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Brain Surgery

There are things I do in life without attachment. In fact, I’ve done gigs without attachment. What I’m not understanding is why I can go to a gig like that, even if I don’t think I’m as prepared as I would like to be, and be detached, yet when I need to prepare for an audition or rehearsal or gig, I get attached and struggle to even do the work to get ready (which would then allow me to be prepared and detached for the gig). I should be telling myself that it doesn’t matter, no one else can hear me now, who would expect me to have this correct now anyway.

I told Lori that I wish I wanted to play piano as much as I want to do other things, but then I realized that I do want to play as much as those other things, but then I stop myself. I hear stuff in my head all the time, I hear music on the stereo or at a show and get inspired, but then I stop before I go to the piano and actually play it.

I guess the simple answer is to push myself, and pretend I believe it even if I don’t yet. If I keep telling myself it doesn’t matter, perhaps at some point I will actually think that. If I just try to noodle meaninglessly when I’m inspired, maybe I can make that a habit.

“This isn’t rocket science, Smithers, it’s brain surgery!”

Fri, 2011 10 14 at 9:00 AM |Permalink for this entry

Worry

“You worry too much.”

There was a period in my life when people would say this to me. I hated it. It didn’t feel like worry. I was just talking things out to people I knew (I think this was mainly before I was with Lori so I was talking to different people who didn’t know me as well).

In writing these recent posts and in my thinking about all this stuff, I have begun to allow myself to say that I have been worried about things, like playing correctly. By doing so, I think it might allow me to accept the way I have been really thinking about some of these things and thus overcome it.

Thu, 2011 10 13 at 8:54 AM |Permalink for this entry

Trying to Suck

Don’t Be Afraid to Suck

One time, back in the early days of Blue Funk, a guitar player I was playing with said something I thought was unkind about my playing. I don’t remember what it was, but it was something about how my playing was getting in the way, didn’t fit, or something like that. Whatever it was, it really pissed me off. I thought to myself, “fine, screw it, I’m going to play badly and who cares.” He didn’t say anything either way, but I felt I played much better after that.

One possible way of detaching is this. By letting go of trying to play right, I may have played better. I’m way too worried about playing things right. I need to let go, let myself play things wrong, perhaps almost even try to. The paradox is, by doing so, I will probably play better.

In other words, I screw up screwing up by not screwing up after all.

Wed, 2011 10 12 at 8:53 AM |Permalink for this entry

More on Detachment

Moron Detachment?

Connie’s post about detachment  really hit home for me. If you read it, you’ll see how detachment is a thread through these posts and what I need.

But what a battle! I don’t know why I am so attached to my own playing. I can tell you it is deep. I worry about how I am going to sound, if I am ready, if they will like me. Yet, when I am ready, I don’t worry about it. When it is all working for me, my only attachment is to what I do. I don’t care if there are five people listening or five million. I care about having fun and playing the best that I can regardless of the situation. This is why my attachments in other situations confound me. Why am I attached to this, but not to that, even though they are related activities? Why have I put so much importance on some of these things?

Maybe it doesn’t matter why I got to that point, just that I need to let go.

Here’s another good post about detachment that Connie references.

Tue, 2011 10 11 at 9:00 AM |Permalink for this entry

The F Word

I have done a bunch of things in my life that I feel that I did without fear, things that others worry a lot about. These are things like take the SAT and the GRE, make presentations, get married, and even play gigs. In fact, I was so calm and happy that I actually enjoyed these things.

If it were up to me (and I know it is), this is the way I would do everything. Unlike some performers, I do not get off on those nerves. I’m not crazy about being uncomfortable before a performance, having nerves, jitters, or whatever else it may be. I would much rather be calm, relaxed, and enjoy it.

However, there are and there have been situations where I could probably be described as pretty terrified. In fact, there have been several cases where I outright choked. It’s really aggravating. Suddenly, something comes up and I guess I’m totally unsure how to deal with it. It is hard to describe what is going on in my head because there is so much that it is a jumble.

I did not realize the level of this problem until recently, and when I did, I realized how how much this problem permeates nearly everything I do in regards to music. It is what keeps me from playing something for people when they say, “go ahead and try my piano,” it is what screws me up when I blow a part at an audition or rehearsal and I need to fix it right then, it even affects my practicing. I am sure that there are things I do not practice when Lori is home because of it (which is really stupid because she’s always supportive and as a musician herself, she knows what it takes to practice and how bad it can sound before it gets good). Even when she is not home, I am sure there are times where I think of the ‘next’ thing I need to work on, and I suddenly decide to take a break from practicing, find something else to do, and avoid it.

I think the practice cases are manageable, but I wonder about the “performance” cases. I really do not have the slightest idea how to stop the jumble in my head when I suddenly encounter a new unknown situation. Obviously, the better I can play, the less those situations should crop up, but will my confidence build along with that, or will I continue to choke?

