By Steven Pressfield
Published: August 26, 2015
This is my favorite of all the posts we’ve ever run on this site. (Mainly because it’s not written by me.) I read it every few months just to psych myself up. It’s an article written by English concert pianist James Rhodes that appeared originally in the Guardian (UK).
Why do I love Mr. Rhodes’ story of his bold move to change his life and become an artist?
1) Because James is a late bloomer. Much as I admire child prodigies, I hate them too because they found their calling so young and with so little agony. I like to see someone suffer before they find their way.
2) James’ saga illustrates the depth of passion that such a journey requires—and the depth of madness. (Note the casual allusion to “nine months in a mental hospital.”)
3) James’ does not romanticize his life as an artist. No, he does not sail through the day whistling and grinning. And yes, the grind is still a grind. But he has gone from working for the Man to being the Man himself.
My life as a concert pianist can be frustrating, lonely, demoralising and exhausting. But is it worth it? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt
Friday 26 April 2013
After the inevitable “How many hours a day do you practice?” and “Show me your hands”, the most common thing people say to me when they hear I’m a pianist is “I used to play the piano as a kid. I really regret giving it up.” I imagine authors have lost count of the number of people who have told them they “always had a book inside them”. We seem to have evolved into a society of mourned and misplaced creativity. A world where people have simply surrendered to (or been beaten into submission by) the sleepwalk of work, domesticity, mortgage repayments, junk food, junk TV, junk everything, angry ex-wives, ADHD kids and the lure of eating chicken from a bucket while emailing clients at 8pm on a weekend.
Do the math. We can function—sometimes quite brilliantly—on six hours’ sleep a night. Eight hours of work was more than good enough for centuries (oh the desperate irony that we actually work longer hours since the invention of the internet and smartphones). Four hours will amply cover picking the kids up, cleaning the flat, eating, washing and the various etceteras. We are left with six hours. 360 minutes to do whatever we want. Is what we want simply to numb out and give Simon Cowell even more money? To scroll through Twitter and Facebook looking for romance, bromance, cats, weather reports, obituaries and gossip? To get nostalgically, painfully drunk in a pub where you can’t even smoke?
What if you could know everything there is to know about playing the piano in under an hour (something the late, great Glenn Gould claimed, correctly I believe, was true)? The basics of how to practise and how to read music, the physical mechanics of finger movement and posture, all the tools necessary to actually play a piece – these can be written down and imparted like a flat-pack furniture how-to-build-it manual; it then is down to you to scream and howl and hammer nails through fingers in the hope of deciphering something unutterably alien until, if you’re very lucky, you end up with something halfway resembling the end product.
What if for a couple of hundred quid you could get an old upright on eBay delivered? And then you were told that with the right teacher and 40 minutes proper practice a day you could learn a piece you’ve always wanted to play within a few short weeks. Is that not worth exploring?
What if rather than a book club you joined a writer’s club? Where every week you had to (really had to) bring three pages of your novel, novella, screenplay and read them aloud?
What if, rather than paying £70 a month for a gym membership that delights in making you feel fat, guilty and a world away from the man your wife married you bought a few blank canvases and some paints and spent time each day painting your version of “I love you” until you realised that any woman worth keeping would jump you then and there just for that, despite your lack of a six-pack?
I didn’t play the piano for 10 years. A decade of slow death by greed working in the City, chasing something that never existed in the first place (security, self-worth, Don Draper albeit a few inches shorter and a few women fewer). And only when the pain of not doing it got greater than the imagined pain of doing it did I somehow find the balls to pursue what I really wanted and had been obsessed by since the age of seven—to be a concert pianist.
Admittedly I went a little extreme—no income for five years, six hours a day of intense practice, monthly four-day long lessons with a brilliant and psychopathic teacher in Verona, a hunger for something that was so necessary it cost me my marriage, nine months in a mental hospital, most of my dignity and about 35lbs in weight. And the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is not perhaps the Disney ending I’d envisaged as I lay in bed aged 10 listening to Horowitz devouring Rachmaninov at Carnegie Hall.
Posted in Writing Wednesdays
By Callie Oettinger | Published: August 28, 2015
“Deez Nuts” was the first to arrive — and then over 200 copycats followed, upping the count on the Federal Election Commission’s “2016 Presidential Form 2 Filers” list to 891 (as of the time of this posting).
Recent additions include:
- Zibble the Puppet
- Sir Cookie Zealot
- Bippy the Clown
- Rocky Balboa
- Ronald Reagan’s Ghost
- Tyrion Lannister
Porcupines R. Spikey, Jr. brought a laughter tear to my eye — as did the name of Forrest Gump’s campaign committee — as I scanned the SEC’s list and clicked on the paperwork links for a few of the candidates.
I love a good joke — and have to hand it to the parents of the 15 year old behind Mr. Nuts, who are supporting his run, because that teen is getting an education on campaign politics that will eclipse his peers’.
For the copycats: Like you, when my kids get a laugh, they often go in for a repeat, trying the same joke, hoping for the same result. I always tell them that the second time might earn a smile, but the third time — and without a doubt the 50th time — will not. Instead, they’re treading in the unfunny arena. “Try something new,” I beg them. “Don’t waste your time on the same thing.”
Why do they ignore me at times and go for the copycat act?
Because it’s easier to copy than it is to birth an original idea — something that’s amplified online, where it’s also easier to like a cause than actually do physical work for a cause, or follow someone’s work instead of learning from them and doing our own work.
Posted in What It Takes | 8 Comments
By Shawn Coyne | Published: August 21, 2015
After each three minute round, the boxer gets a one-minute break.
He collapses onto a stool.
His cornerman squeezes water into his mouth and places a bucket beneath his jaw to catch the run-off. He then towels him off with an aggressive rub down to keep the muscles elastic.
All the while a second man, the fighter’s trainer peppers him with advice.
Stay out of the corners! Body blow, body blow, uppercut!
For the fighter, these two support systems are critical.
But they are not indispensable.
The third man in the corner is.