Mozart VS Wilms OR How comparison can kill creativity

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Ever heard of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?  Oh good! My faith in humanity is restored… Thank God for Amadeus©!

Now, ever heard of Johann Wilhelm Wilms ? Such a shame… But to be honest neither did I before last night!

Wilms was a Dutch-German musician, composer and sought out teacher who lived around end of the 18th and start of the 19th century. He was an wonderful talented and polyvalent artist who has fallen into almost complete oblivion today… Wilms had written a few pieces among which 7 lovely symphonies. I had the opportunity to hear his sixth symphony along with Mozart’s famous requiem during a concert Friday night. (I recommend if you are short on time to simply listen to the Scherzo and Rondo at around 19’25”).

Wilms had made quite a name for himself in his day. However, there was one small issue : he was born a some years before Mozart death and just two years after Beethoven was born, two of the greatest geniuses and revolutionary minds in the history of music.

What do you when you are surrounded by people who constantly surpass you in anything you do?

You’ve all encountered this situation before I’m sure… You spend days-weeks-months on a project or piece and suddenly, you find someone who’s done the exact same work in less than half the time at a far higher level than you do it (like the old musical saying goes :”whatever you play, you’ll always find an 8 year old Chinese kid on YouTube who can play it faster and better than you…”). When you compare yourself to others, you often feel the need to justify yourself, your work to the world.

You feel you have to explain why your work doesn’t live up to that impossible standard set by a few exceptional minds.

In Wilms case, the composer had always said, in regards to composition works, that these were just the fruit of a few precious free hours which remained after his long, exhausting days filled with other professional activities. This is of course a complete valid and understandable statement given his curriculum of activities but it got me thinking : why would he bother explaining this in the first place? It’s as if he were trying to justify why his creations are  not a the “level” of the other grand maestros of his time. When in fact, his work was brilliant as well, filled with emotion, strength, power and his own personality!

Living at the time Wilms did and at any time for that matter, comparison is inevitable. Even during the concert, I found myself comparing Wilms symphony to other symphonies I knew from Mozart, Beethoven and wondering why their works had made it into History and Wilms’ didn’t… We tend to compare ourselves to the greats and set incredibly high and unreasonable standards for ourselves. I find myself constantly getting stuck in this paradigm, especially when starting something new, like writing a blog or composing music… “If I don’t get a thousand followers overnight or can’t write like Dickens, it is pointless to even start a blog”, “If I’m not able to write a requiem worthy of Mozart, I might as well quit now…”This way of thinking simply strangles and paralyzes us and our creative juices.

We only focus on the few “greats” who inspired millions, created masterpieces. And we figure those Mozarts out there are the only ones that matter. But we forget about the many other Wilms out there who inspired maybe just a “few” or created something just as meaningful.

In the end, it all comes down to inspiration and creation…

….Regardless of how a work is perceived, if it’s comparatively “better” or “worse” than another. Regardless how many millions or hundreds your work moves… The aim of creation is never to reach that level of genius and incredible mastery. It is about speaking your truth and staying true to yourself.

Recently, I shared one of the very few pieces I had composed when I was a teenager to one of my piano students… She got inspired by it and asked me if she could play it. This past weeks, I’ve received several encouragements regarding the blog as well. And I realized, instead of focusing on comparing myself and discouraging myself, I can focus on inspiring just one small person at a time.

Wilms inspired me as a composer and a person. I loved the fact that he was such a multitalented, generous personality. And I simply wanted to share his work with you!

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The “Busy/ickness”

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I seem to be too “busy” to write an article on busyness… kinda ironic isn’t it? So instead, I’m going to slack off a little and leave you with this incredible talk from an inspiring speaker who says it all so perfectly already…

Enjoy!

“It’s okay to be scared”

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So I’m a teacher… I love to teach. I’ve been teaching since I was fifteen approximatively : piano, maths, science, ancient Greek, English… To be honest, I even have a distinct memory of me tutoring one of my best friends with math by creating exercises for her when I was only about 8 years old. Teaching, explaining things to others is something that I always enjoyed doing and naturally did because I quickly realized that when I was able to explain something to someone I learned and mastered the subject a lot better myself.

