Thoughts From My Office

The thing is that if I’m going to write (rewrite) this book, I’m going to need to take time away from something else.

The thing is that it’s probably going to be this blog.

Not completely — BLOG IS TOO IMPORTANT TO GIVE UP — but I might not do posts every day.

The thing is that I want to share how everything is connected; the work I’m doing at the piano, the work I’m doing on my writing, the work I’m doing with chess (which is FINALLY IMPROVING, I hope to explain why later), even the work I’m doing at the barbell club, and that’s going to take time too.

I could just say EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED and trust that you’ll believe it.

It’s more fun to write it into an essay.

Maybe this blog becomes a weekly “Thoughts From My Office” thing, in which I share whichever thought has been the most important that week, in more-like-an-essay form, followed by the list of Where I Got Published.

I’d probably get more readers if I limited it to one essay per week anyway. We’re all reading a lot of newsletter essays by a lot of smart people right now, and I don’t want to write a bunch of stuff that is going to make everybody feel oversaturated when I could spend that time WORKING ON A BOOK because THERE AREN’T ENOUGH BOOKS I GUESS?

On that note, should this be a (free) Substack?

It could very very very easily become the Nicole Dieker Newsletter, with “here’s my most interesting thought” and “here’s the most interesting thing I read” and “here’s the list of where I got published” and all of that.

Plus occasional (though not weekly?) guest posts.

I could also say “um maybe I am taking August off from blogging” and then come back after — no, I don’t like that idea.

I WILL FIGURE IT OUT

but not today

Until I come up with a more specific plan, expect blog posts mumbletimes, and subscribe via email to make sure you get ’em.

(pull out the hamburger menu [the three little gray lines] in the top right-hand corner to get the subscription signup)

(I know that’s confusing)

(also why I should just do a Substack like everyone else)

(UPDATE: the Substack is in place, it’s called Showing My Work because of course that’s what it’s called, everything on Substack will be crossposted to this blog but you might as well sign up if you like Substacks)

On to Where I Got Published This Week!

Bankrate

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Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Job Opportunities for Writers: July 23, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for July 23, 2021.

Upcoming Submission and Pitching Opportunities: July 23, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for July 23, 2021.

Thoughts From My Office

We are back from Chicago! It was a lovely vacation, we stayed in a hotel that had robots, went to a jazz club, took a few long walks in the rain (simply because it would not stop raining, don’t get the idea that long walks in the rain are romantic or anything, the non-rain walks were much much much much more pleasant) and made our long-awaited visit to the Art Institute.

There is much I could write about the Art Institute, most of it about the conversations we had while we were inside. (One of the more interesting conversations was about art that centered the subject vs. art that centered the artist, which is coincidentally what I had just started writing about before we left.)

But, to keep at least some part of our first-ever vacation private, I’ll only share my half of the very obvious conversation we had while we were in the Art Institute, the conversation I hope everyone has when they are in any art museum of any kind, specifically: “If you could take a single item from this museum’s collection and display it in your own home, which would it be?”

I cheated and picked two, since the first one was inspired by the second one and it would be like separating two kittens that grew up in the same litter. Claude Monet’s Houses of Parliament, London from 1901, and James McNeill Whistler’s Nocturne: Blue and Gold—Southampton Water from 1872.

Also, I was delighted to learn that Monet was inspired by Whistler. If I hadn’t known that, I would have assumed it was the other way around. ❤️

On to WHERE I GOT PUBLISHED WHILE I WAS AWAY:

Bankrate

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Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Job Opportunities for Writers: July 9, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for July 9, 2021.

Upcoming Submission and Pitching Opportunities: July 9, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for July 9, 2021.

Job Opportunities for Writers: July 16, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for July 16, 2021.

Upcoming Submission and Pitching Opportunities: July 16, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for July 16, 2021.

Thursday Thoughts

L and I are getting ready to head out on a much-much-much-much needed vacation.

This means that there will be no posts from me until… next Friday, probably. It’s also why there wasn’t a post on Tuesday; I was using that writing time to get my freelance work done, so we could take a few days off and go out of town.

On that note, here are all the places I’ve gotten published this week!

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Thoughts From My Office

I have two thoughts to share with you this week:

  1. For me, “rest” means getting to choose the speed of your own thoughts. This is why I rarely find TV or movies restful, and why conversations are often energizing, occasionally draining, and rarely relaxing. Looking at art is restful. Reading is restful. Walking, without music or podcasts, is restful. Being in nature, especially when you can be quiet in nature, is very restful.
  2. I have no problem getting things done when I’m tired, as long as I already know what I’m supposed to be doing. (I can even parse BlooP, if I absolutely have to.) That said, I’m starting to believe that rest, as described above, is an essential part of generating original thoughts. Or creating something new.

