By Cynthia Justlin

“Practice makes perfect.”

I can still hear my violin instructor drumming that old adage into my head as he circles the small podium where I stand, losing the battle with a particular passage of dreaded double-stops. And if I close my eyes, I can smell the distinct chalk-like scent of rosin, feel the fine grooves of the strings beneath my fingers, and recall the heady sensation of sound reverberating through the belly of the violin.

I have a passion for music that has not dimmed over time. Yet, I will never play a concerto before thousands of onlookers at Orchestra Hall. Why? Because, although the violin is one of the great loves of my life, I didn’t set aside enough time for practice.

Today, I looked at my beloved violin, sitting so neglected in the corner of my bedroom, and a wave of nostalgia swept over me. I opened the case, and after all this time, the sweet chalky smell hit me as if I’d rosined my bow only yesterday. I ran my fingers over the burgundy crushed velvet interior and lifted the violin from its safe haven. The strings were all hopelessly out of tune until I took the pegs in hand and tightened them.

And then I took out my old sheet music and played. I played until I lost track of time. When I was done, the muscles in my fingers were sore, my shoulder and neck were stiff, and tiny, dark indentations marred my fingertips where the strings had cut into them. But it was as if I’d found a missing piece of my heart.

“Practice makes perfect,” my violin seemed to whisper to me on some ghostly bittersweet chord.

I gained a new, important understanding of those three tiny words, not just in reference to music, but all aspects of my life — and particularly, my writing.

How can I expect to stand before readers with my published book in my outstretched hands if I don’t contribute a significant amount of time to writing, re-writing and, in essence, perfecting the art of words?

It’s simple. I can’t. All I can ever hope to do is dust off those beloved stories once in a while, and revisit them as if they were forgotten friends, when in truth, they had the opportunity to be so much more. If only I’d practiced.

“Practice makes perfect.” Three little words with such powerful potential.

What will you do with them?