One of the nice things about keeping this accountable diary of sorts is I can look back and remember the many instances where my practise, routine and mental state have been rudely interrupted, and so account for the feeling I have of being a little behind where I would like to be with less self-blame. Between travel, illness, hormonal upsets, psychological upsets, and too many commitments in a day, there are a lot of external factors that have impacted negatively on my recital preparation trajectory. Some of these are not easily overcome by force of will alone, or rather, these situations require a different kind of will to sheer determination (“keep going!!”) – instead I need to create a situation in which I can safely restart.
As I mentioned in my last post, terror and guilt are very very poor motivators for me. Anxieties consume me and I can get to the point where I struggle even to walk into a room where my flute is kept, let alone practise in a constructive, focussed way. So the priority when I am knocked down (it’s not especially hard to do, bugger it all) is to somehow create for myself this kind of a safe space where I can enter into recovery mode. By this I mean less a physical space, although this is important too, than a mental headspace with controlled tasks and easily achievable goals in very small chunks. In practise today, for example, the goal that worked well for me was just finding an embouchure that worked okay across the whole range of the flute – not necessarily the one with the best sound, but just the one that I could hold most easily while sliding around chromatically testing out the limits of its range. What I didn’t do after I’d found this was plan out a structured repertoire practise, and instead dabbled my way through chunks of Furrer, Takemitsu and Murail. Without focus and clear goals it simply became a game of “Yeah! Look at that! I can play that! … But, ah, bummer, canNOT do that bit. Should probably come back to that … later.”
But I think if I had been a bit more disciplined in a gentle but controlled way, I could still have made some good progress. It only takes a few things going well to flick the switch back to on and I can reassess and pick back up. A bit of a reassessment might be an important step – where am I at right now, honestly, and what is the best work I can be doing at this point? Avoiding end-gaming! The stuff of the next post…
In the meantime, and without the slightest shame, I would like to pay a small homage to my lovely Liam for helping me talk through my various recent woes and worries in the form of this little clip from the king of homages himself: