How should one practice?
It has always seemed like a mystery to me how some people seem to pick up an instrument and intuitively know how to methodically practice and progress themselves through levels of skill.
Maybe it’s my lack of formal education, but for me I have always just intuitively picked up things and played. That is to say, I progress on an improvisatory and creative level, but in regards to technique and formal repertoire, I have always largely lacked.
Discipline largely has a lot to do with success in the endeavour of learning any skill (or discipline). This begins before the practice session even begins: when am I going to practice, How long for, and what am I practicing? You need your game plan set in stone before you. You don’t necessarily have to follow it to a tee, but you need it there if you are going to progress skilfully.
Practice adds up, it really does. At times when I have sat down in a disciplined way to learn a skill, I have ALWAYS learned what I have practiced fully and with integrity.
However this discipline often teeters out within a couple of weeks of hard grind. It teeters out because it becomes largely a chore. The fire that got me started gets kindled out and I am left with the empty shell of my previous commitment. Just going through the motions leaves me feeling empty and unfulfilled.
Through some soul searching I thought I had found the key. It was that I was pushing too hard. So I did the intuitive thing and went in completely the other direction, becoming completely playful again. My lost love came flooding back. I began to ENJOY practicing again. Jesus had I missed THIS.
However… AGAIN there was a piece missing.
I was not making progress in the same way. My skills were becoming tighter within what I already knew, but I knew little. I was not GROWING and EXPANDING my boundaries. I felt like I was stuck in a rut, and I was. Stuck in a shell. A shell that needed to be broken out of in order to be born again.
I turned for help. I read and read and read and searched and asked. To no avail. People just intuitively knew, but nobody could explain where I was going wrong and HOW to rectify it.
UNTIL recently I came across a book that told me to follow my fire. To follow my fire was to aim for my deepest truth. I was set alight like a furnace. I had fire in my belly like never before, and I was ready to get out there and FIGHT for my convictions. Because I KNEW my deepest truth.
The reason that I was getting lost is that I had lost my VISION. My purpose, my reason for starting.
Suddenly, troubles with practice were a thing of the past. Tired grinds and constant pushing were mere memories, because now I had fire under my ass and it was alighting me to the moon.
It was clear that the problem was that I needed to direct this energy. Now I set a period of time every day to practice. I write a list using the method from THIS Youtube video.
And I get it done. In fact I estimate that I get around about 6-7x more done than I used to, and I’m barely having to push myself. I’m walking on air with the wind behind me.
If you are having trouble practicing or finding motivation to do so:
FIND your fire. You cannot force it in any direction. You are either avoiding your inspiration or you are saying YES to it, in which case you know what to do. Any artist knows that you don’t chose what to be inspired about, inspiration choses YOU… you’ve just got to say yes to life. And to say yes to life is to say yes to fear and yes to the possibility of pain.
Let me leave you with this quote to ponder over, by the great man himself, Ralph Waldo Emerson:
‘Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.’
Step up. Feed your soul.
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