Pianissimo

Last weekend, Homes and my father-in-law drove to a friend’s house in Mendocino and came back with a piano.

But wait, there’s more. We already have a piano. The old piano is awesome in character and appearance. It’s at least a hundred years old, I’m sure, with a marbly-looking old wood that goes perfect in our front room. The problem is it sounds awful. Even the most tone-deaf amongst us would notice that high A sounds like two adjacent notes being played together, with an otherworldy screech that echoes the screams of a horror movie bimbo.

Unfortunately, no one is willing to even attempt tuning the old beastly thing, so the piano I’ve spent years playing (or avoiding, recently, because it’s too painful to listen to) will have to go elsewhere. I’m really hoping I can find someone who wants to make it a project and replace the strings and whatever else it needs, because it’s seriously cool. Otherwise it’ll probably have to go to the dump, because we have no room for storing it and neither does anyone else, and I will cry.

(By the way, do you want a piano?)

Dueling pianos, anyone?

But that’s a rambly introduction to the thoughts I’m having, which all swarm around the idea of success and how we measure it and how we hope to live up to success…or not. And how, in the eleven years I took piano lessons (thanks, Mom and Dad!) I never thought I’d be a concert pianist or play professionally or anything like that. I played because I liked it. Other than the “assignment” songs I had to practice for my teacher, I chose my music and learned things I wanted to learn. Like, of course, Für Elise, and the theme from The Man From Snowy River, and (cringing here) Boyz II Men’s “On Bended Knee” and Bryan Adams’s “Everything I Do.” Once I got a little better I branched out into other classical songs, some rag time, but the point is, whatever I wanted to learn – I learned it.

“Success” in music wasn’t in being the best. There was a girl in my class who could play much better than I could, and I didn’t care. We weren’t competing. I wanted to play well, because the better I could play, the more songs I could choose from. The only thing holding me back was my small hands (anything beyond an octave is a big stretch) but I could work around that.

And that’s how I want my writing to be. It’s not about who else writes what, whether someone writes better or has a bigger audience. I want to improve because the better I write, the more I can write, and the more I can do. With fewer limits, I can have more fun.

I’m playing the piano again, now that we’ve got one that’s tuneable. And I don’t play for other people. If I want to play Moonlight Sonata six times in one day, Maverick isn’t going to complain (but my hands will – too many octave stretches!). I play for the joy of hearing the song one more time, with maybe fewer mistakes. For the joy of giving myself the chills, even when I’m botching every other note, because the music is so beautiful, two hundred years later, even when played by an amateur.

If I can harness that kind of joy and appreciation in my writing practice? Dude, that’s success.