I stuck with the things I was naturally good at when I was growing up. I never saw my parents practicing anything and I was easily good at school so I just didn’t really experience a very particular kind of hard work that is involved in voluntarily choosing to spend hours alone being bad at something. It’s not that I don’t know how to work hard- it’s more that I know very well how to do certain kinds of hard work, and am a complete wuss at other kinds of hard work.
That’s what I ‘m seeing about learning the guitar. I am at the stage of learning guitar where it’s physically uncomfortable and there’s very little reward. I don’t know if there’s a name for this stage of learning but maybe it should be called the frustration stage. I can’t play anything all the way through, my chord changes are slow, I’m having to relearn the one classical piece I knew because I had no idea that classical guitar has it’s own form of finger plucking and I was doing it wrong in 8 different ways at once. 3 months in and I still play very little that sounds like anything but practice. I don’t create sound that I get lost in yet, or that I can share with others. I certainly can’t play with others yet.
And I’m committed to learning- both the guitar and about this particular kind of perseverance and delayed gratification. Even though I really do wish I could be a brilliant genius prodigy immediately I’m starting to feel like I really needed this process, really need to prove something to myself, to grow something in myself, and to experience what it’s like to be in a process where the gratification is still a long way away.
For anyone else hanging out in the interminable bog of beginning level practice this is what my week or practicing looked like:
Monday– I’m practicing guitar right now, and I’m at the part of my practice where I start to feel physically uncomfortable and my mind starts seeking distraction-sugar, tea, errands, the man in my world, and the thought “Haven’t I practiced enough today? It’s good enough right?”
I take a deep breath, a sip of water, a short break, and send a message to a loving support (best friend) in order to connect my struggle with something outside of myself, someone who cares about my success. Then I return to practice. I spend 2 hours in this practice process.
Tuesday– I think I might have practiced too long yesterday because I don’t want to look at my guitar today.
Wednesday– I’m excited to practice today because I think it’s going to feel different after Monday’s long practice. I plan to practice for 1.5 hours after exercise and before an appointment but then my car won’t start. I end up taking it in and missing my window for practice entirely. I decide I need to put practice earlier in the day so it doesn’t get cut.
Thursday– I practice singing for 2 hours in the kitchen while my folks are gone and it feels good but also a little distracted. It’s hard to practice in the kitchen with the dogs licking my knees. Then my parents get home early and I have a client so I don’t pull out the guitar. My brother is here when I get out of session and we have a drink which means I shouldn’t practice. With the attention I have to give to my form right now I’m afraid I’ll miss something and practice bad habits which my teacher has warned me against. I’m thinking about how much I really want a committed space for music, which is at once exciting and frustrating. Frustrating because between me and that space is a to-do list of unknown length and time. I need to build my business and save money. To build my business I need to get head-shots, business cards, finish my website, develop my clients base, schedule workshops, etc. Welcome to the world of delayed gratification and another aspect of what commitment to this process looks like!
Friday– Practice is set for morning right after breakfast and before any other work. I practice guitar for an hour and then sing for an hour. Yay!
Slowly but surely….