This is something my daughter Pearl and I have been talking about. She loves music and has been in school choirs since she was a little girl. She wants to make a career in music, but hasn’t yet figured out how to get there from here.
It’s a question I dealt with myself some years ago in my writing, but I find that one’s mother is not always the right person to offer advice. So I looked for other mentors for Pearl. I paid for piano lessons for an entire year — with an amazing woman who I hoped would inspire Pearl.
Pearl didn’t practice piano once that year, well, not once during those nine months. Not once. The only glimmer of light I got was in noticing that she was not willing to give up her half hour with Susan each week. So I kept writing the checks, and hoping. Eventually I told her that was it.
A couple of positive things have happened for Pearl this past year. She’s found a terrific choir teacher at Edmonds Community College, and when I thought she was going to drop out of school this past quarter (the Math 80 conundrum) she regathered her forces — because of choir — and registered for spring quarter. Though I don’t necessarily think college is going to be her path, I hated to see her quitting simply because she was discouraged. I wanted her to make conscious choices.
And another thing. In January she and her sister attended a Lady Gaga concert. Inspired, Pearl bought a beautiful leather bound journal (with music engraved on the cover) and she started jotting down lyrics for songs. She also started practicing the piano. She even arranged for it to be tuned! She wrote down this quotation in her journal and shared it with me — it’s from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke and is one of Lady Gaga’s tattoos —
“In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?”
This is what I’ve learned from practicing my own art. You can’t just look into your heart in the deepest hour of the night, you have to do something. Wanting to be a writer — or a singer — with your entire being will not make you a writer or a singer. You have to do the work, at least a little bit every day.