What I Learned about Writing from an Eleven-Year-Old

My nephew is a wonderful pianist, but sometimes, he really hates to practice.  But he loves music. He loves excelling at the piano. So he practices at random times of the day, no routine involved, no inspiration needed. He just applies his tush to the piano bench, and starts going.

Here’s a video of him playing Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu in the early morning, before he even brushed his teeth, before he even combed his hair:

This video was shot when he was a wee eleven years old. He had just learned the piece a month or two prior. And he is simply amazing. You should hear what he sounds like now at age twelve – WOW. He understands music theory the way a mathematician understands fractals.

What I learned from him is this: if you want to excel at something, just do it. Practice. Even if your breath stinks, even if your hair looks like a nest built by an incompetent bird (quoting David Sedaris). And especially if you have absolutely no inspiration or motivation and simply don’t feel like it. I know I don’t love writing (it’s hard!), but I love having written. I’m at peace when I’ve finally put words down on the page.

After performing this piece beautifully, he ran outside to play. One minute he was a maestro of music, and the next, he was any eleven year old tossing a football with his uncle. He practiced his music without fanfare, without complication. So often, I wait for the conditions to be “just right” before I start writing. I wait for silence, for emails to be addressed, for the muse to come along. This is all just procrastination. Don’t wait for perfect conditions. Just do it!

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