Practice anxiety: Tool #11

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Braving the elements to go out and practice somewhere that's not your bedroom can nevertheless be well worth it. Photo from Horn Blog.

Braving the elements to go out and practice somewhere that’s not your bedroom can nevertheless be well worth it. Photo from Horn Blog.

Go practice somewhere else + 2 extra tips

Why? If you’re like me and do a lot of your practice at home, you’ll know the struggle that is a gazillion competing distractions (internet, comfy couch, books, long to-do list, snack grazing…) that present you with many options for NOT practicing. On the other hand, when you step into a practice room somewhere else you have one purpose in mind. Granted we’ve all had those times in conservatoire practice rooms where you’re scrolling on your phone and decidedly not practicing, but it’s far clearer that you’re not doing the thing that you’re there to do.

What? So, if there is any possibility for you to practice somewhere that is not your bedroom, jump at the chance! Can you ask your music teacher if you can get special permission to turn up at the music block an hour before school (or stay an hour after) to practice? Chances are there’ll be ensemble rehearsals on anyway and you can occupy one of the practice rooms. If you’re studying music at uni, get up early and snag a practice room before the rush. It feels so good to knock some basic tech practice over early in the day. Book practice rooms during busier times. Or is there some other options available to you – rooms available at a local studio that you can book for a suitably low rate? Can you join up with some friends and rent out a small warehouse space and make a practice schedule between you? Think outside of musicians, practicing amongst other kinds of artworks can be very stimulating! Some libraries have practice rooms you can book. Is there a church in your local area that will allow you to practice there in return for maybe playing at their weekend services? Take advantage of resonant spaces – they make you want to practice more (I spent last week practicing in a ballroom and it was AMAZING)! Or if you work an office job, see if you can get access to turn up before anyone else arrives to do your scales before knock on – I used to do this when I worked as an arts administrator. Just some ideas…

Extra tip #1: Practicing somewhere else works especially well if you can only book the space for a certain time – it adds pressure that means you’ll want to make the most of the space while you have it. Think carefully about when you book practice time and note it in your diary. Treat it like a job – turn up and put in the hours you promise yourself (but don’t push yourself in the case of illness, exhaustion or injury, know when to be forgiving of yourself).

Extra tip #2: If you are overcome by the desire to check your phone or you get a call, try stepping outside of the practice room. Be disciplined – the practice room is for practice. Set a practice timer and pause it while you attend to the distraction. Or set your phone on airplane mode while you’re practicing!

This practice anxiety tool is fairly hardline, and is useful for getting or keeping you on track when you’re not struggling too much. For more practice anxiety tools that encompass moments of real struggle, click here.

The Art of Possibility: practices #1 & #2

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Alethea put me onto this book by Boston Philharmonic conductor Benjamin Zander and his partner Rosamund Stone Zander called The Art of Possibility – it was recommended to her by the wonderful Bettina (my flute big sister! x x). The book was written for the Harvard Business School, and the corporate speak is grating, but I think it may contain some very interesting thought exercises that will be quite worthwhile for me at this point in time. Each chapter briefly explores a concept, before giving suggestions for a practice so that the reader might find their own way into this theme. I have no idea if I’ll make it through all of these, but I’ve been looking for a new way to chip at my regular problems (avoidance, lethargy, anxiety, imposter syndrome, the blues) and I am more than happy to try anything suggested by either Alethea or Bettina!

These posts, should they continue, will likely prove fairly confusing and not especially interesting for any reader not familiar with the Zanders’ book, as I’m not going to bother outlining each of the concepts put forward in the text. Nevertheless, I appreciate anyone that bears with me, and who might provide their own insight on my progress.

Practice #1: It’s all invented

Here there are two initial questions to respond to, firstly:

What assumption am I making,
That I’m not aware I’m making
That gives me what I see?

I’ve been musing on this question all day. What is the context? I’m already worried I’m going to choose the wrong thing, and I won’t be able to think outside the confines of my current reality. So to start with I’m assuming there’s a right and a wrong way to go about engaging with these questions. I’m assuming I need to find a response that is relevant to my practice of music, as that is what I feel I’m struggling with right now (when in reality, I struggle this way with many aspects of my life – for example, sending invoices, a task that takes all of 2 minutes, is something I will put off until it is not only rudely late but I am also left with only $27 in my bank account). So already I suspect that working with and expanding the confines of my day-to-day thinking I might actually be able to affect change in my approach to flute practice.

Follow-up question:

What might I now invent,
That I haven’t yet invented,
That would give me other choices?

A whole life approach to ‘being’ a musician? Perhaps while this is something I feel I already do – eating well, taking care of my body (to be honest, this is something that happens for discreet pockets of time; the rest of the time I forget about it, slouch and slump, drag my feet and resist helpful exercises), scheduling my life around practice (more honesty: this is actually a rarely realised ideal) – I could devote more attention and energy to living every second as a musician, my every action laced with intention toward my musician self. Is this in itself a restricting ambition? Or a liberating one? I’m unsure… Is this the right response to worrying about finding the right response?

Practice #2: Stepping into a universe of possibility

After outlining the concept of the ‘measurement world’, the book poses further questions:

How are my thoughts and actions, in this moment, reflections of the measurement world?

I was looking, in answering the first two questions, to be the star pupil – to give the right answer to the questions. In that way, I was hoping to set myself apart, measured against any other readers as someone that could truly discover something new about themselves and click onto that easy, linear path. I felt lost because I really didn’t know how I could use these questions to make immediate progress towards improvement of my music practice.

How are my thoughts and actions, in this new moment, a reflection of the measurement world?

I am secretly desiring a magic moment where things such click into place and I suddenly see success after success, which in my mind’s eye seems to be shrouded in a radiant golden glow. I am goal orientated, I want to be an accomplished and admired musician.

And how now?

I want to be able to delve deeper into this question, to find the root of the problem. Like I want to delve into my psyche, find the fault, and cast it away.

Now?

I doubt my ability to keep questioning. In addition I find myself thinking that this will be an awfully dreary blog post for anyone that should attempt to read it.

Now?

It is impossible to escape being shaped by the assumptions that underlie all of life. (This is a statement of the book, but while I can on a kind of surface level recognise it, the premise frustrates me somewhat.)

Thoughts in a bit of a muddle, but hey that’ll do for now. Perhaps some clarity will arise in time.