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.