Monday, March 31, 2008


If you've been practicing and teaching your art for a while, it's helpful to occasionally become a beginner at something else. This experience refreshes the practitioner's imagination and renews the teacher's empathy.

Years ago, I heard novelist Lee Smith say to a writing workshop group: if you're new at this, I have some sense of how you feel; I just started taking a tap dance class.

Yesterday, I was a construction assistant to my brother Franc Payne, who is renovating a house in Atlantic, NC, on one of the huge sounds behind the Outer Banks.

I'd never done this kind of work before. (The only thing I ever built before was, tellingly, a lectern when I was about nine, and it was wobbly.)

I found I was pretty fair at carrying lumber in and hauling old bricks out, a bit tentative on subtracting fractions fast in my head, and quite wary of the nail gun and the electric saw.

In addition to having had a wonderful day-long visit with my brother, I return to my desk today well-exercised and with a wider view of the world...and probably more patience with the fact that in the arts we're always beginners.

If you like this post, please bookmark it on, share it on StumbleUpon, vote for it on Digg. Thanks so much.

No comments: