Identity Crisis: Averted

I chose to write about PURPOSE this month for, well, a purpose. I thought I would need to prepare myself for the feeling that I was losing my current life’s purpose by giving up mommy-time and writing-time in favor of going back to work. I thought this transition, from stay-at-home to working mom, from writer back to musician, would provoke a mini crisis of self. I’ve had these crises before- when I transitioned from college to professional life; when I got married and took my husband’s name; while I was pregnant and becoming a mother. I’ve always felt a lack of center when I needed to re-think the ways I identify myself. So it seemed reasonable to think I’d go through something similar during this next transition.

Except it hasn’t happened. I feel completely prepared for everything to come. Sad, yes; extra-emotional, yes; nervous, yes. But readyI puzzled over this, even while feeling grateful for my own firm sense of self. This is what I came up with:

My identity hasn’t changed. Only the proportions have changed. Continue reading

The Purpose of Practice

As a music teacher, I am regularly told that my subject is less important and more expendable than other “core” subjects such as reading, math and science. Why? Well, because most music students don’t grow up to have careers in music. I question the validity of this point (does that mean Biology and Algebra were a waste of my time, since my career doesn’t involve them?) but let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that it’s true. Most students who make music don’t become musicians. I’ve been teaching in public schools and private settings for over twelve years now, and I’ve seen some truly talented students spend hours in the practice room, dedicate months to learning solos for festivals, win entry into the top ensembles in the state… and then go off to college for a non-music degree, and rarely, if ever, pick up their instruments again. Do I feel like my colleagues and I have somehow failed these students? Not even a little bit. Because although they’re no longer playing their instruments, I know they’ve learned something incredibly valuable from their music education.

They’ve learned how to practice. 

Over the weekend, I started listening to Gabriela Periera’s DIY MFA podcast. (Gabriela was one of the clinicians who most inspired me at the Writer’s Digest conference.) In Episode #2, Gabriela talks about how her violin practice habits informed her writing practice habits. Her analysis really resonated with me on a personal and professional level. Professional, because it gave me some new language to explain the importance of practice on any instrument, not for the music’s sake, but for the practice’s sake. Personal, because it gave me a new framework for my own writing practice; ironically, the same one I’ve been assigning my students for a decade:

1. Warm-upmetronome

2. Skill practice

3. Develop repertoire

4. Prepare for performance Continue reading

Remove Your Appendix

When was the last time you thought about your appendix?

Unless you’ve experienced appendicitis, you’ve probably never considered your appendix at all. It’s a completely unnecessary part of your body. It serves no purpose whatsoever. It’s like a fork when you’re eating hot dogs: positioned near the action, but never in use.

What else, in your life, is like your appendix?

Do you have a friend who you were once close to, but now have nothing in common with? Is there a piece of furniture or technology in your house that gathers dust? Do you have a membership to a gym or clubhouse that you haven’t used in years? In other words, can you think of anything that serves no purpose whatsoever, that simply takes up space, time or energy?

If you can, I recommend emergency surgery. A metaphorical appendectomy. Get rid of the purposeless thing or person. Do it gently, so as not to leave a scar, but get it done. Continue reading

Top 10 Reasons To Go On Vacation

What’s the purpose of vacations?

I would never have asked myself this question in my twenties. I would have thought it was obvious: you go on vacation to relax. Period. But as I’ve gotten older, and particularly since having a kid, I’ve realized there can be multiple motivations for vacationing. I’ve also learned that everyone on the same trip doesn’t necessarily have the same reasons for going. And if those reasons aren’t aligned, someone is going to wish she’d never left home.

This question feels important to me, because it’s August, we only have a couple of chances left for short trips before the start of the school year, and I want them to fulfill the needs of everyone in our family.

Aruba at sunset

Aruba at sunset

Continue reading

Purpose, Simplified

DR beachLet’s kick off the PURPOSE-ful month of August by simply defining what it is, and figuring out how to find it.

To my mind, finding purpose is the art of asking yourself personal “why” questions; purpose itself lies in the answers to those questions.

For example:

Purpose: Parenting

Question: “Why do I want to be a parent?” The answer will help you qualify your parenting values, and direct your interactions with your children.

Purpose: Work

Question: “What do I want to be when I grow up?” The answer will help you find goals for your education and work life.

Purpose: Life

Question: “What am I truly passionate about?” The answer will open your mind to all sorts of potential new avenues. Continue reading

Conference Recap/August Mini-Series

As I wrote about in last week’s post, It’s Worth The Fear, I went to a writing conference this past weekend- the Writer’s Digest conference in New York City. Now I feel like a bit of a fraud for previously reporting that I had any element of fear about attending this conference. Sure, I was nervous and a little scared when preparing for the pitch session (more on that later) but I also had a great time, met some lovely people, and learned a lot. I definitely want to go back next year.

writers digestAbout the Conference: I attended several sessions per day, on everything from creating suspense in story, to Goodreads promotion, to the business of publishing. It was a good mix of “writing craft” and “writing business.” I also attended a special Pitch Slam session, where writers are given three minutes to “pitch” their book to agents (explain the book and try to convince the agent to ask for your manuscript). You pitch to as many agents as you can in an hour, bearing in mind there are about 200 writers pitching, and 50 or so agents (not every agent accepts every genre). I did well, partly because I lined up early and researched my picks. I pitched to 7 agents, and all 7 requested materials from me, mostly full manuscript requests (the big coup). That was the “scariest” part of the conference, but thanks to the preparation seminar we’d all been given the afternoon before, I felt ready, and even had fun running from one agent to the next. The best part was having the opportunity to actually meet agents face-to-face, instead of sending queries to an online presence with a list of credentials and maybe a picture. It was easy to get an instinct about which agents I’d feel comfortable working with, and I’m excited to hear back from those people.  Continue reading

July Book Round-Up

I’ve had very erratic luck with books this summer. I’ve raced through some, took my time with others, and abandoned one or two. I feel a lot of guilt over abandoning books, particularly ones that have gotten rave reviews, but life is too short to force myself to read something I’m not really into. Plus, if I’m not enjoying the book I’m reading, I’ll just stop reading completely. Better to switch to something else.

Rather than give a synopsis this month, I linked the title to the book’s Goodreads page. You’ll find detailed synopses and reviews there. (I know, I’m being a little lazy- it’s just been a busy week!)

Books I raced through: 

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriartythe last anniversary

Why I raced through it: Moriarty’s characters are so thickly tangled, yet so very unique. Her novels have plenty of dramatic tension, tempered with a good dose of humor. It’s an appealing combination, all the more fun because I always know I’m going to enjoy it from beginning to end.

the matchmaker


The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand

Why I raced through it: I just love Nantucket novels, and I love the way Hilderbrand really gives the reader a sense of being on the island, capturing its beauty and the passion she has for Nantucket. But I can’t say I enjoyed this one as much as her other books. The characters didn’t feel real enough to me. I think Hilderbrand allowed the device of Dabney’s matchmaking to overrun the heart of the story, which was Dabney’s rediscovering of herself. Continue reading