This past month, after many months of abandonment, I took my flute out of its case.
I had been asked to play with a praise band for a church service, four songs in all. It was a request to which I had said a breezy, “Yes,” feigning confidence that I could do what was asked of me.
Inside, though, I wavered. I hadn’t practiced my flute for months. My chops – those mouth muscles you need for good tone – were down. My fingers were not as limber at the notes as they were back when I was in college and practicing for an hour a day. In two weeks, I would somehow have to put all of those skills together again in attempt to make something beautiful: build up my chops, get the notes under my fingers, and put it all together to make music that stirred.
The practice was rough at first. My mouth and face muscles were tired after ten minutes of playing. My scales were rocky. I found myself having to clap out the beats of the notes on the page, rhythms that five or six years ago I would have breezed through on a first read.
But then something happened. I kept practicing, every day, and the more time I spent with my instrument, the easier the songs became, and the longer I found I could play without getting physically worn out.
Do you see where this is going? That same story of practice, practice, practice, is true for writing. The first two or three times you show up can be daunting, a reminder of how rusty your springs are. But if you just keep showing up, just putting that butt in a chair and plinking out words, sentences, paragraphs, pretty soon you will start to make music.
My writing life these days has been a total testament to this. I am writing a lot. I am showing up to my computer, and I am churning out pages and pages of new work. The ideas keep coming – and more ideas, I find, the more time I spend writing. I am trying to keep up with everything that is going on in my head, and even the fact that I sometimes can’t keep up is really a nice problem to have. I am finding that, like flute practice, the more I write, the easier writing becomes.
*What regular habit do you employ for your art?