Hello everyone! I was thinking about discussing practice in this month's newsletter. However this past weekend on a short trip to Seattle, as I was walking around downtown near the Space Needle, I was also thinking about the concept of inspiration. When are we actively seeking inspiration, or do we just learn to be open to it at all times? Then it came to me, is practice just really a form of being creatively inspired?
Finding Creative Inspiration Through Practice
So for any of us that studied music at any level, and over any length of time, we have all heard about how much more time we need to be spending practicing our instrument. As a child, we are often practicing so that we can demonstrate to our music teacher that we got a little better at playing whatever they assigned, and our parents won't be embarrassed after the lesson when the teacher tells them that their kid isn't practicing enough. Trust me, I have been that kid, I have been that music teacher, and I have been that parent. So yes, learning the fundamentals of any creative and/or athletic activity takes repetition - i.e. practice. But, my experience is that model of practice is flawed and doesn't successfully keep kids engaged over the long run, but instead frustrates them and makes them resent the activity.
I have been thinking the activity of finding inspiration and engaging in true practice to be one in the same. For me it is music, but think of the activities that you are truly passionate and care the most about. Think about the art of being committed to something. The practice of becoming committed and being engaged is a true source of inspiration. I think about music all of time when I am not playing it, I am thinking about the business end of my art, my next artistic mission, and what it will take to get there. And along the way, it will take some practice. But I now try to look at the practice as not the boring stuff that gets me to some end goal; it IS the journey.
Learning a new song, set of chords, beat, or anything is a wonderful opportunity to bring out some new phrasing or emphasis on that fundamental that has never been tried before. The repetition helps it become engrained and second nature. A part of us. All of the branches that touch our lives each day seep down deep into our inner being and spark or interact with the jelling's that form our creative output. And the end result is always an outcome that is unique and adventurous to each of us. But another deeper form of practice comes from being aware of our lives, surroundings, and inner (emotional) and outer (existential) environments. It takes practice to be open to that. Our own unique and personal art forms, they become the practice of our lives, just as the practice of yoga or meditation brings awareness to the deeper parts of our mental and physical states, so does the practice of allowing our art form to encompass who we are, and how we live our lives each and every day.
I think we spend too much time as children and adults beating ourselves up about not spending enough time practicing, or perhaps getting the desired result by the "recommended" time. Really those goals are quite arbitrary and not always very helpful. Personally, I am beginning to allow the word practice to define the warm-ups, rehearsing, jam sessions, trying to get gigs, networking, planning projects, singing in the car, hiking in the woods, sleeping, dreaming, and going to my "day job" everyday - those are all part of my personal practice of being a musician, and husband, a father, a friend, a fan, and an observer. Those are all part of my practice of trying to live my own mission in life, and hopefully sometimes I can capture that and express that in one musical form or another from time to time. My hope is to approach practice with a sense of open curiosity and as setting the inspiration for creativity, the final result, the fun stuff - the reason we all do what we do!