Friday, April 29, 2011

Taking myself less seriously

So, final piano-related post, I promise. As I've mentioned before, I just did a recital. In that one, I played 20 pages of Beethoven. In the one before it, I played 20 pages of Mozart. I decided it was time to give myself a danged BREAK. (This was also aided by my piano teacher going on maternity leave.)

So, earlier this week, I went to Best in Music and spent about an hour finding some new things to play. First on the list of purchases was the Lord of the Rings trilogy music, which I've been meaning to get for a while. It has everything from Concerning Hobbits to Gollum's Song and really is a good investment.

Second, I perused the Faure section. I'm a huge fan of Faure, mostly because of his Requiem and Apres un Reve, and went to a performance of his Requiem last weekend. I was in the mood. I found a piano transcription of his Pavane, which is one of my favorites of his repertoire.

And then I went looking for the Kuhlau Sonatinas. After my semi-psychotic nervous breakdown experience over the Beethoven, I asked my mother for some recommendations on what to play next that wouldn't drive me as nuts as the Beethoven or Mozart. She suggested Clementi--I've played them before--and the Kuhlau. I like Kuhlau. Well, I didn't find the Sonatinas, but I was flipping through some of his other things and found his "Allegro Burlesco." I read through it and snickered by the end of it. I ended up buying it.

The Allegro Burlesco is what I'm starting to think of as Beethoven for people who don't take themselves too seriously. It's emotionally varied and stylistically complex, the way I like my music to be. But it's a five-page piece that is full of inside jokes. I am completely in love with it. Here's a very good video of it if you ignore the goofiness and 10-year-oldness of the pianist.

Anyway, after heart-stopping, breathtaking chromatic brilliance (Beethoven Op. 13) and playful sociopathy (Mozart, K. 465), I've been needing something to make me enjoy piano again. Something that reminds me I used to have a lot of fun with this. I had to stop taking lessons because my parents asked me to pick an instrument and I chose the one that would let me be in orchestras and I taught myself whatever the heck I felt like for the next 15 or so years. I didn't pick things that were reaching for the next level up or developing a specific skill. I picked things that I really enjoyed learning, such as the Grieg Notturno in C, the Chopin Prelude in g minor, etc.

It reminds me of writing this way. I've been fretting over whether or not I'm dealing with certain subject matter with appropriate depth. I've worried about having a lackluster ending. I've spent a year and a half on this blog being neurotic as hell.

But remember the lesson learned from piano. Fanfiction has been good for me because I approached it the same way that I approached piano during those fifteen years. I wrote what made me feel good or made me feel at all. I wrote things that helped me deal with being an abuse survivor or helped me express what it was like to be in love. I gave myself lectures on forgiveness. But I also wrote a lot of things that were just because I loved what I was doing with words.

I want to get back to that kind of feeling with my writing. Recently, I've had a severe dry spell, where my muse wouldn't cooperate with my intentions and it's been stressing me out. Tonight, while practicing my merry joke as the Kuhlau translates, I decided to lighten up and do some Beethoven-not-taken-too-seriously with my writing. I've earned it!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stewing period

The writing process is a very intuitive thing and I've developed quite a routine over the years. Some things have changed, most have not.

But one of my most tried-and-true habits is one that drove my parents a little crazy at time when they knew I had a paper due. I would write my brains out and then walk away for a couple of hours. My theory was that if there's something wrong that I need to fix, I'll notice it when I come back after a while. It's always been true and mostly they didn't like knowing that I wasn't done with my projects.

So I always have a stewing period, where I walk away for a while and then come back. This last time, I didn't really mean to have that period. I've given myself "away time" from my book, but I've been pretty good recently about doing revisions on a regular basis.

