When I was in high school, I had a wonderful piano teacher, Mrs. Blackwell. A few weeks before my senior recital, I drove my family crazy practicing the same tricky sections over and over, trying to get the music as close to perfect as I could. Then, a few days before recital time, the music that I thought I had perfected fell apart under my fingers. Suddenly, I hit all the wrong notes and couldn’t remember entire passages. Instead of advising me to practice more, Mrs. Blackwell patted me on the back and told me to play something else for a few days. Something fun. She said, “Don’t worry, Mary. You’ve worked hard and the music is still there. Sometimes things fall apart just before they come together.”
It was hard to follow her advice. I wanted perfection, after all, and the only way I knew to achieve it was to work harder. But being an obedient student, I put aside the broken pieces and played something else instead. Then, on recital night, the music flowed. It wasn’t perfect, of course, I never managed perfection, but it was very good. It was better than I had ever played it before. It was a miracle!
It’s been over forty years since I graduated from high school. I went to college as a music major and graduated as an art major. I married and raised two children who have given me four wonderful grandchildren. I’ve continued my work in art and branched out into writing. Yet, the advice given such a long time ago by a gifted music teacher still comes to mind when I’m struggling to perfect a paragraph or finish a quilt and it’s not going well. I back off, work on something else for a while. Then, when I return to my project, I tackle it with a renewed spirit and see solutions to problems that before appeared unsolvable. I call this method creative procrastination and see it as part of the process. Mrs. Blackwell was right. Sometimes things fall apart just before they come together.