I decided, in that moment, that discipline didn’t count.

I was going to make this more of a theoretical post, expanding on the idea that you know, when you start the trill or the drill or the conversation, whether you’re going to try to solve the problem or whether you’re just going to run through the old stuff from beginning to end — and then I ended up creating a for-real example of this very scenario.

On video.

Here we go.

I wanted to show you how much this piece had improved since the last time I played it for you — and it really has, in every…


I was practicing, and I was bored.

The other day I was playing through the beginning of the third movement of Mozart’s Sonata №12 in F major, K. 332 — and I should note that I began studying K33 in August of last year and am just now starting the third movement, which just goes to show that things take the time they take — and I noticed that I was starting to get a little bored.

Like, “whoop-de-doo, I got to the end of the first fourteen measures, might as well do ’em again.”

(You should probably have some context for this bit of Mozart.)

(It’s…


Last night I stayed up late writing music.

Last night I stayed up late writing music.

I’m paying for it now, in the sense that I’ve got to play the entire day tired, a bit headachy, a little slower and sludgier at everything I’m going to try to do.

I didn’t need to stay up past my bedtime, fork with my circadian rhythm, and trade a day of focus for an hour of it. I have time in my week already blocked off for composing. It wasn’t like I had to borrow minutes from my own rest and recovery.

But I opened my laptop right before I was…


I wanted to show you what my piano practice looks like.

Happy Friday! Here are a bunch of quick thoughts before I get to work on a big freelance assignment:

First, I wanted to show you what my piano practice looks like, keeping in mind that putting a camera in front of anything changes it slightly. This is Mozart K332 mmt 2 Adagio, the same piece I played for you last week, but WORKING ON BEING EVEN MORE SPECIFIC:

In this video you can hear me trying to identify the problem with the ornament, but I still haven’t figured out the central issue. …


I didn’t fully understand this until this past year.

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post titled “Everything Is Real.”

That isn’t necessarily true.

It’s true enough, within the context I was describing — the Hanon exercise is just as real (and should be given just as much focus and attention) as the Mozart sonata, and so on.

But there’s one huge exception, and I didn’t fully understand it until this past year:

The only thing that is real between two people is what they create together.

I want to tell you the story of how I learned this, but it’s not fully mine to tell. Instead, I’ll tell you…


Does that mean that everything requires discipline?

The other day I made the mistake — well, it was two mistakes, really.

The first mistake was technical: a finger-striking issue in one of the Hanon exercises I was using as my piano-practice warm-up.

The second mistake was critical: Don’t go back and fix that. You don’t have the time. It isn’t important. You have to get on to your REAL MUSIC.

Then I realized — everything I do at the piano is real. It exists, I affect it, and it affects what comes next.

I went back and began digging into the issue that was preventing my fourth…


Or, “make sure the tools you’re using are helping you solve the problem you’re trying to solve.”

Let’s start this one with a story.

For the past month or so, I have been putting roughly 30 minutes per day into what you might call a formal study of chess middlegame concepts.

The form I’ve been using for this study has been a book called Teach Yourself Better Chess, which appears to be part of a branded Teach Yourself series (titles include everything from Complete Spanish to Be a Better Flirt).

I picked Teach Yourself Better Chess because it was the book that was currently available at the public library, and then when I ran out of renewals…


The conversation about discipline and specificity begins at the moment you discover you are unsatisfied with some aspect of your life.

It took me longer than you might realize to figure out how to begin this in-depth look into discipline and specificity.

(Last week’s posts, in which I asked whether you could have specificity without discipline and then answered “discipline is committing to do the work to solve the problem; specificity is what you get after the problem is solved,” were technically an introduction.)

But when it came to me — while I was practicing, naturally — it seemed obvious.

The conversation about discipline and specificity begins at the moment you discover you are unsatisfied with some aspect of your life.


It’s time for me to show my work.

I am SO EXCITED to finally have the first installment in the discipline and specificity series up, even though that first installment is really just “hey, I’m going to be writing about discipline and specificity for a while, hope you’re cool with that.”

I do mean “for a while,” btw. I keep hinting at my pages and pages of handwritten notes, each line of which could become its own post. I’m envisioning this as a series of short insights, with as many per week as I can fit around my freelance workload.

But first.

(Whenever L says “but first,” I…


Before I can start exploring the question at the core of all of these thoughts, I feel like I ought to define my terms.

All right.

I know I want to get some of these thoughts out of my mind and into the world, but I’m not quite sure where to begin.

Before I can start exploring the big question at the core of all of this — which, by the way, is “what is the difference between discipline and specificity,” or perhaps “can you have specificity without discipline,” and you can already see that the way in which I phrase the question will affect the way in which I answer it, so I’m going to want to ensure the question itself is, shall…

Nicole Dieker

Freelance writer at Vox, Bankrate, Haven Life, & more. Author of The Biographies of Ordinary People.

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