Welp, I haven’t written anything here in a while… And I’m not exactly sure why. The ideas come rolling through my head from time to time, but for some reason, it’s been tough to actually sit down and type them out – so, why not make a post about not making posts? (Cue Inception sound effects)
It’s a time thing, I suppose, and we all like to think that we’re the busiest people in the world – myself included. I am, to a point, with multiple bands and the itch to get in as much practice as I can, a day job, a girlfriend, chores to do… But nobody runs at 100% efficiency.
We’ve all got downtime. We all have those days where we’re burned out, evenings we just want to relax, moments where we choose “unproductive” things over the goals and ideals we’ve architected in our minds…
Then – and maybe this is all just my personal experience – we beat ourselves up in hindsight for lost opportunities or wasted time. This is foolish (and a lesson I need to learn better myself).
For anything, be it drumming or writing or booking or promotion or whatever, it takes TIME and EFFORT to yield results. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty damn easy to neglect the things we know we should be doing (or event want to do) in favor of entertainment, rest, or because it simply didn’t occur to us to spend time in that particular way on any given day.
Time management is important, sure, but there’s something else at stake here: HABIT.
We ultimately become what we repeatedly do, and the research suggests that it takes more than two months to truly ingrain a behavior as a habit, and get to the place of “automaticity” that makes us simply do things without much thought or distraction – without fighting with our own willpower or sense of “should.”
Repetition and Routine
To get a habit going, it’s going to take some diligence in the beginning – and I think that’s the part that so many of us lack. I know I do.
I kick myself for not getting more exercise or getting more writing done, but I know that habit forming works – I’ve done it with practice.
I’m not the best practicer, that’s for sure. I still struggle with tracking progress, with staying focused for more than a couple hours at a time, with a whole host of areas of drumming that I’d like to be more proficient in (transcription/reading is a big one) – but as far as sitting down at the kit or the pad to put in some work… These days I can’t help it!
For years, the only time I played my kit was at band practice, then out of a slowly growing desire to become a better overall player, I started playing at home more. I started buying books. I signed up for online lessons… But none of that stuff has anything to do with time spent or habit.
Little by little, though, I made it a point to play my kit when I go home for lunch breaks. I started going straight to the kit after work, even if I had a rehearsal that evening. I put a practice pad next to my desk in my bedroom, and started picking up the sticks to bang out some rudiments while watching movies or waiting for video to export…
The point is, I started to build some regularity, and now – I almost can’t help it! Without even thinking, I walk into my apartment, plop my stuff down, and dig right into practice. I don’t have to convince myself. It isn’t willpower, it’s habit.
Expanding to Other Areas
As a message to myself, and any of you kind enough to be reading this, it actually seems pretty simple to step up my writing game (or booking, or video editing, or networking, or whatever you might be struggling with) – I just have to build the habit.
It’s not quite that easy – there’s still the uphill climb of getting that habit to stick in the first place – but if we remember that our brains are finicky things that operate in ways we’re not always conscious of, we CAN put effort into these ideas of repetition and habit forming, all in pursuit of “tricking ourselves” into operating more efficiently or getting closer to our goals.
It’s a little cliche, but I’ve been trying to keep this in mind lately:
I want to be the best drummer I can be, and that thought drove me to build a habit of getting on the kit as often as possible, of playing practice pad even when I’m just relaxing…
I want to navigate through my own thoughts and share insights with the drumming community and beyond, so I started this blog… But if I REALLY want to do that, I need to keep that thought right in the front of my mind – often enough to put some time into this thing on a regular basis.
Starting small is okay. Setting aside one specific day a week for practice, and sticking with that routine, will start to build the habit. For me, spending a couple of evenings a week working on posts here will likely have a huge improvement.
Pick the thing you want to improve (or things, but don’t overwhelm yourself and end up doing none of them), remember why you started in the first place, and start putting the effort in REPEATEDLY. It’s not enough to just do it this week – you have to do it next week too, and the week after, and the week after…
Thoughts on Guilt: Kill It
This might be my biggest personal weakness: feeling guilty for what I haven’t accomplished. Sure, some of it has to do with larger aspirations or goals for myself as a musician and writer, but I’m talking more specifically than that. I tend to feel guilty for, say, not writing a post here… When the only person “requiring” me to is ME.
It’s fine to hold yourself to high standards, but what’s the point of beating yourself up or doubting your own commitment? The negativity is poison to productivity, and just as good habits form, so do bad ones.
If constant thoughts of “I suck” or “I never keep up” or “I’m not pursuing my goals hard enough” become the norm, you’ve just built yourself a brand new bad habit – one that gets between you and, well, exactly what you need to do to get rid of those thoughts in the first place.
In all honesty, I’m still writing to myself here, but killing the negativity and guilt of “not good enough” should be at the top of all of our artistic priority lists. It’s not entirely inescapable, as self-doubt tends to come with the territory of creativity… But dammit, we can try.
Let’s all agree to lean on that narcissism a little bit, to harness some confidence and remember why we want to pursue the things we do. You (and I) can get more done, get better gigs, become better players, but not if we don’t A) put in the time, and B) stick with it long enough to make it habit.
What habits do YOU want to form?