"Your parents either told you horrible lies, or you chose to listen to all the wrong parts of sentences."
Talk about magical wisdom. It's true, isn't it? It's all about how we listen, what we listen for in a conversation. We all perceive things differently, and are willing to toss out anything that doesn't go along with our preconceived ideas.
The other quote I grabbed from Ethan Iverson giving a great discussion of why competitions aren't great for art: especially a performance competition of Jazz.
"We need more audience for jazz, and the way to get that audience is not to play jazz correctly. The way to get that audience is to make essential new music."
Man, he just really nailed that one on the head, didn't he. Iverson also tosses in a little dig against competitions in the classical world, at least in sense that they don't work well.
The largest truth comes in the idea of writing or playing for someone else. You know so-and-so is a judge. S/he likes this particular style. If I do that well, I have a better chance of winning. In the classical world, you can browse winners of competitions and see the aesthetic leanings of the competition, be it traditional, complexity, post-minimalist, whatever. Maybe that means "only submit to competitions where your style fits." Of course, if you're pushing for your own path, it's hard to find that competition.
So what's that mean? Well it means quote 1 sticks into quote 2. A lot of people tell you that you have to be successful. Success is dictated in many ways. I've gotten advice lately that while my CV is strong, it's lacking one big thing- a named award. If I listen to all the wrong parts of what I'm being told, it means I compromise the idea of quote 2- I write for a judge. I look to see winners, and say "well, I can write in a really complex style. If it gets me an award, then it's worth it." Will winning that award suddenly make me "successful?" Will I now, undoubtedly, get a job wherever I want? N'ah, it'll make some nice introductions, give me a couple more opportunities, but I can do that without the competition.
That's listening to the wrong part. Listen to the part that says "Write the best music you can, get a nice recording, and send it out. Everywhere." And still submit. Because you never really know what'll happen. Music is highly subjective, and if you resonate with just one person, all of a sudden you've got an award.
And because if you start listening to all the wrong parts of sentences, you'll start to lose yourself, and when you lose yourself, you've lost a deep connection to what you're doing. Then creation halts.
So listen to the whole sentence, and work for your love of what you do.