Days 5, 6, 7, 8 – Finding Time to Write and Overcoming Motivational Issues

Finding Time to Write
While it’s not been difficult to find time to play guitar, I have found it difficult to find time to write.   I spent this past weekend away from home.  While this didn’t present any hardships finding time to play (I took my Martin backpacker guitar with me), I found it difficult to write — no laptop, no internet connection.

In enjoy the writing.  While I’d venture to guess there’s not a large audience for somebody’s journaling of their guitar learning journey, I still find it cathartic (and necessary) to put my ruminations about the experience in print.  If nothing else, there’s a degree of accountability to myself (and the scant few who come across these pages) to practice (and get better at) playing guitar.

While I’ve not been putting words to print on a daily basis, I’ve been jotting notes along the way.  They keep fresh in my mind the things I’ve practiced and the lessons learned along the way.  What’s more, this journaling has given me a basis upon which to shape the text of this blog.

So, with all of this in mind (assuming anybody is reading these pages), I will make every attempt to write on a daily basis.  However, it’s probably much more realistic that I’ll be posting only several days a week — the bulk of the entries posted during the weekends.

Overcoming Motivational Issues
When I’m deeply passionate about something, I have great capacity to find joy in the process.  A by-product of finding this joy is a deep (and focused) commitment to practicing/learning.  What’s been odd about my guitar journey, however, is the disconnect between my joy of playing guitar and my desire to practice.

Why does any of this matter?  It doesn’t really, though for me it’s been defeating.  You see, my lack of desire to practice stems from a lack of motivation.  Motivation is both fleeting and unreliable.  My lack of motivation can be rooted to some degree in the following:

Practice, on most days, begins with drudgery.

  • Warm-ups suck
  • Dexterity exercises suck
  • Scale practice most often sucks
  • Metronomes suck

I love playing!  But, if I start with playing songs, I get discouraged because I’m not adequately warmed-up enough to appreciate my playing.

  • My hands cramp
  • I’m stiff
  • My tone sucks
  • I make errors in the fretting of notes and chords

What’s a person to do?  Well, I’ve done a few things.  Here’s what they are:

  • I’ve set goals — practice goals, weekly goals, 3-month, 6-month, and 9-month goals.  I measure and adjust accordingly.  I love reaching goals and establishing new ones.  This gives me a feeling of accomplishment.
  • I plan (within some degree of reason) each practice (another topic for another day).
  • Each practice item is a check mark – I’m motivated by check marks, even when I otherwise lack motivation.  Similar to goals, I love checking things off a list.  This gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  • Practicing songs is my reward – good, bad, or otherwise, I love making music.  As much as the preamble to practicing repertoire sucks, I persevere such that I can get to this part of my practice time.

I realize that the aforementioned may be perceived as nothing more than mind games, but they’re mind games that work — for me.

Getting started at guitar practice for me is akin to the days that I’d go on training runs in preparation for marathons and half-marathons.  I loved the marathons and half-marathons.  I, however, hated training runs — at least the first 2-3 miles.  You see, the first two to three miles of every training run were stiff and plodding, kind of like the first 15 – 30 minutes of guitar practice.  I, however, loved the endorphin high and the meditative state I’d achieve after the first few miles.

Now, I don’t get an endorphin high (not yet at least) while playing guitar.  I can, however, reach a meditative state after a while — a state in which things flow with seemingly effortless fluidity.  I get lost in songs.  Calculated movements become less calculated — fingers go where the music tells them to go, as opposed to where my mind had previously strained to direct them.  I feel both competent and confident about my playing when I achieve this state.

As a runner, I overcame the first 2 – 3 mile doldrums by affirming that I was soon to experience the meditative high I so enjoyed.  This often got me out the door in a timely manner and within 15 – 20 minutes of each run I was locked in.  The same self-talk is required of me in picking up the guitar to practice.  While picking up the guitar is not hard for me, picking up the guitar to practice is.  If I don’t pick up the guitar with intention, I know that I’ll soon be noodling on it rather than purposefully growing my chops.

So, prior to picking up the guitar, I run through the following:

  • What my goals for practice are
  • The order of events and how I’ll tackle them
  • The affirmation that after about half-hour to forty-five minutes I’ll be working on repertoire — the part of practice I so enjoy

Mind games?  Perhaps. But, for me, helpful.

Agenda for 10/25, 10/26, 10/27 and 10/28
With all of this talk about practice, I must confess, I didn’t get a chance to practice today (10/29).  I had meetings after school until after 7:00, completed my ballot (it’s election season) and completed the draft of this blog entry.

Nonetheless, I’ve been spending time prior to practice each day honing in on how I want to approach technical development.  The ins-and-outs of this process and its outcomes will be elaborated on in a future post, so I’ll not say too much about all of the exercises I’ve gone through over the past few days.

My repertoire hasn’t changed at this time, so I’ll not be addressing that either.  I have, however, been playing around with a couple of songs I played quite a number of years ago and have been thinking about adding them to my repertoire for no other reason than to broaden my scope and keep things interesting.  The songs?  Silent Lucidity by Queensryche and Tears In Heaven by Eric Clapton.

With that, here are my hours for the past few days:

10/25, 10/26, 10/27 and 10/28 Time: 6 Hours

Total Time: 12 hours

Time Remaining: 9,988 hours

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