Start again in the month of May

Here is a thing that ought not to be news: Playing music makes me happy.

Bonus non-news: Man, I really like this Arcade Fire song:

In other news, I’m reading a book about procrastinating right now. It’s a long book (kind of a cruel joke, procrastination-writer-people, if you ask me), and it’s about all sorts of things, really. Not just about putting things off, but more generally about why we do things & why we don’t do things. And how to change the way we think.

It’s good. Oh, and it’s called Procrastination, if you want to get after it yourself.

Procrastination Book

How do these two ideas relate, music & the P-word? I was pondering the question of why we (people, and especially procrastinating people) sometimes invest so much effort in not doing what we really want to do.

Maybe we’re afraid to fail.
Maybe we’re afraid to succeed.
Maybe we’re stuck in an old routine.
Maybe we don’t want to upset somebody.
Maybe we’re afraid of making a final choice.

When I finally do sit down at my piano, the maybes and fears dissolve. And there’s just music. (And a river runs through it…) That sounds so foo-foo, I’m rolling my eyes at my own self. But. There is some magic to it. Good habits feel good.

Good habits also breed good habits. Playing music almost always makes me feel like writing. Writing jokes makes me start to notice more things that are funny. Exercising one creative impulse can jiggle the door handles in other parts of my brain that have locked up from neglect.

Good habits also reinforce themselves. I’m surprised to find how easily I pick up where I left off. My fingers will remember a song I haven’t played in months. Or years. I can play by heart (and, occasionally at parties, upside down and backwards) my second grade recital piece, which is — that’s right — something I learned over 20 years ago.

(It looks something like this. And I usually wear all-black. Weird.)


How does that work?

I can still play this song today because it’s one song I knew by heart that I never stopped practicing. I play it because I know it by heart, and I know it by heart because I played it… This discovery isn’t profound, but still it’s making little M.C. Escher loops in my brain.

It’s fun to know something so completely that you can turn it into an obnoxious party trick.

The learning and practicing part isn’t always fun. It’s full of failures and frustrations and fits and starts. But that’s the time to not quit. That’s the time you’re storing up nuts so your brain has something to do when winter comes. You’re making habits that will be easy to come back to. So 20 years later, you can be delighted to find you still have skills, such as they are.