One of the most rewarding things about this blog are the emails I get from people who have been touched by something I’ve written. I react anywhere from “Aw, shucks” all the way to ten-minute cathartic bawl-fests, and I am continuously surprised and flattered that any of these meager offerings matter to anyone.
This blog has entered some decidedly tenuous territory since I’ve been studying at Hopkins. It’s mostly due to the full-time student workload combined with the 30 hour teaching workweek and whatever freelance writing and performing come my way: it’s a matter of time and energy. I keep telling myself that:
1. Nobody really cares if this blog lives or dies. Stop being vain!
2. Focus! I didn’t move all the way out here and bankrupt myself to get a B, or even an A- in anything. Keep up your schoolwork über alles.
But really, in letting this blog languish and change and get disconnected and weird I am absolutely authentic to SRCB’s whole credo. Being what you actually are, and being present enough to just stop worrying about it and get down to work is the best thing you can contribute to the world. Having a moderately popular music blog that coincides with a life that looks sexy and exciting is great. It is something I miss. But really, this year away from Los Angeles and the relative glamour of my identity as an artist is just the sort of mission I ask my students to embark upon when they study with me. It is so easy to get caught up in how you appear, and the internet rewards an immaculately kept lawn more than the fruits of your labors.
I posed a question earlier on Twitter: Do I have a serious case of “never good enough” or am I actually capable of doing more, and better? What I keep coming back to is, in short, the essence of being an artist.
And when I say artist, I mean that art is anything done with purpose. With meaning, craft, love, devotion. Through misery and endless searching, compelled by something deep and frequently inconvenient. There is art in what some would say is mundane. If you doubt me, watch an auto enthusiast wax his car. Watch a long-time employee of a hardware store find just the right aftermarket washer for your leaky faucet. Ask your local toddler about what makes their mud pies the best. There will be urgency in that response.
The thing with folks like us who need to do our thing, who are forced by an unseen hand to labor and experiment and trek off upon what appear to be new and strange paths are participating in the endless quest for balance. No art would ever get made if we all felt satisfied. The pangs of guilt for deserting my writing and paring my cello practice down to a threadbare state are there for a reason. So too are the sheaves of research papers and textbooks clogging my studio. This all-consuming work is designed to give me a better venue for my maniacal cello ramblings.
The next 6 months will be utterly epic. While I don’t know what the beginning of September will hold, one thing is certain. The less I apologize for what I do today, the better tomorrow will be.
As I’ve said many times, this blog is mostly a bunch of advice to myself. Writing and then publishing it forces me to work stuff through in a way that is believable. The emails I get each week remind me to follow my own advice, and are the silver lining to the dark cloud of fickle internet interest.
A quote that continually clatters around my head offers solace and swagger.
“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.”
-the wisdom of Bill Cosby.
Go do your thing. Do it well. Do it all the way.
Lemming cartoon by the unparalleled Gary Larson.