. I’m happy to say that both feet are again on the ground. I’ve made adjustments to my schedule and updated my organizing system to incorporate both my new responsibilities and the old ones I retained. That doesn’t mean I won’t go through more times of transition as DawnSinger moves toward its release date. I’m sure I will. I hope I’ve learned by now, though, to give myself grace and understand that each “new disease” is a fleeting discomfort.
None of us starts a learning process by already knowing the thing to be learned.