Stephen King on How Art Supports a Good Life

Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!

“Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”

Stephen King

In his book, On Writing, celebrated novelist Stephen King gives writers this advice:

“Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”

This metaphor can be true for music as well. A regular, focused guitar practice can add immeasurably to the rest of life.

Much of daily life is defined by necessity. We sleep, we eat, we may work. We take care of the business of life. We manage and maintain relationships.

Sometimes these fulfill us. Others, not so much.

In a perfect world, we remain completely present with each task throughout the day. Through any storm, we remain centered, peaceful, and calm. This is sometimes called “enlightenment,” and eludes most of us.

Instead, we may react emotionally. Something may chafe or get under our skin. We may hear news that scares us. We may feel anxiety at the choices we’re forced to make. We may feel irritation at things outside of our control.

And this is where a regular music practice can help. Guitar practice gives us the daily opportunity to narrow our focus and re-enter our bodies.

In practice, we can face clear mental and physical challenges. And in working through these challenges, we nurture oft-ignored parts of ourselves.

Music is something we do for the sake of doing it. We do it to make life better. For the thrill of success when we overcome an obstacle. For the joy of discovery. To delve into emotions not present in our outer lives.

We do it because it’s hard – and it’s fun to work on hard things.

And when we make this a regular part of life, something happens. We’re more able to turn the volume down on other, more stressful parts of life. Little things may not bother us as much. We may find ourselves with more patience or perspective. More compassion.

Music fills an inner well that feeds every branch of our days. We may not even notice the effects unless we stop practice for a time. We may then feel the subtle nag of something missing. And when we begin practicing again, life seems to make a little more sense.

Music supports a rewarding life. It’s a spice that helps other flavors mingle. And the few moments we spend each day with the guitar have an outsized effect on our overall well-being.

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

As I said before, I think your site is outstanding. I have spent my life teaching adults difficult stuff that they really wanted to learn but didn't have the time to learn at the speed we teach university students. Thus I understand only too well how many hundreds of hours you must have spent perfecting your lessons to make my learning as quick and easy as possible.

-Mike Barron

Hello Allen,
I feel my guitar proficiency is improving considerably. Every day I’m exceedingly comfortable with my right hand technique and overall fluency. And my sight-reading has improved as well. Thank you for creating the Woodshed. It’s thoughtful construction and scope and sequence of knowledge and skills has advanced my guitar skills significantly. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

-Michael Immel

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