Luck? Sure. But only after long practice and only with the ability to think under pressure. ~Babe Zaharias
You’d think that with the stay-at-home order, I’d be able to get in some consistent practice time on piano, guitar, and recorder. But noooooo. I’ve practiced piano twice. Guitar and recorder not at all.
I wish I could say it’s because of all the writing and artwork I’m doing. But the truth is, I’m barely keeping up with my blog. I’ve made almost no progress on my other writing project (a rewrite of my novel, and a story that might be a short story or a novella or novel, but I’m stuck). The only art I’ve made is my catalog o’ Zentangle® patterns.
I’m finding it difficult to focus these days. The pandemic is one reason. My husband being in the hospital and then a skilled nursing facility is another. Also, by the evening, when I normally practice, I’m toast. I just want to watch TV.
I know that if I sit down at the piano and just play, eventually I’ll focus and everything else will drop away. You know how when you’re in the zone, you’re one with the music? So why is it so hard to walk to the piano, turn on the light, and begin?
What do you do when you’re not feeling motivated to practice? Do you go to your old favorites? Run through your scales? Start that piece you’ve been saving for after you’ve mastered the Pathetique?
I went to the internet and googled How can I motivate myself to practice piano? Three videos popped up, but I hated the voices of the vloggers, so I didn’t finish listening to any of them.
But I also found these articles:
I like the idea of just committing to a short time, like five minutes, and seeing what happens. I think I’ll try that tonight.
Now it’s your turn. What do you do when you don’t want to practice? Or have you been practicing more while stuck at home? Share in the comments below.
This was meant to be part of a series of memes about what to do while self-quarantined. The first one is here. There may be others.
What does it take to become a successful author or artist or musician or actor? Must you have talent?
The top two definitions of talent on Dictionary.com are “a special natural ability or aptitude” and “a capacity for achievement and success.” People think of talent as an affinity you’re born with. You’re either artistic or you’re not. You have a knack for learning foreign languages, or you don’t. You’re a natural athlete, or you’ll always be chosen last for stickball. The first thing you write will immediately be snapped up by a publisher, or nothing penned by you will ever see light of day.
Fortunately, the reality is a lot more positive.
Success in any field of endeavor can be achieved by a number of approaches in combination. In general, SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE DO THE FOLLOWING THINGS:
- They find something they’re passionate about. For a writer, this might be the 47 story ideas fluttering around in his head, or, speaking of fluttering, maybe it’s the many species of butterflies she’s been categorizing and the desire to share the joys of lepidopterology with an online audience.
- They acknowledge that the road is long and difficult, but they commit to the journey anyway. Elite soccer coach John O’Sullivan says, “Sorry to burst many bubbles, but if athletes are not willing to suffer, chances are slim that they will make it. The will to suffer and endure not only separates average athletes from elite ones, but it separates talented elite athletes from their peers as well.” This holds true for dancers, artists, musicians, and writers as well. When I taught elementary music, my chorus would often perform two assemblies the day before winter break, and the singers would miss their classes’ holiday parties. I used the moment to teach them, “We all suffer for our art.” There are always tradeoffs. To shine, you have to give up something else.
- They learn the necessary skills. They take classes, earn degrees, attend workshops, go the conferences, ask questions, join professional organizations.
- They practice daily. Writers write. Painters paint. Musicians play. Basketball players dribble and shoot baskets. Remember the 10,000 hour rule. Kevin Mercadante says, “A lot of people have skills, in fact probably most of us do. But few of us are actually any good at what we do. That’s not because we lack innate ability, but because we lack the discipline to build those skills into something more.”
- They use their time well. They consider their immediate, short-term, and long-term obligations and goals and plan their days accordingly. Lolly Daskal says, “Time is indeed a precious and finite commodity, and those who respect it know how to use it wisely to achieve the greatest results. Time can be wasted, invested, or respected. It doesn’t matter what your title is, your position, your role, what company you work for, where you went to school, or what continent you live on–you have 24 hours in a day–1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds–the same as everyone. How are you spending yours? If you want to do more, make more, gross more, serve more, influence more, or significantly change the level of your impact in any area, you simply must respect time.”
