We’re going to start, as usual, with a video — but this time, it isn’t of me.

I’m pretty sure most of you aren’t going to drop everything to watch an hour-long András Schiff masterclass, so I’ll sum it up for you:

  1. A young pianist plays Mozart K332 beautifully. It’s the kind of controlled, virtuosic performance that makes you want to learn how to play the piano exactly like that.
  2. Sir András Schiff offers a handful (pun intended?) of detailed adjustments, all of which are focused on shaping the melodic line. K332 can get a bit ticky-ticky-ticky, especially in the third movement, and his suggestions instantly change the piece into something that is much more interesting to listen to, probably because all of the tiny little notes are now given context.
  3. The pianist immediately incorporates Schiff’s suggestions. Her playing, which was already “perfect,” is now more specific — and the tension/release she adds to her melodic line makes the experience much more compelling for both the listener and the pianist.

I’m also trying to incorporate Schiff’s suggestions, because — as L and I both put it — what else are you going to do with your life? When someone shows you how to do something in a way that is better than the way you are currently doing it, why not give it a try?

Here’s my version; it’s only four minutes long, and you actually get to see me practice.

When L and I talked about what this masterclass video made us want to do next (work harder, work better, find more specific ways of solving problems), I ended up comparing it to what I was trying to do with my writing — because it really does all come down to the same kind of thing, when you think about it. You have an idea, whether it’s part of a freelance assignment or a novel draft or a Mozart sonata, and you want to find the most compelling way of executing it.

In many cases, the most compelling execution is linked to some kind of specific structure — in many cases, a tension/release cycle. Understanding how that cycle works not only helps you use it to your advantage as you write/create/shape, but also helps you iterate your work into “final draft stage” (for lack of a better term) much more efficiently.

This is something I learned how to do, as a freelancer, after years of practice and multiple daily deadlines. This is something I am still learning how to do, as both a pianist and an author. I’m very specifically (pun definitely intended) not telling you what I’m doing with my novel — but I’m telling L, and he’s telling me that it’s some of the most amazing work he’s ever seen me do. He’s also curious whether I will eventually get as efficient at “getting piano repertoire to the performance stage” as I am at “getting freelance articles to the final draft stage,” and what that could mean if he and I were interested in teaching other people how to do similar things.

All of the learning I’m doing right now, by the way, is built on a combination of internally-driven experiments and externally-sourced best practices — which is to say I’m testing my own ideas, keeping the ones I like, and then going in search of even better ones.

That seems like the most important part of this entire post, actually. ❤️

On the subject(s) of learning and best practices and masterclasses, I’m going to be teaching two online classes in November and December. The November class will focus on personal finance for the freelancer (very, very excited about this one) and the December class will be about how to pitch. Both are single-session Zoom courses, and both will include plenty of opportunity to ask questions, learn new skills, and get to know other writers.

Where I got published this week


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