Practice

There are happy words, and then there are words that elicit groans. I suspect for many, practice is one of them.

As a child I breezed through John W Schaum’s colorful piano books with little to no practice. I mean, come on, how many times did you really have to play through a song entitled “Snug as a Bug in a Rug?” When I got to middle school and classical study under a new teacher, however, things changed. Every song seemed to employ every darn black note on the piano. The fingerings were funny. I couldn’t reach some of the chords. For awhile, sight-reading was my best friend. But the day came when I could no longer fake expertise or skill that I didn’t have.

“How much did you practice this week?”From Stella’s narrowed eyes after I stumbled through a fugue, I knew she was on to me. And probably had been since day one of the sight-reading scheme.

“Maybe an hour?” Flushed face, downcast eyes. The sinking, shoot-I-should-have-practiced-instead-of-reading-all-twelve-of-the-Christy-Miller-Books feeling.

Playing the piano, figure skating, speaking in front of crowds – I learned from similar incidents in all these areas that you will never regret practicing. They say practice makes perfect – however, I know from being covered in ice shavings again and again that just because you practice a double salchow doesn’t mean you’ll ever land it.

The thing about practice is this – it is time-consuming, it is tedious, and it can be boring. And sometimes, pride and the fear of failure prevents us from even admitting we need to practice. At hispanic restaurants, my dad usually asks, “Why don’t you order in Spanish?” I shrug and say something like, “Because I don’t feel like it” or “Because they speak English, duh.” When maybe the truth is that I’m  afraid of making a fool of myself. (And maybe I have good cause… in an essay for Spanish class the other day, I confused the word “torture” (tortura) with “turtle” (tortuga) Oops.)

If I’ve learned anything at college, it’s that dedication to practice is the key to success in life. Honestly, how do we expect to master  cooking, tennis, German, community living, decoupage, quidditch, blogging, whatever – unless we do it day-in-day-out with the intent on becoming better?

My creative writing professor (a published author) says that many people come to her with sky-high ambitions to write and backpacks brimming with story ideas. “I have this amazing idea for a novel!” they say. “What do you think?”

“Have you ever written?” my professor will ask. “Are you writing every day? Write every day for five years. Then come back to me with your novel idea.”

While I wish I was that genius individual who is a natural at everything and knits a pair of mittens flawlessly on the first try, I have to commit myself to life in the practice room. And looking beyond my painful relationship with practice, I can glimpse that good habits will yield good results.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a piano lesson later today that I need to practice for.

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7 thoughts on “Practice

  1. Brooke, your blog entry “Practice” holds many astounding truths. Many students (no matter what age) fail to understand the implications until much later. On the other hand, I cannot help but remember some of your early writing. There is no doubt that you have put extensive time into the practice as is evident here today. However, there is most definitely still a natural talent which you possess.

    Love the blog idea! Makes me want to pull out my college linguistics book.

  2. I like it! Not something I’ve really thought about and you’ve made me have “practice” on my mind all afternoon. I also greatly appreciated your reference to knitting. Lastly, I’m impressed with the great number of things that you’ve practiced! I can see why that word means so much to you!

  3. Brilliant insight! I think we’ve all been on that piano bench, realizing we really can’t fake it.

    A song for your word:

    Day after day all the prince ever does
    Is practice, practice, practice
    Thinking of her and the way that it as
    Practice, practice, practice – from “The Swan Princess”

  4. You know what I love about your blog, Brooke? You write like you talk. I hear your sweet voice in my head as I read, almost like in You’ve Got Mail where they do voice-over’s of what is being read. It makes reading a lot more fun.
    I’ll carry your professor’s advice with me for a long time. Writing everyday for five years. Huh. I can see you doing that. And when you write your first book, I’ll buy it. Because I’ll know it’ll be just like having a conversation with you. 🙂

    PS – I totally thought I was the only person in the world who read Christy Miller books like they were going out of style! lol!

  5. This was a a great read Brooke. I too faked my way through clarinet lessons and it definitely didn’t work. You are a very talented writer, I can’t believe what I just read wasn’t by a published author but my roommate! I’m very excited for your success in the future 🙂

  6. PRACTICE! Ugh. I think that you hit on something very important: we often don’t practice because we’re afraid of failure (not ordering in Spanish), which is so ironic.

    I think that one area that I really need to practice more is in the kitchen, but I’m just so darn unmotivated because dangit, cooking grandiose meals for one just seems absurd! haha

    Practice is such an interesting word and has many different meanings for people. I really appreciate getting your insight on it. 🙂

  7. Ugh. Right now I’m literally SITTING ON MY PIANO BENCH reading your blog instead of working on my Handel. It’s like you did this specifically to guilt me into being productive. ;p

    Just a note- I love your blog so far, and I love your writing style. Your ideas are fresh and interesting and hold my attention really well (and not just because I’m avoiding work right now!). I just thought I should tell you. Of course, it probably helps that I’m a major logophile, haha. Can’t wait to see where you go with this next!

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