Two Days of Not Writing

26 11 2011

I’m in the middle of said two days, and quite unhappy about it. I like to say ‘my job gets in the way of my life’ like so many people, but in truth, it can be more of a soul-draining thing than many 8 to 5 jobs. I play in a symphony orchestra. I am one of the lucky ones. I’ve done this work for over thirty years, and have some incredible memories. Itzak Perlman, Lynn Harrell, Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Lang Lang, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Sir James Galway, Kathleen Battle. Then there’s Burt Bacharach, Henry Mancini, James Taylor, Ray Charles, Marvin Hamlisch, Doc Severinsen. I’ve worked with them all, in some cases, multiple times. Somehow I missed Yo-Yo Ma.

But not this weekend, the last weekend of NaNoWriMo. This weekend we are in the pit, slogging through the Nutcracker five times in 3 days. And there are six more next weekend. And it’s not an easy score! This is what I mean by soul-draining. This is what musicians do on Broadway – play the same show day after day, week after week. You have to bring your game face every time, even though you could play it in your sleep (and may feel like falling asleep!), but you can’t snooze, because it’s tricky. I had a screw up last night on the last page, something that I needed to work on just a bit to make it work… but I hadn’t, so I crashed and burned. Oops. Not good when you’re on First.

My hands are shot. I am developing arthritis in my index fingers, and I’ve used my hands full out for years. Between typing, knitting, weaving, journaling by hand, and playing my instrument, it has taken its toll on my joints. I cannot type if I want to perform, particularly such a grueling weekend, and I cannot perform if I want to write.

So… I’m not writing. Tomorrow afternoon I have ONE Nutcracker performance to play, and when I get home I’ll walk the dog, feed her, grab a cuppa, get out the laptop…. and grind out the last 3500 words on the WIP that I need to win NaNoWriMo! Well, maybe I’ll finish on Monday night. But tomorrow? woooHOO.



7 responses

26 11 2011

I have no problem believing that it’s soul-draining, but it still sounds crazy-awesome. Not the last weekend of NaNoWriMo, though.

26 11 2011
Julia Indigo

Yeah, most people see it that way. And at times it’s such a great trip! Last week’s concert was Brahms’ German Requiem, with a new setting of his four last songs by Glenser (not sure of the name, it’s an AWESOME piece). And I was like “wow, I get to do this for a LIVING??”

But then there is late Nov/Dec: Nutcracker x10, the other 1/2 of the orchestra is doing Handel’s Messiah yet again, and then there’s the Xmas Pops. O.M.G. I won’t be doing the latter, because I’m going out of the country… more on that later!

We don’t get to choose what we play, when we play it, how we play it, where we play it, or with whom we play. IOW, there is no choice in our workplace. Just tonight we played the dance of the mirlitons (reed flutes) from the Nutcracker, and it was an abomination. Wrong tempo, stupid phrasing, pedantic ICK. So you just put your head down and do it. But yeah, next time you look at a symphony on the TV or live, remember that the people up there may well be groaning.

26 11 2011
Karen McFarland

OMG!!! Hello Julia! What an awesome career!

You have got to be kidding me. If I could’ve been a fly on the wall. You’ve had some wonderful opportunities girl!

Okay, first things first, right? So you get through this weekend with the musical, rest and finish up. You can do it!

If there’s anything I’ve learned about you over the last couple of months getting to know you is that you are one determined person Julia.

You ROCK! And I know that you’re going to do it. You’re going to make NaNo! 🙂

P.S. I got that you play first chair, but what instrument do you play? Did I miss it or did you say? .

26 11 2011
Julia Indigo

Hi Karen,
Yeah, I’m a pretty determined woman. 🙂
I won my first professional symphony audition just out of school, 1979. And, yes, I was lucky. It is a fast road to the poorhouse, unless you’re in one of the big five. So I was a finalist for the Boston Symphony and the Philadelphia orchestra back in the day. But at 54 there’s simply no way to win another audition, even if I didn’t have the arthritis difficulties I mentioned.

I didn’t mention my instrument in the blog, because I don’t want to out myself that much. I’ll DM you on twitter w/that. 😉

Thanks for all the support, Karen. I’ve recently realized that there are a lot of people in my life who are either jealous of me, or feel the need to tear me down. So I don’t believe in myself nearly as much as I could! It’s comments like yours that help with that, from someone who sees me fresh, if you know what I mean.

Thank you!

27 11 2011
Rebecca Stanfel

Another great post, Julia.

This resonated with me, as a professional writer. I’ve been a free-lance writer for the past 14-odd years. I was first a reference book writer, then a journalist and essayist. Now I’m a blogger and aspiring memoirist, who churns out essays and magazine pieces to pay the bills. I love many aspects of my work. But it has always been, and always will be, just that–work. It always amazes me (and sometimes annoys me) when people first find out what I do, and immediately tell me how lucky I am to be a writer. They don’t believe me when I tell them it’s not glamorous, that it’s often drudgery, that I have to work to be creative.

I’ve also re-started music in my middle age. I have a small sense of how hard you must have to work on complex scores. Trying to master my Suzuki songs requires so much time and patience. And that’s Suzuki, not Tchaikovsky.

Bravo for an honest look at the craft beneath the creativity. Bravo for embarking on Nano while working your ass off in the orchestra pit. I hope you survive The Nutcracker, that your hands heal, and you find time to write.


27 11 2011
Julia Indigo

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Rebecca. I was not going to do Nano for that very reason (and I also had out of town guests during this time!), but in the grip of enthusiasm and insanity I took the plunge. That, and wanting that 50% discount on Scrivener! LOL Not to mention that it’s a hell of a baptism by fire.

That being said, people naturally romanticize others who are making a living in the creative arts. In music we’re even more envied by English speakers – after all, what we do is play!

The truth is, anything you do for a living becomes a job, even if it’s wildly creative. Either that, or you do something related to something you love (for instance, teaching music to elementary school kids or some such) so you can play the blues in the evening.

Then there’s the whole “aspiring actor waiting tables waiting for the big break” thing.

That reminds me of a friend of mine. She’s a great oboist, who went to massage school – but this fall she was on stage with the LA opera in a non-singing role in their production of Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet. Her husband took her to CA, and she ended up getting into acting – and she’s in her early 50’s (looks 15 years younger), in a new career… and LOVING it. But she’s playing some Xmas gigs this Dec, getting out the reed knife to make some oboe reeds. I love her story! So there’s some hope for you re: Suzuki! Are you learning the violin? You are brave, it’s quite difficult! But sometimes I wish I’d chosen the violin, because there are way more professional positions available than for my instrument.

I look forward to finishing up this weekend’s Nutcrackers this afternoon, and firing up the laptop to #wordmonger with my friends at that hashtag. But now, it’s time for a bath as the countdown to our 2pm performance begins.

27 11 2011

Good luck finishing. I have a feeling you will.

I’ve always wanted to play violin. But I’ve started piano. I played french horn for 11 years and stopped music altogether. When my son (then 4) started piano, he asked me to do it with him. I said yes–because I wanted something we could do together. I was just starting chemo (and still going with that), and desperately wanted an activity that was manageable. The music has become so much more than that. It’s my way to relax, my way to recharge, my way to connect with my son. My writing is better when I’m playing.

I’ll look forward to your next blog entry after you’ve “won” Nano and survived The Nutcracker.


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