Practice Makes Perfect

Practice makes perfect – that tends to be true for most anything in life. Especially practice over a longer period of time; as most of us know cramming/practicing right before you need to do something doesn’t really work. It just turns into a flaming mess of confused brain and fingers. Research has shown [CITATION NEEDED] that sleep is one of the primary ways we cement things in our memory; if you study, then get some sleep, there’s greater chance you’ll remember something.

I’ve never been too good with practicing; be it my rampant perfectionism, or just being too easily distracted, the idea of sitting alone with some music, my bassoon, and no other stimulation sounds like about as much fun as sensory deprivation at Gitmo. I realize that I’m a bit overstimulated in general – I have to have about 10 sources of stimulus at any given moment, or I feel bored. Practicing tends to just bring out the worst of that. Playing etudes over and over, nitpicking on slight moves between notes, cleaning up that little passage by playing it 10 times perfectly can drive me a bit crazy.

As a non-performance person, my minimum practice standard should be 1 hour a day. I can think of about 4 times in my life where I’ve ever even vaguely come close to that. Two of them involved me having a class period in high school where the only purpose was to practice. As I’ve said early, I’m not really good at carving out my own time or forcing myself to be on a schedule. Any non-externally structured time turns into an amorphous pile of goop.

It’s not just my instrument that I fail to practice; it’s all of the other little daily things that I should be doing. 30 days of doing something should (theoretically) lead to an engrained habit, but I find myself falling off the bandwagon more often then a junkie. I should be doing academic writing/reading/research 1 hour a day, but that doesn’t get done. I should be working on reeds for at least 30 minutes a day, but that doesn’t get done. The 2.5 hours I’ve outlined here often get sacrificed on the altar of “OMG I HAVE SOMETHING DUE IN 2 HOURS I NEED TO GET IT DONE RIGHT NOW EVERYTHING ELSE GOES ON THE BACKBURNER  AHHHHHHHHHHH.”

Practice makes perfect, but I never get the chance to practice. I always feel like there’s something more pressing, and whatever time I’ve cordoned off to do whatever gets thrashed by needing to write that paper I should have written 3 days ago or do the reading for the quiz tomorrow. Instead of having a comfortable buffer of a few days of work, my buffer always seems to be about 3 second. I’m constantly 3 seconds away from spinning off into oblivion, and living on that kind of edge is definitely not good for my health.

I need to start practice practicing. I need to carve out those times and make them immutable – nothing can encroach on those times. They aren’t options, they’re commitments. I know that’s what I need to do, but those kinds of things fall apart the minute something more pressing happens. I’m always in panic mode, and those maintenance things (both physically, mentally and spiritually) never seem to happen. When I do get some downtown, then, I don’t want to practice or do anything like that – I want to sit around and play Minecraft while watching Netflix for the next few hours. And then it’s midnight. So I don’t go to sleep, but stay up till 2, playing more Minecraft and watching more Netflix.

Fuck.

How do you deal with those daily maintenance things? Do you just ignore the fires that are burning to take care of that stuff, or do you not have as many fires?

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