Thursday, October 10, 2013

Steps 1, 2 and 3

Steps 1, 2 and 3 = More than the sum of their parts...

Every day, I ask my students to have faith as they tread into uncharted territory: new sounds, new concepts, new pieces, and new levels.  Hesitant to take on new tasks, they often delay getting started on anything unfamiliar. Determined to show them the light, I ask them to focus on just the first few steps.  I assure them that the wonderful momentum of "just getting started" will take over and that the hard work will soon become a joy before they know it. 

As for myself, I have had grandiose plans for giving this blog an extreme makeover, using it as a creative outlet for me and (hopefully) creating a helpful place for flute students, performers and teachers to get good ideas. Have I taken the advice I constantly give my students? What exactly have I been doing about this huge project I've had in my mind months now?


I've been letting the enormity of my task hang over my head like some pie in the sky dream project that will finally get done one day in a miraculous whirlwind of activity, resulting in relief and satisfaction of epic proportions.  I have let my vision for my creative outlet (and my guilt over not doing anything about my vision) become a kind of anxiety, rather than the beautiful thing it could be. 

Typically, with my flute students and myself, the problem is not laziness or lack of information.  In fact, most flute players I know are highly intelligent, creative beings with plenty of wonderful ideas.  It's actually the surplus of ideas that can often result in not getting started.  For Type A personalities or perfectionists, it's the sense that there is no possible way to accomplish all of the brilliant ideas with any kind of quality (if you still want to have time to sleep that is) that keeps us from beginning projects in the first place. 

(Curious? For a Type A Test click HERE and for a Perfectionist Test click HERE.)

The first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? So today, I will take my own advice and take some (somewhat scary) baby steps.  One thing that I've learned (and forgotten, and re-learned, rinse/repeat), is that steps 1, 2 and 3 equal far more than the sum of their parts.  As a result of taking my quals (qualifying examinations for my doctorate), getting my topic proposal approved, finishing my dissertation and diving head first into a new job all in a matter of months, I've had to become intimately familiar with this strategy. 

I have learned that even when I am feeling the enormous weight of the "I don't wanna"s, all I have to do is make a nice cup of coffee, sit down at the computer and open the appropriate document.  If I begin to think past that point, my mind can quickly get overwhelmed.  If, however, I just focus on the smell of the coffee and the fact that my project is literally right in front of me, it becomes so much easier to start typing and face my next three steps. 

The picture above is not me, and the computer does not seem to be from this century, but it represents a lot of moments from my past few months quite well!

This afternoon, I started steps 1, 2 and 3 and quickly gained the momentum I needed to write this blog post. Once I let go of having to write the perfect thing and 

1) started writing, 

2) started finding fun pictures to suit the topic and,

3) began to remember how much I love sharing what I've learned along the road, 

my enjoyment of projects like this came flying back to me! What previously had seemed so difficult and time consuming ended up being a lovely, productive hour between lessons. 

It's my hope that you will remember the phrase "Steps 1, 2 and 3 equal more than the sum of their parts," and take those first few steps toward a new piece of music, a challenging technical passage, a gorgeous tone or any other project that has seemed overwhelming up until this point. You will soon experience the momentum that I did today!

Happy Practicing!

(now.... "Dr." Terri!)