Today, I teach piano lessons and swim lessons and I still learn tremendously from all the youngsters I cross paths with…

For example, here is the story of *Little A* a young girl who is afraid of *Jumping from the block*.

As a teacher, I feel my job is to bring my students to their full potential, give them the tools and knowledge to help them grow and inspire them to go beyond their “limitations”. Naturally, this is what I want to do with *Little A*. and her fear of *jumping*. Every class, I get her on the block and find ways to get her to *jump*. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But every class I get her on the block and every class she tells me : “I’m scared”. I patiently respond, “It’s ok to be scared. But fear can’t stop you from trying“. I promised I would never force her so I just constantly remind her that fear is part of the process and she is still able to act. We take baby steps each lesson, however small, we’re moving forward even if during one class, she’s not up to it, it’s still a step forward. It’s a work in progress at the moment of course but I’m confident she’ll rise to the challenge and find the courage to *jump* on her own…

Okay… Now I’d like you to reread this little story but this time replace the name and fear… “Here is the story of (replace Name with) *Little Issa* who is afraid of (replace fear with) *writing, sharing her ideas and music with the world*…”

I  think it is time to learn to practice what I preach…

Find your way to speak your truth

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I tend to complicate things… I overthink, overanalyse everything. I tend to believe it’s my rational-math nerdy way of thinking (I’ve always loved maths in High school…). But at the same time, I’ve always felt much more clearly then I thought sometimes. I tend to believe that’s more my creative-artist side… Creating a balance between all ways of thinking and being, that’s the struggle. Especially when you are diverse and you don’t fit under any specific label (I will most certainly write about these labels and how we let them define us in some near future).

What I find incredible in this video is how rich and complex, yet clear and simple come together in such beautiful poetry here… Maths, Arts, Humour align to speak truth and wisdom.

Enjoy!

 

First Baby Step taken… Now what?

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Well… It’s been a struggle…

A struggle to push through on commitments, to develop habits and to find my own of form of self-expression! This blog is just one of the many paths to  I’d like to explore. As a musician, I dream of inspiring people not only through performing and teaching but also through composing…

This year has been prolific for me because I got clear on a few dreams I have and I took the first steps towards those dreams. I started this blog, I applied and started a music writing programme. I wrote my first article, wrote my first little piece of music. I took that first baby step which felt impossible to me… and It felt wonderful at first I must say to do “my impossible”. But this small moment of bliss didn’t last very long when I realized this was just in fact the first step and the beginning of a long and tedious journey of hundreds of thousands of steps and struggles. And instead of feeling excited and empowered, those same old feelings of doubt, insecurity, fear of judgement came rushing back… “It seems too difficult, too complicated. Where  do I begin now? I’m still not qualified. I don’t have the time anyways… My work will never amount to anything… What would people say?”. I began procrastinating again while I kept looking in admiration at fellow music writing classmates and reading blogs of people following their dreams. And I continued sitting comfortably while watching others live the lives I’d like to lead…

I kept on thinking how hard it is, how complicated… When in fact, it isn’t. That is when you turn off the chit chatter in your head bringing you down constantly  (the self judgement, fear of sharing your dreams with people, stopping you from talking about your blog to anyone… ) and when you realize that you don’t have to go at it alone.

I hide whatever work I create because of fear of it not being good enough and the thought that I’m not “aloud” to dream big.

These dreams have been planted within for quite some time… The seeds have been watered and cared for (a first breakthrough). But this year, they have suddenly spawned (another wonderful breakthrough). And I realize if I stop now, rest on my few laurels, keep these dreams safely to myself and make sure I never attract too much attention… What use are they to anyone?

So here is what I’m going to do now : Quit the overthinking, get over the fear of judgement and failure and share this article to at least 5 people! Time to get it out there and make it “virtually” real… Dreams don’t happen overnight. But they take form one tiny simple baby step at a time…