Today, we have no choice but to live the questions, because the prospective answers have burgeoned. We no longer expect much sense of the world. Deferring to that incoherence can feel dizzying, and there is an urge to simplify, but simplicity is often a mistake: not pure but reductive. Your work is not opposed to your life; you do not have to choose between them. It is only by living in the world that you acquire the ability to represent it. I am addicted to artists’ residencies, to sequestering myself to concentrate, to the vision that comes in silence, to Rilke’s vaunted solitude—but not to the exclusion of the engagement that gives you things to say. Try not to let your words outstrip your experience.
This quote, from this New Yorker piece, is one that I resonate with when applied to music. It’s this sentiment that I am realizing right this second changed the entire course of my life. About two years ago, I saw a bit of classical music clickbait on Facebook that said something along the following lines:
“Never let a young musician practice more than four hours a day, for what will a musician have to say in his music if he spends his life in the practice room?”
It was so simple. Crude, even. Block letters on a picture of Mozart, or something similar. It doesn’t matter – these words had an enormous effect on me. What was I doing? I was practicing hours a day, pushing away friends and family in order to perfect the craft. I worked so hard at a goal that I was not enjoying my daily life, and I was perfectly aware of this. And it was only when I scrolled past that picture that I realized how wrong I was. And although I couldn’t tell you exactly the time or what was going on in my life or what I was playing or who exactly those friends were, I can tell you that exact moment planted the seed that has shaped what I do today, everyday.
It’s not about working towards a goal that you see through tunnel vision eyes. It’s about living freely, living with a constant desire to change.
Am I sad that I can’t play half as well as I did less than a year ago? Of course. But I’ve filled my life with so many other worthwhile pursuits. And I’m glad of the decision I’ve made.