Last week after class, my yoga instructor thanked us for “allowing her” to teach us. She said she LOVED teaching us. She loved sharing her passion for yoga with us. She LOVES yoga; she could do it all day long. (Really??? All day long???) And she feels really lucky to have found what she wants to do with her life at age 33 when other people NEVER find their passion. Her whole faced just radiated happiness as she said all this.

I could relate. That’s sort of how I feel about my writing. And about my mandolin. Though I feel a different kind of passion for each.

Shortly after I took up the mandolin this summer, I met with an out-of-town friend for lunch, and I told her how I’d always wanted to learn to play the mandolin and how I’d just bought one on a lark and found myself a teacher etc. She said, “are you going to give up the writing to be a professional mandolin player?”


She said, “Yeah, it’s hard to imagine you not writing. I’ve never met anyone who wanted to be a writer more than you. But did you know your whole face lights up when you talk about that mandolin? I’ve never seen your face light up like that.”

What? My face doesn’t light up when I talk about my writing???

My mandolin teacher has six mandolin students. He says his “dream” is for us (us including HIM) to form a local mandolin orchestra. Every time he brings it up, I say, “I’m there!” I love playing with guitarists and ukelele players, too. I just love to PLAY!

My teacher also talks about “gigage.” (That’s his word, not mine.) He’d like to get us all some “gigage.” As in he wants for us to play in local malls, coffee shops, restaurants etc. (Many of his students have already done this around Iowa City.) I love to play, but this is not something I feel like I need to do. I’m not a professional musician (far from it!)…I have no need to go out and play in public.

My teacher says, “but what’s the point in playing if you don’t play for other people?”

Uh…because I love it?

I just like to play for myself. And to get together with my new musician friends and make music with them. Just for us. Isn’t that enough?

Is that passion?

It’s not quite the same with my writing. I would not be content to just write for myself. I’m not very good at the whole publicity thing (I don’t enjoy it and I’m not very good at it)…but I like having real books that are available in libraries and bookstores. This has always been my dream…to publish books and build a career as a writer.

I believe I am passionate about my writing in the same way my mandolin teacher is passionate about music and/or my yoga instructor is passionate about yoga. I AM a writer. I simply play the mandolin. On the side.

But my yoga instructor makes a good point…everyone should have a passion. And if you can find that passion at a fairly young age, you are indeed lucky.


11 thoughts on “Passion

  • February 11, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Love it.
    That’s a new one on me.
    I would say, yes– you want some gigage. Or jam-age, at a minimum.
    There are things that you can get from playing, off the cuff, with total strangers who don’t know your rhythmic inclinations or list of prepared tunes that you just can’t get on your own, or from a lesson, even if it’s a group lesson.
    Don’t sweat the audience. Get on out there! It’s good for ya.

    • February 13, 2008 at 3:20 pm

      Ha! That’s what my teacher says! šŸ™‚

      I enjoy the “jam-age.” There’s a group of us (all this same guy’s students who play various fretted instruments) who get together. But it’s all very informal. Though they did play at the mall right before Christmas (I say “THEY played” because I had another engagement that day, so I couldn’t go…I would have if I’d been available.)

      So, are you speaking from personal experience? Do you have “gigage” experience?

      • February 13, 2008 at 3:29 pm

        Heck yes. More than I would like, truth be told–some paid, some not.
        Been gigging since my (8 year old)daughter was about 9 months. She came along in the front carrier. I once had a woman tell me in confidence that the sound vibrations that close to her head would give her cancer. I did manage to escape the conversation with a straight face, but only just.

        Now that the kids are into school activities, I’ve managed to convince them it’s important I cut back(7 day a week tball schedules for three kids can be impressive, and it’s clear I can’t clone myself…) Lately we’ve been one a month or less outside of weekly practice sessions, which is so much less stressful for me.

        Supposed to be down in MD on Friday with a different group, though… should be fun. Different tunes, nice change of pace.

        • February 13, 2008 at 3:40 pm

          Very cool! What do you play? (What instrument(s) and what kind of music?)

          (OMG on the woman who was afraid the “sound vibrations” would give your baby cancer! I don’t know that I could’ve kept a straight face!)

          • February 13, 2008 at 4:50 pm

            Wasn’t that hilarious? It was really hard to keep nodding solemnly as I backpedaled.
            Where’s spray-haldol when ya need it…
            I sing and play fiddle– with our band, it’s mostly bluegrass and old country, though my personal prefs run more to oldtime, Irish, Cape Breton, jazz… etc. I also play cello(but classical mostly and haven’t played with anything approaching an organized group in many years), occasionally stand in on bass when needed, and am learning guitar.