- They take care of their physical, emotional, and spiritual health. They eat well, stay hydrated, work out regularly, get enough sleep. They call their moms, go out with friends, pet their kitty cats, do fun stuff on a regular basis. They read their Bibles, meditate, pray, spend time contemplating nature.
- They mentor others. Workopolis says, “Help other people to succeed. Your biggest career assets are those people who think well of you and your work, who would relish the chance to work with you again or would recommend you to others. That’s your network. The more people you can help out at work or in your other activities or personal life, the bigger your network will be. But that’s not why you should help other people. You should help them because you can. Because it’s nice.” Help other people because they are your colleagues, not your competitors. Someone else’s success does not diminish yours. I believe what goes around comes around. Be generous to others, and help will appear when you need it.
- They pursue opportunities. They enter contests. They send out audition tapes. They attend open mike nights. They submit to agents, publications, and editors. They keep their eyes and ears open for the gatekeepers who could be receptive to their work.
- They don’t take rejection personally. I have a file folder in my file cabinet of rejection slips that were snail-mailed to me back in the day. My critique group often joked about how we would one day wallpaper a room with them. Nowadays, when I get a rejection, it’s emailed, and I don’t bother to print it out; but I have a notebook where I record it. Looking at my submission history reminds me that persistence and perseverance are rewarded.
- They don’t give up. “A bias towards finishing what you begin, rather than leaving it half-finished, is actually characteristic of some of the most successful people in the world,” says professor of psychology Angela Duckworth.
Does talent play any role in success? Of course. But there are many talented adults who still live in their parents’ basements. Talent doesn’t guarantee excellence.
Anna Chui says, “To call someone ‘talented’ can also be an act of rudeness. It implies that the person did not have to rely on their own hard work to achieve success, which belittles their efforts and shows an ignorance of how personal growth and development really happens behind the scenes. Calling someone talented also lets yourself off the hook and gives you permission to be lazy – after all, if someone else is talented and you are not, why even bother trying to achieve a similar level of success?”
So don’t worry whether you have talent. Follow your dream, but be willing to work strategically and hard.
Now it’s your turn. Is there a strategy to success you would recommend that I haven’t listed above? Share in the comments below.
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These dozen articles fill me with artistic gratitude.
- Please don’t feed the bears.
- Amazing photographs of waves.
- Book recommendations from Malcolm Gladwell.
- The story of a quilt designed by hand.
- Combining confections and humor.
- Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis.
- How to get good at your art or any other skill.
- Lovely tangles.
- A 2,000-year-old Roman shoe.
- Please don’t let this woman run out of blue paint.
- Beautiful art quilts.
- I love to stroll through the ‘hood with Nathalie. She finds such cool murals and other stuff.
A big ARHtistic License thank you to Ryan Lanz for this article. Skill vs. Talent–Which do you have? first appeared on Lanz’s website, A Writer’s Path.
- tal·ent [tal-uhnt] noun: a special natural ability or aptitude.
- skill [skil] noun: the ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well.
What if you don’t have natural talent? Does that mean you may as well give up?
It’s not quite the chicken or the egg debate, but it’s up there. I’ve heard people go in circles about which comes first and which is necessary. At what combination of both does one continue the grind and attempt at success? I’d be surprised if you haven’t asked yourself that question. It’s a part of being human.
What does each really mean?
This comes from the university of my opinion, but I would describe talent as the natural ability that needs little to no refinement, and skill is the unnatural ability that you have to develop. For those of us who’ve played sports (myself excluded), I’m sure you’ve all encountered someone who strides onto the field and makes it all look so darn effortless.
