New Music: "Shadows At Twilight"
William: Hey, Jack, I've got a new piano piece! With this piece I now have enough music to complete a new album. It'll be all solo piano—meaning I'll have 1 piano album and 7 glass armonica albums. I still have my 'post-production' to do to turn it into a finished product, which should take a few weeks.
Jack: Congratulations! Let's hear this new piece. What's it called?
William: Shadows at Twilight.
Jack: I like it! The title is a little curious, however: are there shadows at twilight? <wink!>
William: Nice. Don't I get some artistic license or something?
Jack: Not from me! Interesting that it's over 8 minutes long—on the longish side as music pieces go.
William: Yes. I know that's a bit of an issue for folks downloading mp3s of it—which is why I also have the 20 second samples. But that's only an issue once—the one time they download it—after that they can play it as many times as they want without that delay. Meanwhile, sometimes a 'short story' won't do—sometimes you really need a 'novel'. Some moods just take more time to create.
Jack: Reminds me of how Beatles era songs had to be less than 3 minutes long to be played on the radio. That's all the time the radio stations allowed for music between commercials. If a song was longer than that, it wouldn't get radio play!
William: I didn't know that! And of course there's a similar issue for TV, where the heroine only has 40 minutes to save the world—60 minutes minus 20 minutes for commercials! Meanwhile, I think many of the best things in Life just need the time they need—a good meal, love making, sunsets—but when commercial media is involved, time is money!
Jack: And understandably so. TV studios, for example, and the whole infrastructure for distributing TV is pretty darn expensive. Same goes for movies.
William: That whole concept of taking the time—making the time for something is an issue I constantly struggle with.
Jack: Don't we all!! In many ways a true measure of a person's priorities is how they spend their time—and money, which is pretty darn closely related. Of course that can be complex. All kinds of folks make providing for their family the top priority, so off they go to work every day. Then their secondary priorities kick in with their discretionary time and money. We're all a complex mix of primary and secondary priorities.
William: Sure. But at the same time, if someone says "I want to be a novelist" but never spends any time writing, they're kidding themselves.
Jack: That's true. I'm reminded of the famous Woody Allen saying: "80% of success is showing up." Showing up for practice, showing up to your word-processor if you're a writer, showing up for your kids' school plays if you're a parent...
William: So the challenge for me is to be conscious of my choices about how I invest my time. To do reality checks of looking at how I am actually spending my time and cross-checking that with what I've been telling myself my priorities are.
Jack: Like Mr. Socrates said: "The unexamined life is not worth living!"
William: This all ties in with a book that I've been meaning to tell you about: The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield. The premise of his book is that success in Your Art—which in his book includes any Great Task for you: starting a business, writing that novel, learning yoga, losing weight—that the great challenge is 'showing up':
"There's a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't, and the secret is this: It's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write."
Think about Tiger Woods. Do you think a day goes by when he doesn't get out his clubs and practice his swing—in the hotel lobby on rainy days, if necessary? Does Jack LaLane miss a day doing his calisthenics? Does the devoted monk skip his daily prayers, even when he's not in the mood?
Pressfield calls that "turning pro"—professional:
The word amateur comes from the Latin root meaning "to love". The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his "real" vocation.
Pressfield point out that we already have 'turned pro' about a lot of things in our lives: our jobs, our relationships—we commit to 'showing up' every day to make them work. Or we get fired—by our bosses and our amours! So it's really a concept that's already familiar to all of us.
Many times I've thought of myself as not being very disciplined, and yet my life is full of all sorts of self-disciplines: I never have any internal debate about stopping at red lights, or brushing my teeth every day, or paying my bills—there is a long, long list of things where I just do what I need to do without any muss or fuss. Well, maybe I fuss a little about paying the bills <grin!>, but it never seriously occurs to me to skip doing that altogether.
Then, the trick is realizing that you can take that Discipline skill, that you really already have in abundance, and consciously apply it to new areas of your life when you are so moved.
Along those lines I've been trying an experiment lately. Now mind you, I've composed about 200 titles so far in my composing career, so I like to think I've been investing the time. But it's been pretty haphazard—I might compose all day one day, then not at all for a couple days, like that. So lately I've been trying the 'Pressfield Plan'—'showing up' every day to the music paper. Not all of the music that results from that is good, of course—that's what recycle bins are for! But there really is something different about making that commitment to just 'show up'—every stinkin' day. Some crazy days that may mean getting up early. But there's something amazing about showing—proving—your devotion to Your Muse by giving her attention every single day. Just like you need to give your boss and your amour attention every day. And your boss, your amour, and The Muse—they all respond in kind.
This doesn't mean you can never take a day off. Rather, it's the difference between 'showing up' being the rule with the occasional—and conscious—exception, as opposed to what you were doing before where 'showing up' was the exception—it was haphazard, and not the rule.
The big surprise has been that just 'showing up' has been the hardest part—that the first note is by far the hardest to compose. The next note and the note after that come far more easily.'
Jack: I look forward to hearing how this works out for you.