More on that next week. ❤️

On to where I got published this week!

Bankrate

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Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Upcoming Submission and Pitching Opportunities: July 2, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for July 2, 2021.

Job Opportunities for Writers: July 2, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for July 2, 2021.

Thoughts From My Office

Last night we had the kind of thunderstorm that came with sirens and phone alarms and warnings to stay in the basement until it was all over; it lasted until 1 a.m., at which point I turned off my other alarms and slept seven hours straight.

It feels good not to be sleepy; it feels very strange not to have had that 6 a.m. burst of creative energy. I’m still doing the thing where I work (and practice the piano) from 6 until about 1:30 or 2; then I take a nap, and then I get on with the second half of my day (weights, books, dinner, spending time with L).

I probably ought to take a nap today, just to keep myself on schedule. I ought to at least lie down for one.

Since I was two hours behind this morning, I ended up cutting my piano practice down to 30 minutes (freelance work always comes first, for obvious reasons) — but I spent those 30 minutes really digging into “perfect form,” and the session turned out to be extremely worthwhile.

I think the form thing is going to be a gamechanger. I told L last night that, after the performance I recorded yesterday, I realized that he and I were as just as good as any of the other pianists I’ve known personally. I’m not, like, comparing us to Horowitz or anything; just to the people I’ve met over the years who have also made the piano a significant part of their lives (professionally or not).

But it’s not really about comparison.

What I mean, I think, is that I no longer have to worry about whether I’ll be able to become the musician I want to be, or whether I’ll have to settle for good-enough. I’ve picked up the skills and the tools I need to solve the problems I want to solve, which means all that’s left is to put in the work.

I figured that out about writing, years ago — and with that in mind, let’s take a look at where I got published this week. ❤️

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Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Upcoming Submission and Pitching Opportunities: June 25, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for June 25, 2021.

Job Opportunities for Writers: June 25, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for June 25, 2021.

Thoughts From My Office

I need to show you some photos of what my office is turning into — essentially, I’ve been filling it with stickers, art, books, and plants, plus trinkets that remind me of the person I want to become and the life L and I are creating together.

It would seem like I would not be the kind of person who has a cluttered office, but I don’t necessarily think it looks cluttered. It looks curated. Everything in it is there for a reason, and the stuff that has no reason to be there (like junk mail) gets taken out immediately.

Also, that green Mason jar in the header photo still needs to get filled up with origami flowers… either that, or I’m going to have to say “yep we have really given up on the origami project” and put something else there instead.

I mean, we have plenty of projects going right now. We’re into the second half of Gödel, Escher, Bach and the second half of La Valse. I’ve completed 25 chess lessons on Chess Dot Com (I know, because they gave me a badge) and have already played one game of chess this week (I lost, you’d think all those lessons would have done something). We had a very good conversation last night about when a performance becomes indulgent that is probably going to inspire a longer blog post (titled “On Indulgence,” naturally).

And next week, as I promised myself, I’m going to shift Mozart, Stravinsky, and Chopin into “maintenance mode” (with a little extra maintenance on the third movement of K332, since it’s still freshly learned) and begin spending the majority of my practice on La Valse and the Ricercar a 6.

There are two (related) articles I think you should read this afternoon (if you are looking for articles to read this afternoon), and only one of them is written by me. The first one is by Paul Graham, and it’s about the value of filling your life with these kinds of intense creative projects:

There is something special about working on a project of your own. I wouldn’t say exactly that you’re happier. A better word would be excited, or engaged. You’re happy when things are going well, but often they aren’t. When I’m writing an essay, most of the time I’m worried and puzzled: worried that the essay will turn out badly, and puzzled because I’m groping for some idea that I can’t see clearly enough. Will I be able to pin it down with words? In the end I usually can, if I take long enough, but I’m never sure; the first few attempts often fail.

You have moments of happiness when things work out, but they don’t last long, because then you’re on to the next problem. So why do it at all? Because to the kind of people who like working this way, nothing else feels as right. You feel as if you’re an animal in its natural habitat, doing what you were meant to do — not always happy, maybe, but awake and alive.

The second piece is mine; it just got published on The Write Life, and it’s about how to use deliberate practice to improve your writing:

Let’s say, for example, that you have trouble writing an opening sentence. If you want to improve your writing skills, you could set yourself the goal of understanding the difference between GOOD ENOUGH OPENING SENTENCES and GREAT OPENING SENTENCES. Then, you can use that information to get your opening sentences to GREAT.

