I had my weekly piano lesson yesterday. My teacher and I are preparing a piece for the music school’s recital in April. Abram is a perfect teacher. He knows just when to push, when to correct, when to praise. Yesterday we worked out the best fingering for several passages. He also suggested learning the last passage first, then, working backwards, adding each passage in turn until I get to the beginning. These techniques help. But after the lesson is over, it’s up to me to practice the fingering endlessly, until the muscle memory for that phrase has been fixed in my brain. It’s up to me to practice each passage until they flow smoothly from one to another. His suggestions can give me a boost, but in the end it’s up to me to do the necessary work.
We writers also are always looking for ways to find an advantage–for tricks, tips, information that will help open a door. And so we band together to share them: a new agent, reviews of editing software, the best place to get head shots. We also swap manuscripts. support and encouragement. But in the end, it’s up to each of us, on our own, to come up with ideas, flesh them out, find our own voice, see it through to the end, revise it until it’s the best we can do, and have the guts to put it out there. Sometimes it’s hard to face that fact. So we join more groups, workshop the same fifty pages over and over, read one more writing manual. There is a third way, however. You write only for yourself, for your own satisfaction, or self-illumination, with no other audience in mind. It’s sort of the equivalent of playing the piano pieces you already know and love, with never a thought of performing them for someone else. Either choice is perfectly okay. There’s a lot to be said for just doing what you love, whether or not it’s aimed at anything other than self-expression in the moment. For me, though, it’s always about getting better, about the next challenge. Committing to a recital, like committing to submit, is one more way to keep me focused on that goal.