“To hone your craft is to honor creation. It doesn’t matter if you become the best in your field. By practicing to improve, you are fulfilling your ultimate purpose on this planet.” — Rick Rubin, The Creative Act, page 333
Oof. I’m stuck on the word practice here. When I first read Charlotte Joko Beck write about being an obedient young piano student relentlessly practicing scales, and how that prepared her for the rigors of a hard life of Buddhist meditation, I thought: Well, I guess I can’t learn from her. (I did.) But that whole framework of practice as rote repetition, as a buckling down, somehow separate from real life, real curiosity, real consequences — it’s not for me, to put it mildly. My real life got exponentially better when I left that behind.
If we talk about A Practice, I’m in immediately. I’m already there. I’m soaking in it. Noun yes, verb no. My Practice is a thing I dive into and live in, an embodied porous entity, a giant translucent gelatinous blob hovering in outer space where I can poke around, stretch and grow, spin, moonwalk, stare in awe, fuck things up mightily, bend, fold, explore, laugh. My practice contains and supports me. It’s expansive. And it doesn’t give a shit about repeating 8 notes over and over.
- Practicing to improve is incidental to all that. Am I repeating skills until I master them? Yes. Am I learning about new tools and materials? Yup. Do I learn a new skill if I need it to do the next project? Sure. But only as I need to, and never to prove anything to anyone else. What is this, a seventh grade report card? I’m getting bored just writing this down. These are ALL, always, ancillary to the vibrant glow of The Practice. Secondary to my curiosity, to leaving possibilities open as I create, to serving the work in front of me today. I’ll figure out how to do what I need when I get there. I always have. And if that’s what works for you too, hello and welcome. Our way is valid.