Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams gave his interesting take on practicing today on his blog.
I’ve spent a ridiculous number of hours playing pool, mostly as a kid. I’m not proud of that fact. Almost any other activity would have been more useful. As a result of my wasted youth, years later I can beat 99% of the public at eight-ball. But I can’t enjoy that sort of so-called victory. It doesn’t feel like “winning” anything.
It feels as meaningful as if my opponent and I had kept logs of the hours we each had spent playing pool over our lifetimes and simply compared. It feels redundant to play the actual games.
I see the same thing with tennis, golf, music, and just about any other skill…
While there certainly are other factors that can affect a musician’s success, I do tend to think that a primary predictor of a musician’s ability level is the number of hours logged in quality, focused practice. With a challenging solo recital on the schedule for tomorrow night, there is a certain kind of appeal to the notion of walking on stage, displaying a log of the hours I’ve put in, taking a bow, and making my exit. But instead I’ll hope that the time I’ve put in practicing will make “victory” a sure thing.