“If you’re not failing on a regular basis it means you’re just doing what you already know how to do.”
My oldest, a junior in high school, is a gifted musician. Matt currently plays four instruments: piano, clarinet, mellophone and bassoon. The bassoon, which he took up right before his freshman year, is he favorite.
Last Saturday, Matt signed up for the district Solo and Ensemble Day. It’s an adjudicated event, meaning kids perform and receive scores and comments. They aren’t competing against each other, just themselves. Matt, being an ambitious kind of kid, decided to perform a piano solo, a bassoon solo and in a clarinet ensemble. It’s not unusual for kids to play two instruments or play as well as sing in the choir events. But three instruments? Practically unheard of.
I went to the event, anxious to see how he’d pull it all off. And I came home enormously proud.
It wasn’t because his clarinet ensemble scored a 1 (superior). And it wasn’t because he played the bassoon flawlessly and earned a 1 with that as well. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t but help puff up my chest a bit when a music director from another school sat in on his bassoon performance because she’d heard about him. (Afterwards she said she had two words for me: full ride.) And the judge was openly vocal about her delight – and that was after he played only his scales!
No. I was proud of my son for his piano solo. In a word, it was rough.
From the moment he sat down on the bench, things went poorly. He played the wrong scales and fumbled on the ones he did play. Clearly rattled in front of a roomful of friends and strangers (and with the judge standing right behind him), he took a second to regain his composure and played his selected song. He made several mistakes on that as well.
But here’s the thing: he took a risk and that required courage. And more importantly, when he fell short of his goal he let it roll off him. After he got his score (a three) and read the judge’s harsh comments, he just smiled and shrugged and said next time he’ll prepare better. He’s already talking about next year; he wants to learn the French horn and play a solo.
So. What on earth does any of this have to do with writing you ask. Just this: taking risks in your work is a good thing and how you handle the rough days says a lot about the kind of person you are. Writing – as most of us know all too well – is a vocation that comes with plenty of rough days.
What kind of person are you? What kind of person do you want to be?
Personally, I hope I grow up to be just like my son.