Hopefully it’s clear that this doodlewash is of a violin, but just in case, that was the intent. I was recently attending a Kansas City Symphony performance and I noticed somebody I went to high school with there and it got me thinking about the only instrument I learned to play well. I started playing the violin in 4th grade and continued all the way through high school. Just before giving it up for good, I had the unique opportunity to play on stage at one of the world’s most famous concert halls – Carnegie Hall in New York City.
There’s a famous story that has become part of the folklore of the hall: A New Yorker is approached in the street near Carnegie Hall, and asked, “Pardon me sir, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?” To which the New Yorker glibly replies, “Practice, practice, practice.” It’s less of a real story than a retold joke, but it’s something I always heard while growing up. And I was lucky enough to find my way there by being in a top high school orchestra at precisely the right moment.
Another thing that reminded me of violins was my trip to Missouri Town. While standing on the steps of an old house there, I remembered that I used to play old time fiddle for local festivals as part of The Fantastic Fiddlers Four group. Angela, the only female fiddler in the group and I were brown-haired, big-eyed and looked like brother and sister. The director was often worried the matching outfits would make it look too much like the Donny & Marie show.
Angela was also our concert mistress at Carnegie Hall, which means she was first chair, first violin and played the “A” we would tune to, not the second definition which would imply she was a having an extramarital sexual relationship. She wasn’t. But she was an amazing violinist, and I was always so impressed by just how much better she was than me.
I would spend my life feeling that same feeling of inadequacy about various talented people I would encounter through my many adventures. Why are they so good? Why I am not so good? But I was somehow disappointed to discover that they just had a unique passion for that craft and did it every single day. No secrets, no shortcuts to be found. They just started focusing on something and worked really hard to get really good at it.
Now, whenever I find myself wondering whether or not I’m good enough, instead I just ask myself if I’m actually doing enough. For the first time in my life, I’m doodlewashing (and even writing!) daily and I’m loving it. I feel like I’ve discovered something that I can actually commit to and with daily practice I’m getting better and better (mostly… sometimes it’s a couple steps back before moving forward again). But whenever I’m discouraged, I just remember that mastering any art form is done in precisely the same way one gets to Carnegie Hall – practice, practice, practice!