This has been a life-altering summer for me in a quiet way. No big shakes, no big blow-ups, just a lot of rewiring and tinkering and tweaking. And now, as Labor Day approaches and the fall season begins, I’m having a distinctly poignant feeling. I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing that I’d had a couple more weeks to just rest and relax. In my case to balance out all that fiddling I’ve been doing. But life doesn’t tend to wait for me to be ready for the next thing to appear on the radar. It’s got a rhythm of its own, and it doesn’t care whether I keep up with it or not. But I do care. I care a lot.
So the “school year” begins once again. I feel like the consummate school-girl, always in the process of learning something that I absolutely need to master, or else I can’t proceed to the next level. Kind of like a video-game, but one with no hidden shortcuts programmed into it. You just have to keep trying to do it over––again and again––until you nail it, or get lucky. Preferably nail it of course.
Speaking of school, I think that there are a number of things in life that the powers that be simply assume we know how to do. Things that aren’t taught in school, but in my opinion should be. Like, what it means to be a responsible, grown-up human being in this world, and how do you become one. How the hell do you handle your finances. How you’re supposed to figure out who you are. And, why it’s important to do so. How to form one’s own opinion, and why it’s important not to follow anyone blindly.
I could come up with millions of examples of things that should be part of any self-respecting school’s curriculum, but all that aside, there’s one lesson that I’ve been particularly keen on this summer. How to practice doing something––anything. I don’t recall that any school I went to ever taught me, first of all, that practicing one’s craft is incredibly valuable; or second of all, how one is supposed to go about it. I can’t recall that any teacher ever explained to me why I should practice something, they simply got angry with me when I didn’t. Which was a lot. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that anger is a particularly effective method for teaching. Tell me why the practicing matters and what’s the point of what you’re teaching me to do. Inspire me! Motivation is key. Motivate me, and I’ll do whatever it takes to excel! Don’t motivate me and I’ll simply go through the motions.
Getting back to where I started from, this summer has changed me. It’s changed the way I think about practicing, and my relationship to working on my craft. I now take a much more deliberate approach to working on my weaknesses through repetition and focus, rather than just playing through songs. Scalpel not an ax. Having toured extensively this past year, I came to understand in a visceral way the difference that repetition and muscle memory had on my performances. I’ve become highly motivated to keep working on my punches and kicks, so to speak. I view preparation as respect for the audience, and I think of every audience now as the most important one ever. It’s not about how many people I reach on any given night, it’s about the depth of that reach. I’m not fucking around. Not me. Do or do not, there is no fucking try. That’s some motivation right there.
And for those of you, who are interested in more info on practicing, here’s an article that has been valuable to me recently.