Sometime last year I bought a Groupon for 2 guitar lessons. I’ve had a guitar for a few years. It was given to me as a gift, by someone who knew I had always wanted to learn to play, though I knew there was no way that was going to happen anytime soon. I’ve written before about having too many interests and ambitions for one lifetime, an aspect of my personality that keeps me busy and often overwhelmed. But when I thought about the prospect of just a couple of lessons, I knew I had to take advantage of that and perhaps learn a few things I could practice here and there.
A couple of weeks ago, I realized the groupon was about to expire, so I setup an appointment. After one lesson, and a week of attempting to practice in my total lack of free time, this is what I found out:
1. There are very real limits to my energy that demand to be respected.
I have no idea why it is so difficult to remember this. The guitar lesson was fun, and I walked away with a lot of stuff to practice. I felt certain I could find half an hour a day. That should be no problem. Even if I left the house at 8:30 AM and got home at 9 PM, I could still practice between 9 and 9:30, right? Pfff… yeah, ok. The very next day I got home at 9 PM and realized I was completely fried and that asking myself do to yet one more thing, especially something new to me that required concentration and patience, would be very unkind.
2. I really hate being a beginner.
I knew this, of course, but it’s been awhile since I was confronted with it so plainly. It’s fun to be good at things, and there are plenty of things I feel good at. But my threshold for being bad at things is low, and I suspect those unfortunate friends and family members who have tried over the years to teach me new things are thinking, “No kidding!” as they read this. I’ve blessed to have people in my life who are patient with me and my perfectionism.
3. My body learns things in a completely different way than my mind learns things.
I’ve had a lot of school, and I love taking classes. I don’t know who I would be without the ability to read and comprehend from reading, and my brain, fortunately for me, takes in and retains new ideas easily. But muscle memory develops slowly. I may read something once and always remember, but my hands need a lot of repetition. When the Photographer asked me how the practicing was going, I told him it would be easier if I could get my brain out of the way. He laughed and said, “For you? That’s going to be HARD.” My analytical mind knows it’s good at learning things, and it keeps insisting on taking over. My teacher was adamant about doing things before I have time to think, even if I do them wrong, and correcting them later. Convincing my mind that this was ok was difficult. You’d have thought I was asking it to let me jump out of an airplane. But occasionally, it gave in.
4. Practice takes practice.
My guitar teacher said one of the most valuable things you get from being taught by a knowledgeable teacher is learning how to practice. The information he was giving me about how to play, where to put my fingers for certain chords, etc., could all be found online, but he was also teaching me how to order it and put it to use. His strategy is to keep things moving fast enough that I’m a bit overwhelmed but can do enough of what he’s asking me to do that I see myself getting somewhere. Pretty sneaky, if you ask me, but also pretty effective. Makes me wonder if that part of my personality that keeps me overwhelmed and busy most of the time knows something after all.
I went back for a second lesson yesterday intending it to be my last until things settle down, but of course, things in my life really don’t settle down. I got talked into a third lesson. From there, we’ll see.