Don't think too hard about creating, do think hard about practicing

Heya folks,

Don't try to create and analyze at the same time

This is rule eight of Sister Corita Kent's ten rules for teachers and students. You may have experienced how premature editing can grind the creative process to a halt, something folks call "analysis paralysis." John Higgs writes that Paul McCartney "places great emphasis on starting and finishing work immediately, before you have had the chance to overanalyze or come up with an excuse not to do it. ... As he explains, 'you get rid of the hesitation and the doubt, and you just steamroll through'." I've collected so many other neat quotes from creatives on this phenomenon here.

Think about technique until you don't have to think about it anymore

When performing, the practitioner shouldn't think about technique or theory. That's what practice is for. Practice is for exercising technique until it becomes second nature. According to the Levels of Processing theory, the more conscious effort we spend practicing and learning, the higher the likelihood of understanding. So in order for skills to be performed subconsciously, they must be practiced consciously. Rodi Kirk calls this "deliberate practice." When I was in music school, some of my professors would say, "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect"โ€”which is to say, when practicing, be mindful of what technique you intend to practice.

How to use the chunking technique for practice

With the above in mind, it's best to focus on one aspect of technique at a time. In the biz, we call this "chunking," and usually it's in reference to just practicing a section of the song we're learning, before moving onto the next section. The same can be done with any aspect of learning and musicianship. Last week, I assigned one of my voice students the homework of simply practicing breathing out slowly, over a gradually longer period. Once you've got the hang of one aspect of technique, you can move on to the next, and soon enough, you can find yourself in flow and creating without thinking. This is what Andy J. Pizza calls editing your art before you make it.


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