Thursday, November 05, 2009


I figured out the other day that one of the happy, and unexpected, side-effects of fiddle lessons is that they're helping my writing. See, I don't expect to be any good at the fiddle. I just do it because it's fun, and if I mess up -- which is more the rule than the exception -- well, I try again. It's fun even though I'm not good at it, which means that so far, I haven't had any problem practicing every day. Practice is playtime, and I actively enjoy it even when I'm doing something fairly boring and screechy, like practicing cross-string polka bowing and sending the cats howling to the far corners of the house.

Because I'm a Professional Writer (TM), though, my writing's surrounded by all kinds of expectations: mine, my publisher's, my readers'. This creates performance anxiety, which is the mortal enemy of fun, not to mention creativity. I always tell my students that writing has to feel like playtime, but I haven't been able to follow that advice myself for quite a while. Writing's become a job.

But if I write immediately after practicing the fiddle, I'm still in "I'm doing this because it's fun, and who cares if it sucks?" space, and I can stay there for my quota of two pages a day.

This makes me very happy. The fiddle lessons have already paid for themselves!

Yesterday, Gary and I went to a noontime concert series curated by our friend Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio, who also performed in yesterday's concert. She's a world-renowned violinist, an amazing musician. Afterwards, we were chatting about my fiddle lessons, and she said that for Christmas, she'll give me a half-hour lesson.

I said, "Stephanie, I'm terrible!"

She pooh-poohed me. She's taught little kids; she's used to beginners. Of course, her Suzuki students are probably much better than I am. But she also pointed out that it can be helpful to have a lesson with a different teacher, who can phrase the same points made by your regular teacher in different ways. Since I'm still having trouble with posture and left-hand position (not to mention polka bowing!), that makes sense.

This is incredibly generous of her, and I'm very touched. I just hope that my true terribleness won't make her think worse of me.

1 comment:

  1. Small world. In the summer of 1972, I went to the Red Fox music camp in the Berkshires, which the Sant'Ambrogio family ran for many years. I believe Stephanie's sister, Sara, the cellist, was in my bunk.


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