The other day I was carrying my cello to a friend’s house. My cello, in its big blue case, gets lots of comments whenever I carry it anywhere, because I wear it on my back and it makes me look like a petite, female version of Obelix with his menhir. I once had a label stuck to the case which answered the most commonly heard questions: ‘Yes, it’s a cello. Yes, it’s heavy. No, I don’t wish I played the piccolo. Yes, it’s very hard to get it under my chin…’
This time, though, an acquaintance stopped me with a question I hadn’t heard before: “Are you learning, or do you play?”
I knew what he meant, of course, but it struck me as an odd question, and reminded me of the famous answer that cellist Pablo Casals gave when asked why he still did so much practice in his nineties: “I think I am making some progress”. Surely, a player never stops learning, and a learner has always been playing?
|Just started learning - but definitely playing!|
Have you ever been haunted by a question or a phrase? By the middle of the following week I was still chewing over the invisible line between ‘learning’ and ‘playing’, but I had also noticed that if I translated the question so that it referred to my writing, my reaction to it was strangely different.
“Are you learning, or do you write?”
For some reason, though I was happy for learning and playing to co-exist in musicians, when it comes to my writing it appears that I’ve been chasing that invisible line. I’ve been waiting for the moment when I can say that I’ve arrived as a writer, when I can confidently answer, learning days behind me, that I write.
Oddly, though, that line seems to be ill-defined. It keeps moving. With every article, blog, script or book, it shifts a bit further away to the next publication, the next recognition. Maybe once I have written a work of fiction, maybe once I have published my first novel, maybe the first time I’m asked to sign a book, maybe when I have a best selling trilogy and can live off my royalties, I’ll finally feel like An Author.
How silly I have been not to see that it’s the same question. Am I learning, or do I write? It’s the same for every writer: we have always written, and we will never stop learning.
I think I am making some progress.