If you’re looking for even more articles (of mine) to read, here’s WHERE I GOT PUBLISHED THIS WEEK:

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Thoughts From My Office

I told you I wanted to record the entire Stravinsky Les Cinq Doigts this week, so here it is:

There’s one obvious clunker in it, which is interesting because I don’t know how to solve for “whoops, I think my finger slipped, I’ve never played that note there before.”

Like, I know how to address the two not-so-obvious memory errors in the piece (neither of which you should notice unless you know Les Cinq Doigts really, really well). In both cases, my brain fired up a slightly different section of the piece than the one I was actually playing, and I got a few notes in and thought “WRONG SECTION!” and switched out of it. Easy enough to rework/repractice/correct.

But I don’t know how to deal with clunkers. I wonder if L has any ideas. ❤️


Here’s where I got published this week!

Bankrate

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Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Upcoming Submission and Pitching Opportunities: June 11, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for June 11, 2021.

Job Opportunities for Writers: June 11, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for June 11, 2021.

Thoughts From My Office

Happy Friday! It’s National Donut Day, and I just walked 20 blocks (10 each way) to a newly opened local donut shop only to find that they had been out of donuts for hours…

In other news, I’m going to be teaching my Art of Interviewing class tomorrow (via Hugo House and Zoom), and although I’ve taught this class a few times before, it feels extra-relevant this time around because I have two interview-based articles published this week: one that I did for Bankrate featuring Lillian Karabaic of Oh My Dollar! and one that I did for The Freelance Creative in which I got to talk to Paulette Perhach.

So you should probably go read those articles — as well as any/all of my other posts that got published this week:

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Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Job Opportunities for Writers: June 4, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for June 4, 2021.

Upcoming Submission Opportunities: June 4, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for June 4, 2021.

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How to Change Your Freelance Beat in the Middle of Your Career

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Thoughts From My Office

Magic.

Focus.

Mastery.

Self-mastery.

Mister Impossible.

Art that keeps you looking.

Music that keeps you listening.

The idea of the artistic breakthrough — the day when you don’t just do what worked the day before, but figure out how to do something new.

The Ricercar a 6.

If there were any piece of music that could qualify as magical in the way that Mister Impossible defines magical art, it would for-sure be the Ricercar.

Here’s what Charles Rosen had to say about it, in a New York Times article called “Six Parts Genius”:

The keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach cannot be called piano music, but there is one magnificent exception. Many musicians consider the six-voice ricercare from “The Musical Offering” to be his greatest fugue, and I would choose this as the most significant piano work of the millennium, as it is perhaps the first piece composed for the recently invented piano — at least, the first piece that a composer knew would certainly be played on a piano.

[…]

It can be appreciated above all by the performer: listening is only a poor second for the musical experience of immersing oneself actively in the polyphony, which here has an emotional and physically expressive impact rarely found in a work of music. It is a piece for meditation.

No, Mr. Rosen, it is a piece for magic. For both mastery and self-mastery. For turning something that was previously impossible into possibility.

I want to practice it more than I want to practice anything else, and I keep telling myself “you only get to do the Ricercar after you have already succeeded at these other tasks,” and then I never get to spend as much time on it as I want to — but I also want to do my 100 performances, and so far I only have one Chopin nocturne, two-thirds of a Mozart sonata, and five-eighths of a Stravinsky suite performance-ready.

Get your Mozart and Stravinsky mastered, I tell myself, and then you can go all in on the Ricercar and La Valse.

I mean, I’m already going fairly all-in on La Valse. Half of my practice time is going towards waltzing, because I have a dance partner on the other end of the keyboard and I want us to do our best work together.

But I am not yet going all in on the Ricercar, and I want want want want to.

Until then, here’s the first movement of Mozart K332. Please note that “performance-ready” does not mean “I’ve done everything with this piece that I want to do with it;” all it means is “this piece is ready to play in front of an audience 100 times, so you can see what works and what doesn’t and FIX WHAT DOESN’T.”

(Recording a piece for YouTube might count as a third of a performance, btw.)

What else?

Here’s WHERE I GOT PUBLISHED THIS WEEK — and since this week’s list is VERY VERY LONG, it’s worth reminding you that “what I wrote this week” /= “where I got published this week.” (In general, I turn in five freelance assignments per week; this week, way more than five of those assignments got published.)

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Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Job Opportunities for Writers: May 27, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for May 27, 2021.

Upcoming Submission Opportunities: May 27, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for May 27, 2021.