Dreaming Big, Living Small

I’m still hacking away on my manifesto. The more I dig in, the more there is to say. Here’s a little more from my working copy. The more I post of it, the more likely I am to finish it.

The image that sprung to mind when I first started thinking about what it means to try and live parallel lives was of running a marathon while dragging a grand piano. It stuck with me and for whatever reason has become iconic for me. After all, who would do that? No one. Maybe. But even as we start off on the race with our many-toothed beast in tow, our idea of success clings to us and is just as unreasonable as the race we’ve undertaken. Our dreams are stubborn and do not readily accept change.

When we are starting on the path in whatever endeavor found us, it is hard to imagine what real success looks like. There are too many bloated and false ideas of what it means to do something great. We imagine crowded galleries, large checks, and much ink spilled over our greatness. And then, if we are lucky, we have our first real success and see what it really means.

The first time I nailed the difficult arpeggios in Villa-Lobos’ Etude No. 11 I was in a practice room all alone. I played it perfectly twice. Once in that practice room and once in my quarterly jury. A seed was planted there. An idea started to form. A definition of success was trying to make its way into my consciousness.

I’ve known painters who, upon the completion of a canvass, will step back and revel in the beauty of what they have done only to be seized with the sudden urge to hide it forever. That moment of perfection is so personal. The thought of miscommunication or criticism was just too much. That doesn’t mean that the work wasn’t shared, it means that what drove them to create was very private. Success is private.

This is the age of The Almighty Internet and as such we are hounded by the idea that everyone should see what we do. What if we turn that on its side and say that we have the ability to reach people who might care. That’s a very worthy goal. We should try to reach everyone who cares, but no more. Trying to make someone who doesn’t necessarily want or need our work take it is the evil side of sales. If we have relieved our work of the burden of keeping us fed then why add the pressure of being loved by everyone?

My dream is still to have 200 people who are interested in my work and follow it but my ultimate goal is to write something that someone would call their favorite. Just one person. One connection. That seems like a low bar until we try to clear it.

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