If you’ve been reading some of my ramblings here, you understand that I have a pretty strong “observer-self”…I long ago developed a pretty dispassionate way of stepping back and taking a look at my behavior patterns and seeing what they tell me about my life, my spirit, and my sense of balance.
And one of the patterns that comes up over and over again is well, my excellent talent at procrastination. If there is a task to be done, I will, I repeat, I definitely will, leave it to the last possible moment, and complete it in one long flurry of activity. I have outgrown the college “over-nighter”–I may work all day in a concentrated manner, I may rise early to add hours to my work period, but I will be in bed by 10 pm no matter what. Well, maybe 11 pm if absolutely necessary.
All of this is prologue to the admission that, well, I know that I am by nature a procrastinator but it is not a part of my personality that I have particularly embraced with love and acceptance. In fact, despite the truth that it is a behavior that I repeat and repeat, I have had no success at changing it. Let’s talk specifics for a moment.
For example, I don’t like to practice. When I still played and studied the piano, I didn’t like to practice. As a singer, I don’t like to practice. I frankly, don’t see the point of random practice sessions — if I’m trying to work on something specific technically, great, then I can practice until I get it. If I have a performance coming up, yes, I have great concentration and I will practice for hours to get ready — but probably only the two weeks before the event.
One very important aside — rehearsing is, for me, different than practicing. I love rehearsing. It usually involves actually MAKING music and doing it with other people. Love rehearsing, hate practicing. Distinction complete.
Now, in the world of music, it is somewhat of a sin to admit that you don’t like to practice. And that you don’t practice. I hear the tisk-tisking starting now. I have been called lazy by my teacher, I have hung by a thread at a rehearsal or two while I worked something out that those who “practice” would have never shown in public. More importantly, I have spent many hours of torchered panic over the idea that I have procrastinated too long on some project and therefore that project will fail.
Hasn’t ever happened.
So, while I continue to clean my personal closets along the way that is my spiritual journey in music, and, faced with a full procrastination attack about an upcoming project, I discussed this behavior pattern with my spiritual director. It has been my thought for quite some time that this procastination was the result of some deep spiritual or psychological failing; some hole that must be patched; the sign of some breakthrough in understanding that was needed to send me on my spiritual way.
And so, I sat in the chair, and I explained everything that I have explained to you here. And you know what happened? I walked out of that room realizing that, I don’t really procrastinate. That is the cover for the rest of the world.
I like to work in a concentrated fashion, close to the deadline. In fact, I usually plan to work that way, not matter what I say to people who believe that I should practice everyday.
I like to work in this way because it keeps the music alive for me, and leads to a living, communicative performance.
I have a short attention span, and a lot of demands on that attention — I can only get down to the deep level of work that is satisfying to me and that provides a satisfying form of communication when I can focus intensely in a short period of time.
And, I have been paying obeissance to the world, our American culture of the one-right-way and the one-right-answer by calling myself a procrastinator, and calling myself inadequate to the task because I procrastinate.
Who knew? I’m not lazy. I’m intense.
So, no longer will you hear me say that I am not a good musician because I do not devote hours each day to practice. Because I know that I will devote that time when I need to do so. No longer will I feel inferior in the face of those who DO practice that way. I have lots of differing demands on my time; I practice the way I need to, when I need to practice.
My mother always told me that, just like God makes no two snowflakes the same, none of us on this path or on this earth are the same — we are individual manifestations of the Divine, doing our own work as assigned in the Kingdom of God.
And so, I salute and embrace my snowflake essence. And now, excuse me while I practice.