Monday, April 21, 2008

band, blogging, and scrabbling

Posted by jedijawa
I had a band concert today and found myself contemplating several things while my mind sort of wandered during our performance. Okay, I admit that this is a bad thing to let happen but it was sort of like when I go swimming and after a few laps I just drift off to someplace else mentally and work through problems or think of blog posts or other pensive things. Here you can see that I sometimes take pictures during concerts too ... and you can read all about the concert itself here (including our next performance date). But I digress ... I was saying that there were several moments today and lately in practices where I've found that my mind disengages from the active process of reading music and telling my fingers what to do and watches the director without paying real close attention to the music and I find that I'm still able to read it and my fingers do things without my telling them ... including hitting alternate fingerings that I've had to reteach myself from being out of practice (alternate fingerings are things you have to use sometimes when an upcoming note will be impossible to jump to if you use the regular hand position). Granted, this is not a conscious process and if I tried to be aware of it I am sure that it wouldn't work. In fact, I can only go so long like this until I hit a wrong note or come in a beat early and come out of my trance realizing what I've been doing.

So what does this have to do with blogging or Scrabble? Well, I think it has a lot to do with the creative mind. Before I started blogging I had been writing some very descriptive emails about races that I was running to various friends and family and telling about other things. I got a lot of people telling me how much they liked my stories and my writing style and were trying to get me to write more either on a blog or in print. Eventually I gave it a try and my first blog posts were awkward and sort of rough. One of my blogger friends told me he looked forward to me developing my "blogger voice" and he was right. It took a few months but I did develop a voice for my blog and a tone for how to write and it gradually became very effortless. Another friend who blogs has told me on various occasions that he thinks that I'm "prolific" in my blogging and I have taken that to mean that writing his posts comes harder to him than mine do ... and I can see that. I literally find myself just furiously typing away at my keyboard for many posts trying to keep up with my thoughts and they just flow. I'm not going to lie and say that I don't go back and edit them ... but it isn't a difficult process for me.

So where does Scrabble come in? How about now? Scrabble is one of those things that I see new players struggle with. When my ex-wife and I started playing we did so slowly and gradually advanced at more or less the same rate. I beat her a lot in the beginning because she didn't use the bonus squares but when she learned to use them I lost more than she did. We progressed through various stages of play to a point where we were playing mostly 2, 3, and 4 letter words in a diagonal "granny game" (sort of like this one) where we locked the board down and milked every play for as many points as we could. Now I've progressed beyond that point and was starting to do so before leaving Ohio for good around this time last year. Now my games are much more expansive and utilize the board in a very different way (sort of like this). In these games the play opens more of the board rather than closing it down and bigger words are played in the hopes of setting up a bingo play ... which come now with a greater frequency than I ever could have imagined.

I have talked with our club director about this phenomenon and he agrees with me. As your skill level improves you start to see the game very differently and you manage both your rack and the board differently as well. While there will always be those killer 2 or 3 letter word plays there are bigger points to be made with the 50+ bonus points of a bingo or the 9 times multiplier of the elusive holy grail of Scrabble ... the triple triple. I manage so many things now in a competitive Scrabble game but each one has just come with time ... there is the clock, the score sheet, the tiles, the board, and so many other things that go on in the games and each one has to be learned and now some of them are starting to fall into the background (namely the clock). I can't say that I'm on autopilot when playing Scrabble but my brain certainly seems to be engaged in a completely different way when I am playing and I'm mixing the letters around both physically and mentally looking for the big word score. It's a good feeling and I feel that I can almost see and feel my progress. I'm certainly seeing progress in my girlfriend's 11 year old daughter, K-girl, who comes to many of our club meetings. She is starting to learn from my teaching about how to utilize the board, how to play in parallel, and how not to waste "s" tiles and blanks. Her word knowledge is increasing rapidly as well.

Anyway, this post is about how creativity spurs many things. I think that getting back into band helped my blogging and getting into blogging helped my musical talents in very different ways. Both activities, I have no doubt, have improved my thinking skills for Scrabble and I think that Scrabble has even had an effect on those things as well. It's a good place to be right now but I can't wait to see where it goes next. I don't profess to be a Scrabble guru yet, but I do think that I'm on the path ... and I like the view!

Check out all of my Scrabble posts here or from my blog's sidebar.


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