Writing and music.

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like, which is ironic, as I’ve recently decided to pursue writing as a career post-graduation. I have some reasonable excuses: lab work has really ramped up…I’m learning how to analyze my first data…it’s summer and I want to be adventuring on the weekends, so I can’t post to my online ventures…school takes a lot of my brain power and I seek potato mode once I get home…but really, what’s going on is that I suddenly feel like my writing needs to be top-quality if I’m going to sit down and publish something.

This is not a new mental block for me. I’ve been a classically-trained violinist for 22 years. Violinists of my variety strive for beauty, intention, and perfection every time they pick up their instrument. Not that we shouldn’t seek these attributes in our playing; it is thrilling to really nail a difficult piece or section and playing something really well can be very moving for anyone listening. It’s all quite satisfying. But it can be intimidating. I often think to play my violin, and then I don’t, because it seems like work rather than play, or that what I should do is practice octaves but I don’t want to, so to spare myself from not playing really well, I don’t do anything.

I’ll get to writing about writing in a minute, but I want to share what happened last night. I took out my violin, tuned it up, and started to play a little fiddle tune before running through a simple G scale. Then I stopped, took a deep breath, and wondered what to do next.

I had sat down with the intention of approaching my violin as a friend, putting aside any expectation, and just enjoying the sounds and the feel and the ability to play. I thought, “playing anything, even for five minutes, is a world apart from playing nothing.” So, I played another fiddle tune, one of my favorites, and challenged myself to put in some new notes to make it uniquely mine. I really like what I came up with. I played another old favorite for a bit and then put the violin down. It had only been twenty minutes, but I felt refreshed and happy. Twenty minutes spent relaxed and joyful with my instrument: a good start to a new relationship.

IMG_2688Perfect posture, even at age 8.

My hesitation to make music or to write comes down to self-proclaimed identities. As soon as I identify with a pursuit, I feel the need to be really good at that thing so I come across as a talented person who exudes effortless mastery. I’ve identified as a violinist for almost all of my life, so moving on to a healthier relationship with my instrument is slow-going and difficult. On the other hand, although I’ve enjoyed writing for many years, it’s only recently that I’ve declared myself a Writer. I think nipping this perfection bullshit at the beginning of my writing career will be easier than my violin-friendship efforts and will be a boon to my future endeavors.

Here’s to all the exceptional, mediocre, and bad writing (and music) to come!


  1. A colleague of mine and teacher of industrial design has always had keen insight and well-earned knowledge of that field, which is very creative.

    Six months ago she committed to blogging, and posts three or four times a week, but never more than a paragraph or two – one thought.

    I don’t know her process or how that format came to be, but it is at once light and potent to read. I imagine that sort of writing is like playing a short tune on your favorite instrument – unencumbered. We should all be so lucky!

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