This person hardly shows up to practice, and you have a fairly good idea that it took hardly any effort to accomplish. Same with the person who aced every test in college with little preparation, leaving you in study hall time after time with a bucket of coffee. You must have missed at least three parties because you had to cram for the Calculus exam, right?
To continue reading this article, click here.
Just in time for weekend reading:
- Embroidered portraits.
- What can you learn from Mozart?
- An interesting science connection to Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
- Life advice from an old barber.
- I can see me living in this houseboat.
- I thought maybe it was the mushroom, but that’s not what the mantis was high on.
- For anyone who shudders at the thought of public speaking.
- How to get stuff done. I’m fascinated with this guy’s daily schedule.
- Kyoto, Japan, seen through an artist’s eyes.
- Gorgeous tangles.
- Lovely sketchbook.
- Take a bird’s eye tour of Shanghai.
Indulge in the arts:
- Beautiful quilts.
- When the universe aligns.
- Bunnies, bunnies everywhere.
- Interesting tangles.
- The only work Michelangelo ever signed.
- Because we all need color in our lives.
- Here comes the bride.
- Basic sewing kit for quilters.
- When you match what you’re looking at.
- You signed your kids up for music lessons because they’re fun, creative, and intellectually stimulating. So set them up for success.
- Gorgeous choral singing.
- Face the sculpture.
Once again I am working on the Rachmaninoff Prelude in C# Minor.
I first “learned” it as an eighth grader. I was never able to play it fluidly, instead stopping over and over to decipher the ledger lines. I think Sister Mercy, my piano teacher, decided the most merciful thing to do was assign me a different piece.
I revisited it every few years as an adult, resolving that this time I’d master it, but finally giving up.
It’s now come into my hands again, and I alternate between loving it and despising it.
If you don’t know the prelude I mean, here it is, from a piano roll Rachmaninoff created himself; the visual is the actual sheet music.
The piece has three sections: a slow introduction, a frantic middle section that moves in triplets, and an ending similar to the beginning that is marked tempo primo, although Rachmaninoff’s piano roll plays it faster.
Years ago it occurred to me that I could listen to the piece on YouTube. I was shocked to discover that the melody of the first and third sections in not the bell-like chords, but the deep bass octave three-note motifs. Each of those sections also includes a run of nineteen overlapping chords, in which the right thumb sometimes crosses over the left, then under the left.
The agitato section in the middle has the most beautiful Russian harmonies in chromatic arpeggios—that is, they’re beautiful as you’re learning them at a slow tempo. Played as intended, the first notes of each triplet form a step-wise motif of four or two notes; the rest of the notes disappear in mud.
The final section recalls the beginning, except it’s more complicated. Now the pianist must read four staves instead of two, and the third staff changes from bass clef to treble clef and back to bass clef again. Each hand plays four-note chords that are quite discordant. I often recheck my chords only to find that I forgot about an accidental that occurred earlier in the measure, but sometimes the sour-sounding notes are absolutely correct. Some of those chords are virtually impossible for a small hand to play—a wide stretch between the second and third fingers, with an e# next to a f# with the index finger and thumb in the left hand. Honestly, who writes chords like that? To understand how I feel, look at the drawing of the hands below Rachmaninoff’s name in this illustration.
I think you need a creative solution to playing these impossible notes:
(Actually, I am impressed that Joo can even correctly position those sticks.)
Have you mastered the Rachmaninoff Prelude in C# Minor? Do you have any tips for me? Please share in the comments below.
Thirteen articles to help you get your creativity on:
- Cute little paintings.
- A trip to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
- What playing the piano does for your brain.
- Wildlife photography in black and white.
- Beautiful waterfalls.
- Lovely ceramics.
- What happens when you let seniors wear costumes for ID picture day.
- I love this artist’s sketches.
- Award-winning quilts. (Click on the small images for enlargements.)
- Instead of aimless surfing, read these websites to increase your knowledge.
- Quotes to ponder.
- Amazing paper sculptures by Nguyễn Hùng Cường.
- Something you can do to exercise your creativity.