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Practice Makes Perfect?

A long time ago-so long ago that I’m sure he won’t remember-I asked my guitarist friend Rich a question about how to improve my guitar playing. He answered, “Practice! Practice! Practice!”

Practicing is the simple answer, but not when most of us would be happy with a magic pill or by signing a contract with that horned chap so that we can break through the different plateaus of greatness without doing the obvious:

Practice! Practice! Practice!

We must practice our craft to improve, but the very word conjures up images of playing guitar scales, or cross-hatching with a pen and ink. Practicing can feel like a drag if you don’t inject some fun into it.

A few blog posts ago, I wrote about my foray into art by creating a new piece of art on a sticky note each day for a year. Drawing those sticky notes had a dual purpose: the daily act of drawing kept me creative while providing a good framework to practice drawing everyday. If you look at my early pieces and compare them to the later drawings, you can see the improvement. Also, I was getting better at expressing an emotion or a theme in the simplest way possible.

Early on in the pandemic, I decided that it would be fun to keep a few guitars around just in case I got the urge to play again. I hadn’t played guitar consistently for several years, because my enthusiasm for the instrument waned. Having a guitar at the ready worked like a charm! I quickly got into the habit of picking up and playing several times a day. As time went on, I found myself playing more and more, learning new songs, and slowly improving! Progress doesn’t happen overnight, but by playing consistently and pushing myself, I found that my guitar playing had improved after years of stagnation.

The thing about practice is that you have to make it fun and be consistent. Here are a few tips that I learned along the way that can be applied to any creative habit:

1. Have your tools ready to go at a moment‘s notice. If you are a writer, keep your WIP open. If you have a guitar, don’t leave your guitar packed up in a case. If you’re an artist, leave your pens, paper, and paints in an easily accessible place. Having to dig out a guitar or search for paint brushes is usually enough for the “Procrastination Monster” to win the day. I can him whispering: “It’s too much trouble to unpack your guitar. Do you even know where your picks are? Why not go play a video game instead?”

2. Make practice fun. Practice doesn’t have to be a boring slog. The more fun that you make it, the easier it will be for you to brush off resistance. If you’re a musician, try to learn a favorite song. For artists, try duplicating a favorite painting. For writers, try using an online prompt generator to both get the creativity going and challenge yourself.

3. Improvement takes time! Whenever I start up a new hobby, I tend to improve quickly in the early stages of the activity. I’m enthusiastic to learn, but over time, it takes more effort and more effort to see improvement. This is called hitting a plateau.

In my early days of painting, I was cranking out new paintings daily, each one better than the last. A year later, I found myself struggling to make even the tiniest bit of progress. Why? If I were to guess, it’s because I had to focus my practice if I wanted to improve. Sure, I was able to paint a passable landscape painting, but maybe, if I worked on the clouds, the painting might be better than only passable.

The saying goes, practice makes perfect. I doubt that practice will ever make you perfect, but it will make you a hell of a lot better, dammit!

Do you have any tips on practicing? If you do, leave us a comment! As always, if you like what you read, hit the heart! If you love it, why not...

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