Jeanette Winterson: recent publications

How to Chase A Dream: Love, Fear, and Finding Paul McCartney In A Bathroom

It is December of 1993. I am twenty years old and contemplating the future arc of my life. The question in front of me is simple: Do I pursue music as a career, or do I listen to the persistent voices of my elders pleading for me to choose a safer path through the world? In the words of Jeanette Winterson: “Why be happy when you can be normal?”

At this point in my life, I had been playing music for over ten years. Averaging twenty-five hours a week of practice, (at minimum) that made for over 10,000 hours total, surpassing the fabled requirement for “mastery of a skill.”

Indeed, I had become proficient enough on guitar that it was akin to speaking a language fluently, especially taking into account the young age at which those ‘words’ entered my elastic, fantastic brain. My hands would reach reflexively for the right notes. I loved to improvise, with myself and with other musicians, and my connection to art was fulfilling on a deeply spiritual level. Practicing for four to eight hours a day, it turns out, is a lot like meditation.

The influence of the “hamster-wheel within our minds” has no sway while in the flow state, and learning this type of deep focus when I was a child has had a profound and lasting positive impact on my mental state. To this day, entering a flow state requires nothing more than a guitar, five minutes, and a chair.

And if there is no guitar, I simply imagine playing one, as I often do in waiting rooms and parties.

So, why would I be contemplating, at twenty years old, severing my ties to the enchanting and soul-fulfilling world of music? Why would I entertain abandoning a future where my career and work could be playing music full time? Wasn’t that my dream?

The reason I was even

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Jeanette Winterson

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