I'm in the process of moving and I left the binder with my revisions in it at the old place. I finally got that back yesterday when I picked up some dresses, shoes, my desktop and external hard drive, but I still haven't looked at it since then. I'm going to leave it until after Tax Day. That is tomorrow, my taxes are already filed, but because I work for the USPS, there will be a thousand million gajillion people calling about their taxes tomorrow. My work acknowledges that it sucks so much, we actually get to come in our pajamas and have really good food.

Another thing I'm stewing on is my piano practice. I successfully played the Beethoven on April 9 and haven't played much of anything other than a Clementi sonatina last week. I am going to get my piano moved into the new place this coming Saturday and I will then go to Best in Music to find some new stuff to play. For example, I will be asking my mom about those Beautiful Beethoven Sonatas That You Should Really Play. I'm going to get some movie music. I might even dabble in Debussy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Positive Reinforcement

So, I've been working for nearly 6 months for the USPS. A couple of weeks ago, I applied for a position with Inspection Services. That position got filled, but the boss emailed me with a very nice list of the reasons why he wanted me to apply again next time there was an opening. Since I'm planning on being there only until Summer term, I didn't think that would come around before I left or had to cut back hours. Well, over the weekend, I found out that they had two more openings and the guy emailed me again to ask if I was interested in applying.

So this morning, I get to work and find that there's a schedule change listing that I have "Coaching" at 2-2:15. That's usually code for performance review from my boss, but when I opened my email windows, I found another email from the aforementioned IS guy. It said that 2-2:15 he wanted to have an interview with me. I wish he had let me know, since I was wearing my slightly-fraying jeans and a t-shirt that is navy blue and almost acid-green. (I found it at JCPenney's yesterday when I needed a cheerup and it was only $5.52.)

I don't know yet if I got the job--it's only been 3+ hours since the interview--but it was a nice bit of positive reinforcement. Even if I don't get it, I got to hear that my current boss had recommended me highly, that I was confident without sounding arrogant and that I was obviously very good at self-managing.

This came on the heels of having a great phone call yesterday. I spent about an hour talking to my sister-in-law and she asked all kinds of questions about my book and queries and we laughed at ourselves a lot. It was an hour well-spent.

So, here's to the really little ways to make yourself happy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Performance Anxiety

So, there are a number of reasons why my Mom has not read the book. #1 is that she read my sister-in-law's book and called it "Kind of Baby-sitter's Club." #2 is that my characters aren't Mormon or even good church-goers, by and large and there are the occasional uses of "What the hell?" and "DAMN!"

#3 is illustrated by this last weekend. I have a piano recital, in which I'm playing the aforementioned Pathetique. Last week, I developed major performance anxiety and am now having a lot of freakouts about the recital. This has happened to me with things like my first major solo, in Vivaldi's Gloria, and before I had to audition for the New England Conservatory Youth Repertory Orchestra. Some times, it's a lot worse than others. This is one of those times. So, my Mom, who has been touring and giving lectures on how to overcome performance anxiety, offered to help. So I played her my recital program. She then went on to point out the lack of musicality, how excruciating it looked for me to play it, how my hands were wrong for the piece, how 90% of the pianists she's known have never been able to tackle this piece, that I should know better than to let it be massacred like that. I have higher musical standards than this. I am playing it "by hook and crook" and irreparably damaging my technique.

Remember how I said that my characters say "What the hell?" and "Damn"? If I were fictional and controlled by someone other than me, I would have used those things. Instead, I spent 20 minutes crying at my Mom's grand piano. She felt so bad for terrorizing me about it that she hemmed my jeans, ran a hot bath and gave me a ride home. But she thinks I should have never started it in the first place.

So, then I think about the day that I hand her a copy of my book. She talks me through not being nervous about her reaction and then tells me that there's no grace to the prose, that I have higher literary standards, that I'm irreparably damaging my own writing style and should never have started it in the first place.

SHe's asked me before why she hasn't gotten to read it. I politely tell her that if she thinks my sister-in-law's book is Baby-Sitter's Club, I'd rather not hear her opinion for several more drafts. It's the kind thing to say.