So, this piano. That phrase with the heart in it. I know we’re all familiar with that phrase, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I actually thought about it, in the same way you might study a salad for all its parts. Okay, in the way I would study a salad for all its parts.

It got me thinking (and Little e playing). I wondered about the ratio of adults to children who sat down at the piano. I can only guess that more of the latter do (or am I being pessimistic?). Which got me thinking about something else: optimism.


I’ve been told I was a dreamer my whole life. At times it felt like more of a slight than a positive affirmation of self. But I’ve come to appreciate that it gives me things I need. I need to dream because for me, dreaming generates survival-optimism. It is fantasy brought down to reality. It is magical thinking and wishful living. But more than that, it is a weapon against the darkness of doubt and hopelessness. I’ve felt the pull of these things recently and realised that my natural balance of optimism is what keeps them at bay. I have to believe good things will happen. I have to throw myself into a project with abandon. If I lose my optimism, I’m toast. Especially because being an artist of any kind is about incredible risks (both numerous and sustained). Without optimism, those risks (and the decisions that go into and come out of them) are sometimes too much to take.

So, dreaming is key. And I got that from being a child. From seeing a piano on the sidewalk and being filled with glee and enthusiasm and the urge to make sound from it. Not thinking about being judged, being good or bad, but just playing. Just interacting with the instrument because it felt good.


Which brings me to this phrase, Play Your Heart Out. I want to break it down. Unpack it, as we used to say in workshop.

Play–not only to make the piano sing, but to have fun doing something. [Verb: exercise or activity for amusement or recreation.]. Play teaches us all kinds of things. It revitalizes; recreation is literally re-create, as DH pointed out to me. Play is joy. That’s serious stuff.

Your Heart–the metaphorical, the spiritual, the literal, the paper…so many hearts to choose from. Play your heart. Play with your heart, to your heart. For your heart. About your heart. Blessed be prepositions.

Out–which way is out? Out of your body? Inside out? Or does Play Your Heart Out imply playing until your are full up with it, satiated and complete? It could also mean the opposite: putting yourself out into the world as a song, so your heart no longer resides in your body, but exists on its own, elsewhere. Or what about playing your heart into other’s hearts–the most intimate sharing?

What do you think? What other images or metaphors come to mind?



Of course, the “play” is easily swapped for “write”, “paint” or whatever other verb you like. This piano, the ideas it embodies, is bigger than all of those words. I can’t think of a good verb to cover them all. “Create,” or even verbifying “art” just don’t seem to cut it. But I think you know what I mean. It’s not just a painted piano on the street.



And in the spirit of affirmation, around the corner from the first piano was this one–played by Mozart, the creative genius himself.


Where do you find your optimism?