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Just Starting is the Hardest Part

I thought of something today that I haven’t thought of for a while.

Sometimes just starting something–anything, really–is the hardest part.  I’m an avid weight-lifter and fitness participant, and many times this statement holds true there.  For instance, some days I am not motivated to go to the gym at all.  I love lifting, and I love bettering myself in the gym, but some days it’s not there from the beginning.  However, once I’m there, it can be one of my best training sessions of the week.

Similarly, practicing consistently is hard.  Especially to put in the kind of time each day to prepare for various performances.  Often times, the passion is not there; sometimes the passion is merely hiding behind a mask of laziness or aversion.  But as soon as the guitar is the hands, the passion returns, and the practice session takes off.

The real place this “just starting” idea comes into play, though, is on stage.  Recitals or performances in general are intimidating and sometimes terrifying experience.  I’ve written about Performance Anxiety before, and will again.  One of the best tips I ever received about performing was to start with a piece that’s very comfortable.  The first notes are often the hardest:  they’re the culmination of nervousness that might have started weeks ago and they are the first sounds that have to played through the adrenaline rush that is performance.  After those first few minutes, however, a performer settles in and it begins to feel comfortable.  Just starting is the hardest part.

So what do we do about this?!  I have a pretty simple solution for myself:  I don’t think about it.  I just start.  I don’t think about how long it’s going to take; I don’t think about how I dread it.  I just start the path.  Some days I’ll use the, “let’s get this out of the way” trick and look at it as a step to something else.  To use an oft quoted phrase:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

3 Responses leave one →
  1. 2008 November 7

    Tell me about it. Some days, just the thought of having to start practicing makes me run in the other direction.

    I think your tip goes hand in hand with the other tip about practicing with a goal in mind. Smaller daily goals. But you’re right, simply starting without thinking too much gets you in the mood.

  2. 2008 November 8
    andy permalink

    i too find starting to be difficult. oftentimes after getting on stage, no matter the degree of preparation or confidence a ton of mental “white noise” will start, drowning out conscious thought and will. the trick is to subdue that, either by as you suggested starting with a familiar piece (letting the robot brain start and then put the human brain to work after) or by grounding yourself mindfully after acquiring the performance space. this is my favorite method: walk confidently onto the stage. assume a character (confident musician, excellent performer, emotive communicator, etc) and allow that character to start the piece. then gradually come to inhabit that character, and from there make beautiful music.

  3. 2008 November 8

    I think we approach things very differently, Andy. I’m more of a “just do the thing” kind of guy. To be at my best I have to do as little thinking as possible.

    I’ve been given compliments on my confident stage manner, but I’m always pretty terrified. I’m not sure where it comes from. A falsely confident smile and manner make a lot of difference. After the walk out, though, it just gets easier.

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