Focusing My Goals

First, a bit of work-showing. Here are the first four movements of Stravinsky’s Les Cinq Doigts, and let’s see if any of you can identify the four seconds in which I temporarily switched from “focus” to “feelings” mode:

I was able to do nearly all of my morning piano practice in a focused state, which makes such an incredible difference to the output.

I need to write more about this.

I need to write more about everything.

I need to write more about Maggie Stiefvater’s Mister Impossible, which may be the best book on creativity I’ve read since Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.

Here’s a really quick overview of everything I did (or didn’t do) on last week’s to-do list:

  • Finish memorizing the first page of the Bach RICERCAR A 6 (almost done, just two measures left)
  • Memorize three more pages of Ravel’s LA VALSE (nope, I went back and did a bunch of polish work on the first half of La Valse instead)
  • Memorize the Stravinsky LARGHETTO MOVEMENT (done)
  • Work transitions between sections in MOZART K332 MMT 3 (done, at least for the exposition)
  • Work the two memory lapses I had when I performed MOZART K332 MMT 2 for my parents (done, mmt 2 is performance-ready)
  • Work the one memory lapse I had when I performed MOZART K332 MMT 1 for my parents (done, mmt 1 is performance-ready)

Here’s what I want to do this week:


That is it.

I mean, if I memorized another 16 measures of the Ricercar or another few pages of La Valse or worked the transitions between the development and recapitulation sections of Mozart K332 mmt 3, that would all be great.

BUT what I really need to do — what L and I are both currently doing, in our own practice sessions — is REVAMP or REFINE or REFOCUS (oh hey, it’s that word again) the way I approach learning and mastering music.

Which really means focusing the rest of me, so that for two hours a day I can work towards creating art/magic/excellence at the piano.

Which really means focusing everything in my life to help me be the best person I can be, so that nothing I haven’t CHOSEN or CULTIVATED or CURATED (an interesting word to use here) is allowed to get in the way of the magic.

I said, the other day, “You know the magic we’re trying to create is us, right? The art we’re trying to create is us, each of us individually and you and me together?”

More on this tomorrow. ❤️

Tos and Dos

Let’s start with last week’s list, and what got done (or, as we used to say on Sunday mornings, “left undone”):

  • “To keep learning/memorizing La Valse” yes, good, very on progress
  • “To work the four movements of Stravinsky’s Les Cinq Doigts without memorizing any new ones” yes, the Allegro movement got the most work, Allegretto and Vivo both need a little more attention
  • “To work evenness in Mozart K332 mmt 3” YES, THIS WENT VERY VERY WELL, very glad I set the specific goal to “work evenness,” this week I may work something else like “transitioning from one section to another”
  • “To write about piano competitions” YES
  • “To write about chess study” NO

The truth is, I haven’t done enough chess study (even with to have anything substantive to say about it. I am still figuring out which lessons and techniques are leading me towards actual progress, and which are giving me the illusion of progress.

It’s also worth noting that I have to bring the right mental state to my chess study sessions — if I’m tired, for example, or if my brain is still trying to solve a different problem (e.g. one related to piano or freelancing), it’s much more tempting to give up and click “show hint” instead of, you know, thinking.

Piano doesn’t have a “show hint” option.

Neither does freelancing, really. That’s what I want to write about this week — HOW I GET ALL MY FREELANCE WORK DONE. This isn’t just a matter of scheduling, although that’s part of it. It’s really about loading up problems into your brain, letting ’em churn until they become draft-shaped, and then knowing exactly how much time it will take to get that initial draft out of your brain and onto the page.

So let’s do that for Tuesday, and a piano post for Thursday, and then next Tuesday I can write about WHEN YOU’RE LEARNING vs. WHEN YOU’RE TRICKING YOURSELF INTO THINKING YOU’RE LEARNING w.r.t. chess, piano, freelancing, life, etc. etc. etc.

WHAT ELSE am I going to get done this week?

  • Finish memorizing the first page of SECRET BACH FUGUE (the one that someone really should try to guess, come on)
  • Memorize three more pages of LA VALSE
  • Memorize the Stravinsky LARGHETTO MOVEMENT
  • Work transitions between sections in MOZART K332 MMT 3
  • Work the two memory lapses I had when I performed MOZART K332 MMT 2 for my parents this weekend (more on this on Thursday)
  • Work the one memory lapse I had when I performed MOZART K332 MMT 1 for my parents this weekend

Interesting that all of this seems to be memory work, this week. Even “work transitions between sections,” since the trouble is that I’m having trouble loading the next section into my memory.

L and I have been talking about whether all learning is memory work, when it comes down to it — but that can’t be true, because you also need the “ability to act (instead of react) and use what you know to solve problems/make positive choices/make spontaneous connections/etc.” thing.


In fact, I’ll go ahead and schedule that post for Thursday, May 27 — to give myself the chance to really churn it over before I start writing anything down.

Happy Monday! ❤️

Tuesday To-Do List

To keep learning/memorizing La Valse. I did not memorize the six pages I hoped to get done last week — I only memorized three, and that was mostly because one of the pages looked like this:

I’ve been working on that page for four consecutive days and I only got it memorized yesterday. It would be interesting to study why this particular page didn’t fall so neatly into the “how to memorize music the first day you learn it” template. (I don’t want to say “because it’s harder;” I suspect there’s something else going on.)

To work the four movements of Stravinsky’s Les Cinq Doigts that I memorized last week — but not to bother with memorizing any new ones.

