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Living with Schizoaffective Disorder

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A Small Victory

Amateurs play for fun. Professionals play for keeps.

Michael David Crawford
February 22, 2008

Copyright © 2008 Michael David Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

I didn't get much sleep last night. I went to bed late, then woke up very early - on my own, without the alarm. That's so unusual for me that I thought I might be getting manic. But it does happen sometimes, for no reason I can understand.

So when I got home tonight, I was very tired. I knew that I should practice piano, but I really didn't feel like it. I spent quite a long time debating whether I should find the strength to practice somehow, or just go to bed early.

I draw a great deal of inspiration from Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art. It was recommended to me on the MusicThoughts mailing list. Pressfield says that a force he calls Resistance lives in all of us, that works to prevent the success of our ambitions. To overcome Resistance, we must become professionals - but he uses the term in a very specific way.

He makes the point that Adolf Hitler wanted to be an artist. I've seen some of his work, and I think he could have made it had he really been determined. But Hitler was an amateur who never turned pro; he found it easier to start World War II than face a blank canvas.


Pressfield doesn't consider earning money the mark of a professional; one can do that and still be an amateur. The essential difference is that amateurs play the game for fun, while professionals play for keeps.

After spending quite some time staring wearily at the framed poster hanging on my wall, that says Nulla Dies Sine Linea (Never a day without a line), I practiced. I won't say I found the strength to practice. No, I practiced despite having no strength.

While I do have setbacks, I'm determined to succeed - and I am confident that I have what it takes.

I just finished playing all my scales. I now know all twelve major scales, and thiry-two of the thirty-six minor scales. Each time I practice, I play five sets of all of them, both hands in parallel motion (which was hard to learn, but is now easy for me), two octaves up and down. It takes about an hour.

Between each set, I've been playing a song that I finally learned after struggling with it for over a year back in Truro. I'm working to perfect it; I need to be able to play it without thinking, confidently, so I can do a good job when I play it for the public.

At the open mic in Truro last Saturday, I played it publicly for the first time. Halfway through I screwed it up real bad. I stopped and started over, this time playing it well all the way through.

This happens more than I care to admit - but I keep going back to the open mics, because I know that the only way to overcome my stage fright is to keep playing for the public. Soon I'll be playing on the street as well.

After I post this, I'm going to take a shower and change my clothes. Then I'm going to practice another hour.

I'm so tired that my playing is really off tonight. I'm not going to get any forward progress out of tonight's work. But at least I won't fall back; I know that by practicing tonight, I'll be better tomorrow night - when I hope to be rested - than I would be had I not practiced tonight.

I'm going to play the open mic at Barefoot Coffee Roasters next Thursday night. I'm determined to do a better job than I did at my first appearance there. My plan to accomplish that is to practice two hours every night; on Thursday I'll leave work early so I can practice just before the show.

Steven Pressfield wasn't always a best-selling writer; he spent years struggling, without selling a single work. His first screenplay sale, the script to King Kong Lives, was a collossal failure. He started out as an amateur, but eventually - after being mentored by some other writers - he turned pro. Now he's a wealthy man, money he earned from his art.

I want to mention two other professionals who inspire me. I've already written about Stephen King, who never gave up his dream despite desperate financial struggles before he got his break with Carrie.

When King got his first rejection slip, he drove a nail into the wall of his room, then stuck the letter on it. He had quite a few rejections hanging from that nail before he made his first sale, then many more before he earned much money at all from his writing.

But he never gave up. Well - almost never. His wife fished the first draft of Carrie out of the trash where he'd thrown it, and encouraged him to give it another try.

As I'm never going to give up. lonelyhobo, kindly kiss my ass. Another point Pressfield makes in The War of Art is that one shouldn't pay attention to validation - or criticism - from external sources. One has to find them both within oneself.

I recently bought Ray LaMontagne's album Till The Sun Turns Black after hearing a couple of its tracks on Radio Paradise. It is a wonderful, rich, moody and complex album.

The album includes a short biography. LaMontagne had a very difficult childhood, being raised in a broken home that never had enough money. He was a factory worker in Lewiston, Maine when a song on the radio inspired him to take up singing, something he'd never done before.

Obviously he had to work long and hard before he was signed with a record label. Now he's a succesful performer and recording artist.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take that shower, and get back to work.

Dammit, I'm going to make it someday. I'm determined.

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