A week or so ago, I saw this pianist playing in the park.
Stuff like that becomes an ordinary sight to see in New York City, especially in Washington Square Park. There’s violinists and blues saxophone players. There are full jazz bands jamming, break dancing comedians, tap dancing tweens. Drum players, solo guitarists, and on the list goes.
But something about this scene was so damn powerful.
Maybe it was for the simple fact that someone had wheeled a baby grand piano all the way there. Maybe it was how he sat the middle of the sidewalk to play it. On a Sunday morning. To play for complete strangers.
Maybe it was the striking beauty of the music he played. The absence of barriers between him and his audience. The two black paint buckets that flanked his left and right, quietly inviting tips. The terrifying realness that was his exposure as an artist; totally nude. Completely vulnerable.
Imagine choosing that.
On a Sunday morning in July.
What amount of bravery, brazenness, tenacity — and, all wrapped quietly and confidently in glancing hands and tapping fingers — does an ordinary guy, or even a seasoned pro!, need to feel in his belly to ever risk such a thing?
But really, that’s what all art feels like.
That’s what it is like to endure the process of creation — creating something for one’s self yes, but with the bigger purpose of creating for other people.
It’s complete vulnerability. I guess there’s no hiding, now.
It’s unfounded criticism, unfair judgments, tactless anger and anonymous backhanded slaps. I’ll just pretend like I never heard it… but deep down, I’ll never forget it.
It’s the want for others who feel so inclined to listen to simply appreciate it, not think of me as being “the best.” Why do they think I’m trying to be better than anyone else? This is all I know how to do; it’s all that I love.
It’s pedestrians who walk past your performance without a second look, wrapped in a cell-phone conversation or some trivial nonsense. Couldn’t they spare a second, or just pretend to care?
It’s the audience that watches for minutes on end, but never throws a cent in the bucket. Or offers a polite clap; they just walk away. What more could I possibly do to earn a buck? To know I’m doing something right?
There’s a reason why there’s this image of the twisted, tortured artist. In a lot of ways, you have to be crazy to invite such a thing.
When I look at this picture of one guy putting it all out there in a New York City park on a Sunday morning in July, it reminds me of why I go through it, myself. It reminds me of why I have to go through it. It reminds me of why we all have to endure it. It’s part of the process, baby.
Without the struggle, there’d be no victory. Without the journey, there’d be no reward. It’s kind of beautiful. It kind of rocks.
Just don’t expect me to start reading poetry from a park bench any time soon.
You’d be out of your damn mind.
P.S. – If you’re interested in learning more about the artist’s mindset, check out Steven Pressfield’s excellent and popular works: The War of Art and Turning Pro, both of which I’ve read in the last couple of weeks (afil links)
P.P.S. – I have this new idea lately to start my own digital writer’s group: a private community, support system and source of motivation/inspiration to write more, to write better, and to create that book or blog you’ve been talking about.
First members will get tons of 1-on-1 time with me to work on their writing. There’ll be group Q+A calls, morning prompts/inspiration to get you into the writing mindset, a private Facebook group for discussion and more. What do you think, would you be interested in joining for $20/month?
P.P.P.S – A manifesto I wrote a couple years ago called Power from Within was just revamped and relaunched on Kindle. Today only, you can download it for free.