Music Teacher's Helper Blog

The War of Art: The Importance of Your Own Practice

“The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield has become my bible. It was recommended to me by a friend 3 years ago and I have read it over and over again since. The author declares resistance to be the official enemy of all creative endeavors, and it is a demon that takes on many, many forms. Self-pity, television, relationship problems, a messy house, long to-do lists, volunteer committees, any kind of personal drama, etcetera, etcetera. You get the point. As music teachers, it can be difficult to make time for our own practice, but I am beginning to realize how essential this is.

When I started teaching, I told myself I would work really hard to get my teaching business going, and once that happened, I would begin making my own practice a priority again. That was 7 years ago. What happened? Life happened. It became difficult to not only find time, but also motivation for practice. There was always an excuse. The kicker came when I was asked by a student how long I practice each day. I was so embarrassed to say that I was so busy with the business that I probably only practiced a few hours a week. Yikes. What a bad example. 

“The War of Art” is an easy read. It takes every excuse you have ever given yourself for not practicing and tells you why you are wrong. The title alone makes me feel like everyday is a challenge to be won, and the challenge is resistance to my own practice. The thing is, since I began taking on the challenge, my students are performing better than ever. 

Once I began practicing 2 hours a day, I got a little cocky and began expecting more from the kids. Just like a baby boomer who loves to brag about all the snowy miles they hiked in order to get to school, I love telling my kids that 20 minutes a day is nothing compared to what I log in practice time. I love seeing their jaws drop open when I tell them how long I practice, and I really believe it is inspiring them to work hard. They sound better than ever.

 

Do you make time for your own practice? How do you make it work? Do you have a set time each day and for how long? How do you stay motivated?

About the Author

Bella Payne
While working on a degree in Sociology with plans to become a Social Worker, I fell into teaching piano lessons as a way to pay my bills. I had no idea I was stumbling into a totally fulfilling, creative and exciting career! Every day, I teach several students in their homes, in my home, and online how to play piano from scratch. Over the last 10 years, I have seen kids and adults go from timid b... [Read more]

5 Comments

  1. Dave

    Great book, although I’ve only just started it! I agree with you: you must schedule practice time in and just do it. I’ve started doing double sessions like we did for sports in HS and college. I’ll practice 30-45 minutes early in the day and then repeat later. That’s just for pure technical exercises and excludes time practicing material for upcoming performances.

    Thanks for the great articles you have been putting out lately. I recently opened shop and my site should be up soon, so thanks for the inspiration. Dave

  2. Lee

    I was never told this until I was 25 and going to music college. The two best things I was ever told by my music teachers was 1) Practice makes PERMANENT, so make sure you’re not making mistakes, and 2) Practice only the hard bits, not the stuff that you’re already good at, and you’ll cut your practice time in 4! I follow this rule to this day and only practice 1 hour a day rather than 4 like I used to.

  3. Dan Callaway

    This is a great book and applies to resistance in all its forms in all aspects of our lives…thanks for your great article….

    And practicing also takes on different forms….if you perform, being an active professional is also another way of practicing what you do. When we give ourselves a full, rich experience in our music, that experience and passion will automatically be apparent to our clients.

    And I agree very much with you, Lee…it’s about practicing smart…the kind of attention…or quality…we give our practice will make the quantity of practice time really pay off.

    Thanks, Bella, for a great post.

  4. Bella

    You are both right. I have thought about your comment, Lee, that Practice makes PERMANENT. I have been thinking a lot about that in my own practice. Thanks!

  5. Apurva Mehta

    This is one of my favorite books as well. To keep on track I maintain a daily diary of all the things I did in the day and also my thoughts on the quality of those activities.

    This way, I become painfully aware if I have missed practice for a few days.. That automatically corrects the ship!

    Another thing I liked about Steve’s book is his idea of using Resistance as a compass. The more you resist doing something, the more it is a sign that should be doing that thing. It is an invitation to introspect and understand yourself a bit better.

    Thanks for a great article!

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