I had a few days last week of very intense practicing. I finally had some time dedicated solely to practice without the various justifyable distractions of travelling, rehearsing and decorating the Christmas tree. The time spent was often exciting and motivating, but it was interesting to notice the ways in which my ego still loves to get in the way.
If we were to imagine going out onto the street and asking a random person, ‘why do musicians practice?’, their answer would likely be along the lines of, ‘to get better’, or ‘to prepare for a performance or concert’. It would be very unlikely for them to remark ‘in order to increase their self worth’, and yet here I am, feeling very frequently that the amount I practice dictates how I feel about myself.
I don’t believe this mentality is enitrely self taught, though a perfectionistic mindset can exacerbate the issue. I was told that there is a ‘4 hours per day minimum’ for practicing. I was told this on summer courses, music school and by various tutors, all who relayed this wisdom in our best interest. The reality is that time is not indicative of how committed you are to music, nor does it determine how passionate you might be about it. Regular practice time can be a good place to start, but fulfilling a quota based on hours really diminishes our creativity.
How much would you practice (or draw, dance, work, exercise) if you knew that no one else would ever see or know about the process? Imagine removing opinion and comparison from what you create and how you get there. What if you didn’t know how much others practiced.
I think music might be served for its own purpose. We get out of the way and let the real work begin. The work that transcends anything that the ‘industry’ sells you. You create beauty directly for the cause of music, you perform to share and you perform regularly, acknowledging the inevitable imperfections. You take your playing from right now and complete the work necessary in the time it takes to reach a sense of excitement and technical fluidity. This may be 3 hours, 9 hours, half an hour. The real work you might have to do could be pulling yourself away from identification and scarcity and into the superlative experience of living alongside working. The paradox is that this freedom is the ultimate source of motivation and success on all levels. This is the real work that gives life and lets you live.