            I also play a bit of mando which is coming to take much more of my practice time b/c my husband is a budding instrument maker, and he’s making me one. (yes I’m excited!)

            Mando tuning and fingering is identical to the fiddle, and as such, it makes a great instrument to practice picking on for guitar– I can just focus on my right hand while the left does what it needs to. I’m really not used to playing with a pick, so for me, that’s the hardest thing. I am enjoying mando a lot– I can see why you’re enchanted with it!

          • February 14, 2008 at 8:23 pm

            YOU PLAY A BIT OF MANDO, TOO??? YAY!!!!!!

            Playing with the pick is the hardest thing for me, too. My teacher says it’ll probably take me a couple years to really develop a “proper” pick stroke. But the whole concept is very foreign to me. Piano is probably my “primary” instrument…I’ve played it the longest. Though I really don’t have the hands to play it as well as I’d like. And I played oboe all through school and into college…also taught myself flute (same fingerings as oboe). So it’s not just the pick…the concept of a “fretboard” is foreign, too.

            I love all those old instruments, though. I’d love to learn mandola or lute or dulcimer (my husband has a friend who makes them) or cittern…cittern is actually a possibility because that wouldn’t be so different from the mandolin. It just adds an extra course of strings. But those other instruments have completely different fingerings/tunings. And I think I’d rather put all my energy into one instrument rather than dabbling in a bunch of them. At least until I can sit down and play anything I want to on the mandolin.

            Your husband is a “budding instrument maker?” Wow! What all does he make?

            I’ve been told that mandolin/violin have the same tuning/fingering…in theory I should be able to play a little violin now, right? I need to get my neighbor boy down here…he plays the violin. We should switch instruments for a while and see what happens. šŸ™‚

          • February 14, 2008 at 10:14 pm

            I used to tell my husband that frets are for wusses (he was learning electric bass). Just suck it up and find that note, dude… He’s got designs on making mandolas and mandocellos down the road, but I think he wants to work the bugs out on the small ones first. He’s got a couple of cute ukes for the kids of some friends going right now, and a pretty birdseye maple fiddle for me. (birdseye is a misery to carve, though). I have a lap dulcimer made by a college friend(main issue is I don’t like being stuck in one key all the time, so I don’t often bring it with me.).

            One of my bandmates plays hammered dulcimer, which sounds a lot like harpsichord, only you bang on the strings with hammers directly instead of plucking them. I’ve never played a cittern, but I have seen a guy playing a cymbalom, which was amazing. Looks a little like a table hockey board full of strings– it was incredible.

            Fiddle– you’ll find the hardest is learning to get a good and consistent sound out of the bow, and learning to find fingerings without frets (but that half won’t take you long).

            For the bow– make sure you get plenty of rosin on there (provides friction to avoid screeching) and tilt the bow at a 45 degree angle towards you to the string’s surface. It helps control the sound. You want to go straight across, staying away from the screechy bridge, but not moving the bow much over the fingerboard(cause you might want to play there someday, and you don’t want it all sticky with rosin).

            I expect you guys can teach each other without much trouble– have fun switching expertise!

          • February 19, 2008 at 8:02 pm

            I had to look up a cymbalom…I’d never heard of that. Looks interesting!

            You think a hammered dulcimer sounds like a harpsichord? If I was going to learn dulcimer, that’s what I’d be more interested in learning…however, my husband’s co-worker makes the mountain variety. I played harpsichord in college and LOVED it. Then I discovered just how expensive harpsichords are. šŸ™

            And I actually took a violin home for the summer when I was in high school…just to see what it was like. I played the oboe in both band and orchestra and felt like I “fit” much better in the orchestra. Those string instruments fascinated me. But they were so foreign. I did teach myself to play a few simple tunes. I’m hoping my little neighbor boy will indulge me and swap instruments for an hour or two here and there…but I suspect I’m more interested in this plan than he is! šŸ™‚

          • February 19, 2008 at 8:03 pm

            I’ve never actually had the opportunity to hear a hammered dulcimer in person…I’ve only heard them on CD.

  • February 11, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    It’d be cool if you could incorporate a little bit of mandolin-playing into your school visits!

    • February 13, 2008 at 3:24 pm

      I’m trying to figure out how to do that. I’d LIKE to! I can’t draw like the illustrators can…and I can’t sing like some authors do (Deborah Wiles begins her presentation with a son!), but I CAN play the mandolin some. And it’s a somewhat unique instrument (though it’s one I’ve known about and wanted to play since I was 12). I’m guessing I’d hold it up and a lot of kids wouldn’t know what it was.

      I’ve also thought about incorporating juggling into my presentation. The connection is easy there…writers are always juggling. But I’m really not good enough (and may never be good enough) yet…


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