New Failures/New Beginnings

Much of my work as a teacher is to share practice methods that will sustain a student through the stops and starts of life. Practicing is not a mess you clean up on Saturdays because you finally have an hour or two of free time. It’s a habit you form that gets rewarded when you see and hear your progress. Even 5 to 15 minutes a day will drastically change your relationship to your instrument. Anything else is what I call Creative Purgatory. It’s a mix of guilt, seeming ambivalence, and self-torment that renders you motionless. And as creatives, we’ve got to flow.

One day I decided to forgive myself for all of my micro-failures. I acknowledged that I didn’t behave like I wanted, then I made moves to alter my course. Adding a practice to my life as simple as making my bed, then sitting on top of my smooth blankets to meditate for 20 minutes made a big difference. Once that felt steady I started adding on bite-sized, incremental practices: free writing 2 or 3 times a week for songwriting, 20 minutes a day of piano, etc. It’s much easier to add on a practice to something you already do, perhaps right after brushing teeth in the morning, or while the coffee brews.

For every micro-failure, there is a possibility of a small action that with time can amount to a massive shift in thinking. Practices don’t always stick the first time around. Keep at it. Every time we admit our failure and forgive ourselves, we open up space for new opportunities to do better.

Halley Elwell