Musicians are supposed to wake up every day filled with a burning desire to practice for hours, right? If you don’t feel that way, you must not really have what it takes, right? And even if you don’t feel like practicing, you should be able to will yourself to do it anyway, right?
It’s normal and okay not to love practicing, or for your love of practicing to vary. And it’s normal and okay to have less-than-perfect willpower.
Some self-awareness about your practicing (or lack thereof) can help a lot. What keeps you from practicing, or from practicing at your best? Can you embrace it? Incorporate it? Work around it?
Here’s an example: I’ve discovered that my mind wanders a lot while I practice. I might be doing some slow repetition of a tricky passage, but my brain is working on something else. So now I practice with a small notepad nearby. I find that if I can pause practicing for a moment and jot down a few thoughts, it quiets my mind.
At first I resisted this idea, because it seemed like I was planning to multitask and be distracted. But for me, permission to get the idea out of my head and onto paper makes my practicing much more productive overall.
Do you fail to practice, or fail to practice well, because:
- …you get too bored working on one thing for such a long time? Can you rearrange your practicing so you change tasks every few minutes? Or spread your practicing out throughout the day?
- …you hate missing out on what your friends are up to, IRL or online? Would it help if you gave yourself permission to spend a few minutes now and then, within established limits, to catch up on what’s happening? Or what if you practiced first thing in the morning, before your social circle gets interesting?
- …you’re engrossed in an interesting book or show? What if you got to read or watch for ten minutes as soon as you finish your scale routine, or put in a solid half-hour on your étude? Or if you get your practicing done before dinner, you get to binge in the evening, guilt-free?
- …you get hangry or tired? Could you schedule yourself some breaks to snack or nap or stretch? Or move your practicing to after a meal, instead of just before?
Instead of beating yourself up about motivation or willpower, ask yourself how you can harness your natural inclinations and use them for productive practice.