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Is your music still inside you?

March 14th, 2013 by Bob Bly

A couple of weeks ago, in a quiet old cemetery next to a horse
farm, TS, my father-in-law, was buried.

I think TS felt unaccomplished in that he never achieved his
most fervent dream: having a play of his produced in New York.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: “Most people die with their
music still in them.”

But I give TS more credit than he gave himself.

TS took 2 years off from work to write his play, move from Maine
to New York City, and attempt to get it produced.

Yes, the play never ran, but it was not for lack of trying.

In this, TS was ahead of the curve: at least he sat down, wrote,
and completed his play.

I know many people who want to write a play or a novel, or
launch a business or create a product, and never get the thing
finished — or worse, even started.

That includes me.

I have always dreamed of being a published novelist, but have
never had a novel published.

That’s due in large part to my never having written a novel.

I made a few false starts, but never got past the first ten
pages on any of them.

My excuse I tell people is that I never had an idea for a story
I thought could sustain a novel-length work.

The other excuse is that I already write all the time, so had no
time for fiction.

I can’t give you a formula that guarantees you will be
successful as a playwright, novelist, inventor, entrepreneur, or
anything else.

But I can give you a formula that guarantees your failure: don’t
write the play or novel, or start the business, or build the
invention.

I am ashamed to say that this is the formula I followed in my
career as a novelist, with the results indicated above.

I close with this advice from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has
genius and power and magic in it.”

Do as I say. Not as I do.

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76 responses about “Is your music still inside you?”

  1. David Bley said:

    If you are like me and most everyone, you have played someone else’s music to provide for your family and pay the bills. After a lifetime of work, playing other people’s music, I find myself in the group of people that have officially stopped looking for work. This has given me time to reflect and to try to remember what my music sounds like. I can’t remember how it goes. That is my work now.

  2. Susanna Hutcheson said:

    We definitely should follow our dreams. Sometimes, however, we have to make decisions that alter or delete those dreams.

    For example, my mother was a very good off Broadway director. A beautiful, talented woman, she wanted to go into acting and go on the stage. Life had something else planned for her. At least, an option. She met me dad.

    In those days, a woman could have a career or marriage but usually not both. She got married and her career was dead. She spent much of the rest of her life longing for that career. But she simply could not have both.

    Today we have more options. Like you, Bob, I wanted to write the great novel and still have one chapter in my closet. And, many people do their greatest work late in life.

    But most all of us have unfulfilled dreams and a lot of regrets. All we can do is the best we can do.

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