Sunday, September 9, 2012

Passion and pianos

One of the people I admire most in my life is my grandmother Saralee, who became a fine pianist at a very young age, which earned her a scholarship to Julliard in the early 1940s. This is a woman who was devoted to her husband and two children, but was also so driven to plan her life around the piano. She's almost 90 and she still practices almost every day, running those arthritic fingers up and down the keys as if the very sound of music could feed the hungry, as if the perfect sonata or the most elegant concerto could achieve as much or more as the CEO of a corporation or a doctor in an emergency room. When she plays, the stakes are always that high. She respects music the way others respect business--the way many respect money. She acknowledges that no matter how many times she plays a piece, it could always sound different; it could always sound better.

I sense that many artists feel this way about their craft. I go through periods when all I want to do is write. It's not enough to write; I have to really write--I have to write as if what I'm doing is as worthy of time and attention as any other professional task. As if this were why I got up, why I commute, why I stay inside, why I put other things off. I have to feel an absence when I'm not writing, as if every day something doesn't get written I'm staring at a piano that hasn't been played. These are the stakes of not writing. Not writing is akin to not caring - something that feels very dangerous.

This begs the question, then, how does one transfer passion? Is it transferable? Or is that the wrong question entirely?

I don't know yet, but until I do, that will be the question that gets me up every day.

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