A few weeks ago I had this dream in which I said to myself, ‘if you practice something, you will get better at it.’ Though this sounds like a dumb, obvious statement to make in the waking world- it felt like a divine tablet that was being passed to me in the dream world. I woke up filled with this notion of “Right, if I practice this- I will get better at it!” It seems so simple, a phrase that gets repeated constantly and yet we make this simple thing very complicated. Somehow it is so easy to get in our own way and prevent this thing we really want to happen from actually happening.
There are a lot of reasons why we prevent ourselves from committing to something we love to do: perhaps we only know how to motivate ourselves with abuse or unkindness and the only available counter is collapse and inaction. Maybe we don’t know how to break things down into manageable pieces and it exists as a huge, nebulous goal that overwhelms us. Or do we get trapped in the idea that our art form is an event as opposed to a process? I once had a teacher say to me, “If I put a block of ice in a room that is below freezing and I continue to warm up the room by one degree at a time- which degree that I added made the ice melt?” I loved this comparison because it highlights for me that this process is cumulative. What we are really after is deepening our sensitivity, our ability to observe, and then invite choice. The good news is that even on days that seemingly don’t go well, we are still adding to the overall warming of the room. This time could never be wasted because you spent energy and attention on your instrument and likely still walked away with information. If you are someone (like I am) who struggles with showing up for your art for whatever reason, getting started is usually the hardest part.
What tiny thing can you do to get yourself going today? Put a song you are working on somewhere you will see it regularly? Can you add some practice times to your calendar? Try to piggyback your practice onto an already well formed habit. Commit to only 15 minutes if you have to and if you still aren’t feeling it, give yourself permission to stop. Connect with a friend who is also struggling with motivation, reach out and set up a zoom meeting where you are both muted and can practice each in your own space with accountability. You could even share something you have been working on at the end- or not! Can we allow ourselves to step away from a notion of discipline and move towards acts of devotion to something we love?