A Circle of Drums, Writing, and Clapton’s Blazing Guitar

My reaction is what matters.

Yesterday morning I flipped to NPR after dropping the kids off at school. They featured an interview with Neil Peart, the drummer from Rush.

Now, I’ve never been too much of a Rush fan. However, hearing Peart talk about the hard work that went into becoming one of the world’s best rock drummers was inspiring. The dude has a set that is a complete circle. That takes some skill…or, really, a LOT of skill.

Apparently, he makes a rather intense face while playing. His mom asked why he doesn’t smile during concerts. He said, “Mom, drumming’s hard!”

That endeared him to me.

In the interview, he discussed some of his rock influences including the drummer from The Who. The interviewer asked if he’s ever intimidated or harbors feelings of competition with other drummers.

Peart said that he’d heard once about how Eric Clapton claimed that, after hearing Jimi Hendrix play, he wanted to set his guitar on fire. Peart said, “When I hear a great drummer, it just makes me want to practice.”

“Yeah!” I hollered from my van. “That’s the stuff!”

See, here’s the thing. There is always going to be somebody who is better at things than we are.

I’m not fishing for reassurance, I’m being honest here: There’s a whole gaggle of writers who are better at the craft than I am. Want a list? Well…that would take a lot of effort. You’re just going to have to trust me on this (also, comparing writers is so subjective, it’s impossible to say who the very, very best is). Do you know how many times I read a book and think, “Cowabunga! This dude/dudette is killing this story…in a good way!”?

I say that quite often.

And, quite often, I know that author is more skilled at a certain aspect of story-writing than I am. Do I gather all my purple pens and my MacBook and light a match?

Um. No.

You know what it makes me want to do?

It makes me want to practice. Write. Read more. Work harder. Grow.

Yeah! That’s the stuff!

No matter what it is you do, there’s always somebody who is, most likely, better at it. I say that not to discourage you. I say that as a friend, pointing out the truth.

Guess what. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how you react when realizing that someone is more skilled/talented/etc. Do you give up on your passion? Or do you keep working? Do you allow bitterness and envy to poison you? Or do you cheer on that other person (even from the couch in your living room) and allow inspiration to sweep over you?

I don’t know about you, but this MacBook isn’t going to burn any time soon. And, for that matter, neither did Clapton’s Stratocaster. Why not? Because my abilities are not made less by how truly awesome someone else is. But they can be sharpened by seeing masters do their thing.

Yeah! That’s the stuff!

Just had to get that in there one more time.

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