Today, a university-wide non-instruction day, I was struggling to begin practicing my violin. The thought of it seemed overwhelming like it was too daunting of a task, and my mind began to throw evaluative statements at me, like “it’s not going to be good enough, you should’ve started earlier in the day, why aren’t you being productive?”, which made it even harder to begin. So, around 5:30 pm, I forced myself to stop watching Youtube videos, trying to distract myself from the stress, and took my roommate’s puppy on a walk around the block, focusing on breathing in the cool spring air. Then, I decided to sit down and write this blog post!
I think it’s really unfortunate that we, as a society, deal with shame around being “unproductive,” because we are taught to believe that we have to prove ourselves worthy of rest. The reality is that we’re “worthy” of rest because we are alive! I think that music students uniquely struggle with this when it comes to practicing because there’s a sense that we’re supposed to enjoy what we do every single time we pick up our instruments. Some days, practicing is work-- which is a good thing, in my opinion, because it necessitates the valuable skill of being efficient with our time-- and other days we can’t stop practicing. I firmly believe that no matter what kind of day someone’s having, they need to allocate time for rest, both because it prepares us for whatever the following day holds, and because our bodies, minds, and hearts need it to live.
So, when we choose to practice, let’s make it mindful and productive, not to achieve some made-up “it’ll never be good enough” standard, but with the understanding that if all you get done in this session is improving one measure of a piece you’re learning, then you’re making progress. And, when we choose to rest, let’s settle into the moment, with the knowledge that each decision one makes is the best they could do at that moment, and giving ourselves such a precious gift will only prepare us all the better for whatever comes next.
Happy practicing, and have a restful day.