Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What Are You Afraid Of?

I'm going to talk to you today about practicing.  Yes, I'm thinking of practicing music, but honestly, you can apply the concept of practicing to so many aspects of life.  Practicing how you eat (or don't eat). Practicing how you exercise.  Practicing a new attitude about life.  Practicing a new career.

Practicing gets a bum rap with many people.  This stems from the vintage image of a mopey 9-year-old stuck at a piano with her mother yelling in the background, "Miss Burns said you should practice for 30 minutes every day.  That comes before playing outside with Mary.  Mary can wait".  Am I right?

You can stop wasting brain cells on that image right now.  Instead focus on your self, exploring a part of your soul that doesn't get to come out and play very often.  A part of your soul that you have stuck down in the deepest corner of your gut.

That's right.  You see, I think most of us resist practicing because we are afraid of ourselves.  We are afraid of failing, which is implicit in practicing.  We are afraid of bumping up against our big fears, that we aren't good enough.  I say what we are practicing isn't about being good enough.  It's about finding the ideal way to say what we have to say in our souls.  That's actually what we're afraid of.  We're afraid we have nothing of value to say.  We're afraid we have nothing new to say.  We're afraid we will be rejected for what we want to say.

Here's a quote I use to motivate my own practice:




Oh, you can't read that, can you?  I just wanted you to see that I actually have a paper copy of it.  It hangs in my office here:



Some day I'm going to take you all on a tour of those papers.  There's some gems in there.

Back to the quote, from Branford Marsalis.  You know him as a jazz musician, but guess what?  When that article appeared in 2014, he was here in Philadelphia playing...get ready for it...classical music.  Gasp.  Yes, a topnotch jazz player switched genres while he was famous, while he was getting paid for playing music, while he was further up the ladder than you are.

Oh, the quote.

"Most people tend to avoid areas where they're not comfortable for reasons I'm not really sure of because the benefits are so great...The only way to get good at something is to be bad - at first.  When you're young it doesn't hurt so much.  But it's OK to be bad as long as there's a goal.  It's taken me about 10 years of serious work, listening to this music, playing it, studying it.  It feels OK now."

It feels OK now. He didn't say it feels great, it feels awesome.  He said it feels OK.

Most people tend to avoid areas where they're not comfortable for reasons I'm not really sure of because the benefits are so great.  The benefits are so great.  THAT's what is great.  The benefits of getting uncomfortable.

The only way to get good at something is to be bad - at first.  Exactly.  Give yourself permission to fail.

When you're young it doesn't hurt so much.  I'm not sure I agree with him.  I actually find it easier to be uncomfortable now that I'm, er, not young.

It's taken me about 10 years of serious work, listening to this music, playing it, studying it. 10 years of serious work.  Feels daunting, I know, but look at what he calls serious work - listening, playing, studying.  Breathing it, questing after it - all the things you love about the creative pursuit anyway.  But you allow yourself to get hung up on the surface and don't dive into the water.

So, Creataviters, the next time you need to practice a new skill or habit and you find yourself looking for a distraction, ask yourself -

What am I afraid of?

See you later.  Gotta go practice.