As I have written previously, I am trying to not worry about the future. What I am trying to do is figure out how to solve this problem so I don’t get caught out by it again. It is hard though, because I do not usually realize it is happening until it is over. I am thinking right now that the answer may be in the “detachment” that I wrote about previously.

P.S. The above post is a complete rewrite of the post I promised back in July about the issue I discovered about myself. So you finally got to find out what I was talking about.

Mon, 2011 10 10 at 9:00 AM |Permalink for this entry

Addiction

I mentioned in a previous post my Internet “addiction.” I am not sure if it is an addiction or just a bad habit. If it is a habit, it may have developed from some jobs I have had (including when I was working for myself as a web developer) where I was bored and did it to kill time. But I think the big factor is the stuff I talked about in that post, where there are reactions in the brain to that kind of stimulus. I am not making an excuse, just saying. It is funny, I do not have issues with addictions to anything else.

I would much rather be addicted to playing piano. I have been trying to figure out how to create that kind of response in myself to doing that instead. This is where I wonder about the “bad ego”  and judgement getting in the way of that. There is no judgement in surfing the web and reading stuff online. So I gain knowledge and get something out of it (hopefully or at least sometimes), and no one is saying that sucks or I am not good enough or whatever. It seems like if I can shake that crap when playing music, maybe I could get more addicted to playing.

Sun, 2011 10 09 at 9:00 AM |Permalink for this entry

Peace

As you can see from this most recent series of blog posts, I've been contemplating a lot lately. It has been pretty heavy, and at times, somewhat tiring. I've thought about giving up, or at least taking a break. I know deep down I won't do the former, and I might not do the latter. An important thing I've realized is that The Peace is in the music. I don't think about the future, where my career is, what I should have been doing all these years, etc., when I'm playing. I still need to push away the ego and really get into it when I do though. That's where I will find my true musical self. I need to let that out.

Sat, 2011 10 08 at 9:00 AM |Permalink for this entry

What Track?

Life is what happens when you are making other plans.

Last week, I read Ed Schipul’s post on the Chronicle web site about “Being on Track with Your Life.” I realized how appropriate it is to what I have been thinking about.

Also, I saw this on the back of Jane Lynch’s new book Happy Accidents, and I think it sums up everything.

If I could go back in time and talk to my twenty-year-old self, the first thing I would say is: “Lose the perm.” Secondly I would say: “Relax. Really. Just relax. Don’t sweat it.”

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t anxious and fearful that the parade would pass me by. And I was sure there was someone or something outside of myself with all the answers. I had a driving, anxiety-filled ambition. I wanted to be a working actor so badly. I wanted to belong and feel like I was valued and seen. Well, now I am a working actor, and I guarantee you it’s not because I suffered or worried over it.

As I look back, the road to where I am today has been a series of happy accidents I was either smart or stupid enough to take advantage of. I thought I had to have a plan, a strategy. Turns out I just had to be ready and willing to take chances, look at what’s right in front of me, and put my heart into everything I do. All that anxiety and fear didn’t help, nor did it fuel anything useful. My final piece of advice to twenty-year-old me: Be easy on your sweet self. And don’t drink Miller Lite tall boys in the morning.

Fri, 2011 10 07 at 9:00 AM |Permalink for this entry

Mastery With Effort

I’ve previously recommended Kenny Werner’s Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within, and I still do. I’ve come to a point where I’ve made some decisions about it, though.

I think there’s a lot of useful things in there, but I don’t subscribe to all of it. As a person who doesn’t swim, I don’t like his metaphor about “drowning in the ocean” of sound or music or whatever. Ha ha. More seriously, I don’t buy into his idea of sitting there and watching my hands play and I’m not doing anything at all. I think there’s a balance between it just happening automatically and me directing it. I know when you think too much while you’re playing you lose it, I just think his description errs too much on the side of you not doing it all. But overall, I get his point. It’s about getting your ego out of the way so you can play. Not worrying about it and being in the moment. I think if Werner’s stuff helps a person find a way to that, it’s a good thing. I think his stuff is more positive and useful than not. I also think some of Werner’s techniques, like the learning diamond about how to practice, are good. I agree with his thoughts about the space you should be in when you play. I’ve discussed this with some other musicians, and different people have different ways of getting into the space. I think that is fine. What is important is what works for you. I think Kenny Werner’s stuff can open doors for people, and that’s a good thing.

Thu, 2011 10 06 at 9:00 AM |Permalink for this entry

Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011

Thank you Steve, for the myriad ways you changed the world, and for the way you've inspired us.

Wed, 2011 10 05 at 8:04 PM |Permalink for this entry

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