Fighting for Silent Night: Keyboard Struggles

I can’t play the piano. Well, not really. I took a few months of lessons when I was a seven, a semester of class piano during my “voice major” phase of college, and four months of lessons when I was pregnant with my first kid. So I can sit down and plunk out a melody line, sure. And I played enough other instruments in my life to be able to read music well enough. But no one would make the mistake, after hearing me massacre a minuet, of thinking that I could really play piano.

Some of my very favorite memories of childhood, though, were of my mom playing piano music with us kids, all of us singing along. We had dozens of songs memorized, harmonies and descants included. Whenever a day had really gotten to one of us, the sound of those songs trickling in from the living room would pull us out of our funk and onto the piano bench, right next to Mom, and the day improved in an instant.

I wanted to give that to my kids. I wanted to play those songs, and more. But I was a Very Difficult Child, and broke my mom like a dry twig when she tried to force me to keep up the practicing as a child. And the time, patience, and will to learn to play as an adult eluded me.

So I settled for the Most Important Songs: Christmas Carols. Even if I couldn’t sit down and play some gorgeous classical piece, by gum I was going to nail Joy to the World and Jingle Bells. You know what? I did it. I mostly have those, even if they are pretty easy versions. Even though I have to struggle and sweat through every new song I want to add to my repertoire (Silver and Gold? O Come, O Come Emanuel? You are mine!), I am adamant I will succeed.

I think all of our Big Dreams are like that. There are things we want, and things we’re willing to work for, and things we’re willing to accept. Too often, we’re willing to accept less than we are capable of, and far less than we’d dreamed.  I accepted far less in my dream of playing the piano with my kids — but I’ve made my peace with what I can do and have done.

Whether it’s in writing or music, there comes a point when you must draw a line in the sand and say: this is what I want, and am willing to work for. Fight for. Even if it means sitting down to the keyboard and coming face-to-face with your current state of mediocrity, even if it’s embarrassing and your kids/critique partners don’t seem all that enthused.

Even if it means the dogs howl and the neighbors post anonymous complaints about the noise, even if the agents and editors send form rejections and nothing else, keep working toward your goal. At the end of your journey, you will have earned the right to be proud of yourself. So what if your work only ever appears in a local magazine, or a church newsletter? So what if all you can play is Silent Night?

Personally, I’ve always loved Silent Night. And the most meaningful thing I’ve had published was in a church magazine.

So, Writer Friends… what are you willing to work for? What are you willing to accept?

Posted in Miscellaneous on 12/10/2011 12:36 am

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