As a college music student, it always seemed that everything I was doing was preparatory. Every act of performance or composition was in some sense undertaken less for its own sake than as an exercise aimed at sharpening my abilities, or perhaps as a barometer of where those abilities stood at the time. Just over two years removed from my last school-related activities, I find myself suddenly overtaken by frustration at how little of value (even to me) I have produced up to this point, as well as the realization that this has occurred largely because the focus has always been disproportionately on preparation rather than actual production.
There are a handful of recordings and scores that I'm very proud of, but in large part, all of those great things that my early accomplishments supposedly foreshadowed have yet to materialize. All of this has allowed me to confirm that the greatest challenge in making the transition to the "real world" is not economic, but artistic and philosophical: how does one go from constant preparation to consummating that preparation in the form of tangible musical products (i.e. performances, recordings, and scores)?
Preparation is hard work physically, but mentally and emotionally, it's comparatively easy as long as it is always directed at something abstract and years in the future. In an academic setting, there is also lots of direction, coaxing, and pressure coming from without as well as within. Now, however, I am feeling pressure (from myself rather than from others) to deliver the goods in a timely fashion.
I was, of course, always frustrated with the fact that school involved so much preparation and so little resolution of that preparation. I was scared off (perhaps, it now seems, for good) from taking composition lessons when a professor I approached told me that he had stopped composing altogether as an undergraduate while studying theory. Privately, I reacted very strongly against this: "To stop composing now," I though to myself, "would merely diminish my total output." Big-headed and naive? Absolutely...but I was right. I wrote several worthy pieces during this time, and they're almost everything I have to hang my hat on at this point.
Since there are only so many hours in the day, more producing equates directly to less preparing, and hence, it's too easy to feel that there's another big-headed, naive assumption behind this decision also (i.e. as if I was done learning for good). I've made up my mind, though, for better or worse, that it's time to throw down. I'm not getting any younger, and it would be a shame to waste all of that hard work.