A number of years ago I practiced the piano every day,
half an hour before my kids had to get up for school. (And why did they tolerate my interrupting those last precious moments of sleep?) At first, I practiced old pop tunes and then I graduated to taking lessons and I played classical pieces: Chopin, Brahms, Mendelsohn, an occasional Scott Joplin rag. Music that required more discipline, but paid off in depth and richness.Here’s the boring truth of what I learned in those half-hour slivers:
1. THE SIMPLE ACT OF SITTING DOWN, WHATEVER ELSE HAPPENS, IS AN ACT OF COURAGE.
It’s easy to pretend you play the piano or write or paint or meditate. I know, because that’s what I did for many years—pretended I was writing. But wonderful things happen by simply sitting down every day in front of the blank page or the canvas or damp block of clay.
2. PICASSO’S FIRST PAINTING WASN’T GUERNICA.
You have to start somewhere and the first page or paragraph or brush stroke or stanza is unlikely to become the dreamed of masterpiece. Who cares? Trust that sitting down leads somewhere.
3. IGNORING THE HARD PARTS NEVER MAKE THEM EASIER.
It’s spectacularly satisfying to read the same lovely paragraph over and over, basking in the glow of a well-chosen, exquisitely brilliant turn-of-phrase. But ignoring the trite, worn-out, dull passages that drain out like an over-watered plant never makes for a good read
4. DISCIPLINE MEANS FREEDOM FROM TYRANNY.
Discipline—such a disagreeable word, and too bad because it’s the daily discipline that allows your conscious mind to let go. And of course, that’s the definition of inspiration.
5. CREATIVITY IS ONLY FOR THE TALENTED. BAH!
Reread #’s 1-4. And then out of the blue, words splash onto the page, a sentence or two or three escaping from the ether. And you wonder where it came from, except you’ll know. It’s that courageous, boring, tedious act of sitting down. Every day.