Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Creativity, Discovery & Failing. It works that way.

Frustration is an integral part of discovery. Failure is an integral part of discovering or creating something.

Well-meaning parents often try to protect their children from failure, thinking that failing will defeat them, dash their hopes and dreams, keep them from being successes in life. It doesn't work that way. The protected people who don't know how to fail and get back up on the horse are inclined to quit, to cheat to succeed, to not lift a finger at all, and to expect, as my mother used to say, that the world owes them a living. Those who are given everything don't know how to want anything well enough.

Being required to want and wait to get is what helps us determine if that which we want is worth waiting for. Wanting to "do" something significant is the best kind of desire. Wanting and not getting is what makes us find creative ways to work toward doing or getting what we want. If we aren't interested in working out the scheme, the plan, the details of doing or getting what we want, we don't want it enough. And we are unlikely to be successful at whatever we are doing, or, ultimately, unhappy and bored with the thing that we had thought we wanted. And the enticing, titillating part of the journey to anywhere worth our time involves exploring, taking some wrong turns, making some missteps, getting lost and then finding our way out.

And another thing I've learned in life is that having few things makes us appreciate the few things that we have and the many things that we don't have even more. Having more things overwhelms us so much that we appreciate all of them less. I don't have everything. But I have more than I had growing up. My white elephant shop used rag doll with the nose scuff and the old, broken down piano my family borrowed when I was in high school meant more to me than a parcel of new dolls and a store full of brand new grand pianos ever would have or ever could have meant. When you've had to wait and wish long and hard for a piano, and when you've taught yourself to play (with no piano handy), the arrival of any old piano on the scene is a most amazing event.

Practicing (Oh, there's that hideous word, again, music students), is the means we singers have of getting what we want. Now, practicing isn't necessarily a fun thing to do. But, for those of us who want to arrive at some level of musical competency at some point, practicing is the main tool we have. So, fun or not, rain or shine, we get to our little practice shrines and we do our duty to our art and to ourselves. Sometimes we have little epiphanies on a regular basis. Other times, we work at it and work at it with few noticeable results. But, like I tell my students, the Ugly Duckling was in the midst of his daily transformation into a swan. Because the process was so slow, it was hard for him to see the change on a daily basis. This is why we have video and audio recording in the 21st Century! Well, it isn't "why" we have it. But you get the idea. At any rate, the fun happens on the other end of practice, when we've accomplished some part of the journey. And, if we get into the right mode of operating, the practice, itself, can be fun. It certainly can be an interesting journey.

Inevitably, within a couple of lessons a beginning voice student will say, "I'm afraid of practicing wrong." Or they'll ask, "What if I practice wrong all week?" I tell them they have two choices. They can practice what they think is right, or they can not practice at all – which will get them exactly nowhere. Sometimes this is enough to get them to relax. Other times, I need to add, "If you practice "wrong" the entire world will come to an end." Usually, this is enough to knock the irrational fear out of them – at least until the next lesson.

Some students don't get over this hurdle, or another one of the many hurdles along the way. They quit, or take time off (only to return to come up against the same hurdle again). Others, who want to become the best singing artists they can be, work through the frustrations and the failures. They are also the ones who will pick up a book, or peruse the Internet, or invent their own methods and techniques of practicing to help guide themselves through the process. They want to be proficient singers so much that they are willing to risk failing over and over again. This is how artists are born.

I just picked up an interesting new book by Jonah Lehrer titled, Imagine: how creativity works. Here is a clever promotional video for the book that inspired this blog entry. Enjoy! (Then go practice.)

IMAGINE: How Creativity Works from Flash Rosenberg on Vimeo.

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