How not to write a masterpiece

I keep thinking one day I’m going to sit down in front of my computer and produce a masterpiece. Not a masterpiece of music, no, a literary masterpiece. Maybe not even a masterpiece in the conventional Dostoevsky or Shakespeare sense, but something with mass appeal, immediately successful. I’m not sure why this thought is with me so often or why I do so little about it (though the latter definitely has to do with laziness and lack of storyline).  

I think it is high time I analyse this obsession and either do something about it or bury it in the same place most of us keep flying (Superman style) and levitating objects with our minds. (If that sound you just heard was your brain saying, “I’ve been thinking about writing a masterpiece myself!,” then please read on. If it was a family member falling off a ladder, you might wanna check that out instead.) 

My first thought is that I’m not someone who enjoys analysing things. You might end up discovering something you were hiding from yourself, which might on the outset seem like a good thing, but if you are hiding something from yourself, well, it’s probably for a pretty good reason. Maybe that part of ‘you’ is just trying to look out for the ‘rest of you’ like a parent would. Maybe you wouldn’t really enjoy finding out. Also, if I’m hiding it from myself, part of me does know, so it’s really not that hidden. Just slightly out of the way, obstructed by immediate view, a bit cache.  

It is interesting that the words ‘cache’ (hidden) and ‘cachet’ (prestige, value) have the same origin. (In case the spelling hadn’t tipped you off) Wait, I also see the word ‘cachet’ can mean “a flat capsule enclosing a dose of unpleasant-tasting medicine.” I guess the idea of remaining unaware of certain things to avoid disappointment or “a dose of bitterness” isn’t all that new. There is really very little ‘new under the sun”, as the famous King Solomon boldly stated some 3,000 years ago. (And that was a much younger sun, probably without all the spots) Maybe that is precisely why writing is so fascinating. Creating, in general. You get to play God for a bit. Bring something from a state of non-being into existence. And what greater thrill can there be than that? (Well, possibly getting paid for it as well.) 


Rewards and creation 

So we’ve gone very quickly from writing a masterpiece, to hiding something from yourself, to avoiding disappointment, to bringing something into existence. I recently became a father so I know about bringing ‘someone’ new into existence. When they talk about having a baby as being “rewarding” they’re for sure not talking “financially”. I’ve never seen anything as amazing as the actual moment they pull the baby out of the womb. Wow, unbelievable! Like a little alien, but you love her. And she burps like a 40-year-old truck driver. 

It seems my talent lies more in discussing what should be discussed than the discussing itself. To my defence, life can’t be explained, and it’s probably a good thing or there would be a lot of out of work philosophers and clergymen. Joseph Campbell (quoting his friend Heinrich Zimmer) said, “The best things can’t be told,” because they transcend thought. “The second best are misunderstood,” because they refer to that which can’t be thought. “The third best are what we talk about.”  

So where am I going with all this. This article. This concept. This life. No idea. But I’ve decided to enjoy the ride as much as possible, despite the seats. Though I seem to forget about it every time I go through airport security. Inspiration is fickle like that. Slippery. Not nice. Who walks out on a friend the moment he is in trouble? If it were playing a character in the Lord of the Rings it would have to be Sméagol. For my part, I’d happily continue this conversation in a cozy New York diner, perhaps with a nice person refilling our coffee, the snow falling outside and hope having just run off in the distance, her tracks still visible before being silently covered up by the snow.  

As for that masterpiece, maybe she’ll be found when the snow melts, or more likely, have run off with hope and started a family of her own. 


Julian Gargiulo is a pianist and composer who divides his time between wishing sabre-toothed tigers weren’t extinct and making paper pirate hats out of his old bios. In between his involvement as fundraiser for and friend of Diabetes Cayman, he also finds time for touring with his new album, working on his nonprofit, curating the Water Island Music Festival in the US Virgin Islands and Crossing Borders of Hunter College in NY, and endlessly walking the streets in search of people to add as Facebook friends. Contact the globetrotting pianist on [email protected] 


Tired out from all this philosophising, Julian and Nikita Gargiulo take a power nap. – Photo: Submitted

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.



  1. While at a first quick reading, one is left wondering about the point of the story, it’s the apparently no-point of it that captures the imagination. Very well done Maestro Gargiulo, and…subtly too.

Comments are closed.