On Playing Music and Practicing Writing

Guitar HI trained as a musician first. I’ve played classical guitar now for many more years than not. Last night, as we ran our program of duets for two guitars, there were moments in which the music breathed in a new way, our phrasing opened up and became more fluid and dynamic. It was lovely to hear and quite surprising.

One never knows what will happen during a practice session. Sometimes, we work through our repertoire and it feels like we’ve never seen this music before! We find passages that need re-learning or places that need to be re-fingered, transitions that need more careful coordination. And then sometimes, like last night, the music flows in an entirely new way – the notes had been there but, after the deep familiarity one gains after working through a piece of music over several months, suddenly one hears new possibilities.

The important part is showing up. As I’m learning to write a dissertation, I think back to those many hours in a practice room struggling to get a good sound, listening hard for a clear, distinct notes and perfectly timed rhythms. It took nearly a decade before I could hear myself start to play with clarity and confidence, before the music came alive with nuance and energy.

Writing, like playing music, requires showing up. Daily. So far, the days when my text comes together in clear, strong sentences that say what I mean are few. But I keep showing up. And keep writing.

I’m heartened by two quotes on the wall directly above my laptop:Laptop

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu


“But it was you who incited these words to shimmer and mutate and reconfigure even further – and what they now are saying may well be much more acute and more crucial than what you had thought you wanted to say.” Gary Lutz