Last week I wrote about becoming a writer — showing up and putting words on your paper. Today I want to talk with you about learning your craft, whatever it might be.
Besides writing, my passion is playing the piano. Your passion might be woodworking or pastry making or boat building or needlework or painting or organizing your closet or managing the piles of papers on your desk that threaten to overtake you. The process is the same for anything you want to accomplish.
I began playing the piano when I was eight years old. I never liked to practice, much to my mother’s frustration, but I continued with lessons through college. Then I took a thirty year sabbatical while I had family and career. In the last few years I have returned to piano lessons because I want to play better and am convinced it is possible. But from past experience I know I need accountability to a teacher.
Learning to play the piano better is the same as learning to be a writer. Every day I choose to show up, put my derriere on the piano bench, and my fingers on the keys. Only then is there the possibility of making music.
And I have to be willing to do the exercises, to strengthen my fingers, to refine my techniques, and to create new habits. Progress is slow and often tedious, but eventually I enjoy the music I make. I’m not a gifted musician; my gift is perseverance in the process.
Artists like Vermeer or Michelangelo didn’t start out making masterpieces. They threw away many attempts and drawings and mistakes. We didn’t witness their struggles and solitary hours in their studios. We only know their work after they practiced and persevered for years. The same is true of Julie Child or Martha Stewart: we haven’t been with them as they learned and made mistakes and filled their trash cans with failures. We only see the results of their practice in the perfection of their craft. We didn’t sit with Beethoven or Brahms or Copeland as they toiled to get the notes right. We only hear their symphonies and concertos — the culmination of their efforts.
And so it is with learning any skill or craft: show up and do the work. There are no shortcuts to the process.
Claim your successes, however small they seem at the moment.
Until next Tuesday. . .