To work evenness in Mozart K332 mmt 3.

To write something up about chess study, maybe? I’ve been doing a lot of chess study recently, and L and I have been playing both virtual and in-person (or, as L says, “over the board”) games. I want to write about how the various learning techniques I’m testing out, including the exercises on, are either helping or not helping. Maybe I’ll do that for Thursday.


To narrow down some repertoire options for the International Competition for Outstanding Piano Amateurs. This is really what I should write about for Thursday, because it’s taking up most of the thoughts that are occupying my thoughts.

We’ll see what happens. ❤️

Another (Better?) To-Do List

It’s interesting to look at last week’s to-do list and see what actually got done.

I memorized the first two pages of Ravel and the last four pages of Mozart, I worked the 16 measures of the first movement of the Mozart that were still troubling me, and I recorded myself playing Chopin.

I finished reading Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning and The Inner Game of Music.

I wrote a blog post about overcorrection, but didn’t write a blog post about using the techniques in Make it Stick and The Inner Game of Music while practicing — and I knew that one of those blog posts probably wouldn’t happen as soon as I made the to-do list, because I had already planned to use Tuesday’s post for the Chopin recording and that only gave me Thursday’s post for either “overcorrecting” or “piano practice techniques”.

And, as I have written before, the number one rule of making to-do lists is making sure you have an open timeslot for everything you want to do.

What else? I wrote Tara a card, though I won’t put it in the mail until this afternoon. I also studied my grandmaster chess games; in fact, I used some of the techniques I learned in Make it Stick to improve the way I studied chess.

What didn’t I do? I didn’t play a chess game with L. We talked about it, but never ended up with enough simultaneous, consecutive free hours for a full game. As a counterbalance, I suggested that we always have an asynchronous chess game going on and I’m hoping to get that started today (I sent him an invite this morning).

We also didn’t make any origami animals, probably because that was more on my to-do list than it was on L’s — but we did throw a backyard party for some vaccinated friends, which hadn’t been on either of our to-do lists when we started the week.

Going to the lake WAS on both of our to-do lists, and we took our first trip of the year on Sunday. ❤️

With that in mind, here is a BETTER(?) to-do list for this week.

To memorize one page of Ravel’s La Valse per day (today’s page is already memorized, did it this morning).

To memorize four of the eight movements in Stravinsky’s Les cinq doigts (movement 7 is already memorized as of this morning, but it’s very short).

To record myself playing the third movement of Mozart’s K332 by Friday, and share it as part of this week’s Thoughts From My Office.

To write a post about piano practice techniques for either Tuesday or Thursday, and use the other slot for blogging about whatever is on my mind at the time.

To continue refining the way in which I practice chess, and come up with some kind of metric for gauging my progress. I’m not satisfied with any of the current metrics, e.g. “number of grandmaster games studied,” because — as I’ve written in the past and as was reiterated in Make it Stickstudying is not the same thing as learning.

To change that chalkboard sign from “number of days spent without overcorrecting” to “number of days spent mindfully” or maybe “number of days spent acting vs. reacting,” since it is easy for me to say that was not technically an OVERCORRECTION and I want something that is a bit more specific (and simultaneously a bit more global) to work towards.

To invite L to play asynchronous chess on with me (already done, and notice that I did not frame this to-do as “to play a game of chess with L,” since one of the factors I ignored in last week’s to-do list was that I can only track and complete my own actions).

To make three origami flowers (with L or on my own) and put them in the bedroom vase, which I have wanted to do since we started making origami flowers months ago

And that should be enough to get us through the week, in addition to all of my usual freelance work, yoga, weightlifting, laundry, cooking, socializing, and so on. ❤️

Monday Morning To-Do List

This week I want to:

Complete all of my freelance work (this is a given, I’ve only missed two deadlines in my 10+ years of freelancing [one because my apartment flooded and one because of last summer’s derecho {aka inland hurricane}])

Memorize the first two pages of La Valse, which I’ve been putting off because L and I keep saying “those pages are so easy, we can do them whenever,” well WHENEVER IS THIS WEEK

Record myself playing either the Chopin nocturne or one of the movements of Mozart K332, since I haven’t shown my work in forever and FOREVER IS ALSO THIS WEEK

Split my Mozart practice sessions between “problem-solving the 16 measures of mmt 1 that are still uncertain” and “memorizing the recapitulation in mmt 3”

Finish reading Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (almost done) and The Inner Game of Music (barely done because I keep wanting to do all of the exercises [also maybe I should just buy the book instead of perpetually renewing it at the library {but I really should finish reading it first to make sure}])

Write a blog post about using the interleaving technique mentioned in both Make it Stick and Inner Game to improve/expedite the learning process

Write another blog post about overcorrection and all of the stuff L and I have been talking about lately

ACTUALLY NOT OVERCORRECT, like, in my own life (we know what has been proved to work and what happens when you deviate too far above or below [nearly always above] what has been proved to work in an attempt to get something else to work faster)

Write Tara K. Shepersky a letter, since it’s my turn to send one (btw did you know you can write Tara letters as part of her PenPal Project, she is a very good correspondent)

Study one grandmaster chess game (currently R. Hubner – L. Portisch Brussels 1986 [also yes I am reading Neil McDonald’s Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking])

Play one game of chess with L

Make two new origami animals with L (we’re studying Robert Lang’s Origami Zoo, if you’re curious)

GO TO THE LAKE WITH L — we are planning our first trip for next weekend ❤️❤️❤️