Let's Iterate Again

Like we did last Substack

We’re going to start this week’s work-showing with yet more piano—but this one’s only a minute long, and you probably haven’t heard me play it before.

I started re-learning the Barber Excursions last Saturday, mostly because I was curious whether the “play until you make an error, stop, work the error, and start from the beginning again” method would work just as well on a piano suite I hadn’t played in 20 years.

It does. This iterative learning process is just as effective for a (relatively) brand-new, (relatively) untouched piece of music as it is for the music that I’ve been studying since last August.

In other words, you don’t need to “learn” the music before you “learn” the music. (This is for all of you who were potentially mentally arguing that the only way I was able to iterate the Mozart to such specific depth was because I’d spent so much time learning it already.) You can start with the first measure, run it through the “can I play this perfectly yet” test, and then move on to the next one.

Also, this iterative method ensures you memorize as you go, which is a bonus.

I know I know I know that the true test of this iterative practice technique will come when I start working on a piece of music I’ve never seen or heard before, not a piece of music I learned (somewhat sloppily) back when I was in high school.

But I had the Barber close at hand, and sometimes you start with the music that is easiest for you to grab.

Especially when it’s a piece you already love. ❤️

For me, the most remarkable aspect of this week’s work-showing isn’t that I re-learned a page-and-a-half of Samuel Barber, but that I am so relaxed in the performing of it. This is what knowing feels like. There’s another scenario in which I put just as much time into the Barber but focused on breadth rather than depth, getting the entire movement halfway into my fingers and performing it with an incredible amount of tension because I know that I don’t really know what I’m doing.

Knowing is better.

Even if it means fewer measures “learned” in the service of learning those measures correctly.

An update on the book

A few weeks ago I told you that I thought I’d probably have the draft done this week, which I probably shouldn’t have told you because now I have to tell you that the draft is still incomplete.

I spent the past week focused entirely on the CLIMACTIC CHAPTER, which I didn’t expect to take quite as long as it took—and then, as soon as I read the freshly-drafted chapter to L, I immediately came up with a dozen ways to make it better-tighter-stronger-more-compelling-more-specific.

In general, I know which parts of the draft are really good. I also know which parts still need work. Getting to read each chapter aloud to an interested listener often helps me clarify in which ways the draft still needs work. It also forces me to push past “good enough,” because this book could definitely pass for “good enough,” especially if you’re the kind of reader (or author) who skims over the parts that aren’t great.

Reading aloud eliminates any possibility of skimming, both from the listener’s end and the author’s end.

But yeah, the draft isn’t done, I have probably 10,000 words to go, at least 2,000 of those words have been written already (like, two years ago) but need to be incorporated into what I’m currently writing, I have time blocked off to work on the book so I know the work will get done but I don’t yet know how long it will take, blah blah blah.

It’s odd that I feel like I have so little control over “when the book draft is completed,” given that I know to-the-minute how long it generally takes to complete a 1,200-word freelance article. Shouldn’t I be able to say “at 600 words an hour, it should take me between 13 and 15 hours to complete the draft”? (I should time it and see how close it actually turns out to be.)

After the draft is done I’m hoping to apply the same kind of iterative practice that I’m currently putting towards my piano and chess study towards my revision process. Start at the beginning, read until I come to something I don’t like, fix it, and start the book over again. ❤️

Where I got published this week

Bankrate

What does 0 percent APR mean?

Zero percent APR offers provide an attractive way to buy now and pay later.

Credit Cards Dot Com

How to build and establish credit in the Hispanic community

A guide to navigating credit in the United States

also, there’s a Spanish translation (I didn’t do the translation myself):

Guía de ayuda para acceder y establecer crédito en EEUU

Esta guía contiene sencillos y efectivos consejos para aprender a manejar tarjetas de crédito y otras líneas crediticias

Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

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