Everything Is Unfinished

A lot of you have written me saying that you are frustrated. You can’t get a good sound, you struggle to play in tune or you can’t figure out how to play a certain song. You want to get to the point in which your dog won’t leave the room when you start practicing…
 
As a musician, I’ve come to a healthy point in which I can accept my limitations even as I learn new things. Sure, there are still days when I’m unkind to myself. Days when I think, “I’ve been playing for almost forty years but that 10-year old fiddler on Youtube is better than me!”
But I’ve gotten to know that critical voice and managed to make friends with it. I realize that I have a particular style of playing. And that I have a unique combination of skills and talents which allow me to create things for others.

When it comes to running FiddleHed, I’m much harder on myself. It’s in this realm that I can relate to anyone who’s struggling to learn the fiddle (or any challenging new skill).
There are so many basic things that I need to stay on top of.
  • Fixing sheet music, play along tracks and broken links
  • Bookkeeping
  • Managing people who are working for FiddleHed
Then there are things that I think I should be doing. I should be building more community within FiddleHed. I should be collaborating with other Youtubers.
Finally, there are cool things I want to do but don’t have time to do them now.
  • Making a practice app
  • Designing an improv course
  • Writing a book on music practice
On top of all that, I’d like to establish a better work/life balance. See my friends more. Maybe even, dare I say it, take a vacation?
I could just work really, really hard for six months and then relax, take some time off. The problem with that is that there will always be more to do. Or, I could just give up. Not bother to do the work.

The middle path is to realize a few things:
  • Whatever problems I have now will probably not be problems in a year.
  • Things are actually going pretty well. I could make a few minor adjustments, but I don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. (I wonder if that cliché is based on an actual event? If it is, I wonder what happened to that baby.)
  • I don’t have to do this. I get to do this.
    • This is an opportunity, not a chore.
    • I learned this from a blogger named James Clear who learned it from his gym teacher.
  • Whatever problem I’m dealing with is exactly what I need to learn right now.
    • As a music student, this might be playing the low second finger in tune.
  • Always pay attention to the process. Some questions that can bring you back to what you’re doing in this moment:
    • Are you rushing?
    • Are you breathing evenly?
    • Are you doing one thing at a time?

Try to be kind to yourself during this great journey of learning an instrument. As much as possible, focus on what you’re doing right now. Practicing fiddle, washing dishes or talking to a friend.
Things will never be perfect! But we all want to get to that place in which things are finally figured out. Then we can relax, right? The trick is to somehow accept things as they are, but continue working. Keep on fiddling. Make one simple thing sound good.
As you might have guessed, I’ve written this for myself as much as for you!

8 responses to “Everything Is Unfinished

  1. Ah, yes. My favorite is “I don’t have to do this, I get to do this!” I can apply that sentiment to all of my most meaningful work (wife, mother, farm worker, teacher, and amateur fiddle player. Lately, the ‘this’ wrt fiddling is immersing myself in the D maj scale and developing my ear, and playing the same few songs over and over. Sometimes, I hear my family humming Kerry Polka, Will The Circle Be Unbroken, or Kerfunken Jig, and I realize that however dissatisfied I am with my playing, I sound good enough to please the people around me. Even if my timing is way off and my e string rattles and my b natural is somehow always slightly flat (except for sometimes when it’s sharp enough to approach c natural…)

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