Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thoughts on focus and practice

I've already said this a couple times (here and here), but I'm struggling to write much meaningful in the face of momentous occasions and a steamer trunk's worth of conflicting emotions about them. 

It's not just the blog.  Focus on any task feels taxing:  suitcase still open and full of last week's clothes, and now I've started throwing this week's clothes into it;  paperwork at work I swore I'd do Tuesday and today don't know how and where it'll fit; wanting to blow off steam by playing piano but without the energy to set up my keyboard, resting on its end in the living room where I left it 3 weeks ago after transporting it back from a concert.  Three weeks ago.  I'm becoming frustrated at this scatteredness. Been on this earth awhile, have accomplished some things, and know I know how to focus. I don't know where this knowledge has seeped to.  

(Come back, dear friend....)

When starting this entry, about 2 sentences in, I said to myself, "Girlfriend, people do not read this blog to hear more of this low-level negativity and the same lack of focus issues we all face in moments.  It is 60 degrees on November 10 and the end of the tunnel is showing at work and you had a solid sleep last night and tomorrow is Happy Nigel Tufnel Day.  Chin up!"

But truthfully, I'm not in the mood to censor myself.  Today I just want to write about lack of focus.  The end.  And, I'm deciding I'm going to stop apologizing for it.

Presciently, a friend yesterday alerted me to a piece on the blog of novelist Steven Pressfield, regarding the so-called "10,000 Rule": 
"The rule says that in order for an individual to master any complex skill, be it brain surgery or playing the cello, she must put in 10,000 hours of focused practice. Since a thousand hours seems to be more or less the maximum we humans can handle in one year, ten thousand hours equals ten years."
I've been writing this blog for 3-and-a-half, although I've probably spent at least 20,000 hours in my life writing something; very little of it has been focussed, though.  Using that calculus, I've probably got 25 years of blogging to go before mastery. Sobering. However, the resonance of this piece was less about that and more about what he spoke of next -- which is that the time and practice of a skill allows the self-censoring to fall away and the individuality to emerge. 

To wit:
"How does the actor get past his own excruciating self-consciousness? How does the entrepreneur come up with an idea that’s really new? The answer is they both beat their heads against the wall over and over and over until finally, from pure exhaustion, they can’t “try” any more and they just “do.” The writer says f*** it and writes a sentence in a way he would never imagine himself writing a sentence, and to his amazement that sentence is the first real sentence he’s ever written."
"To speak in one’s own voice means to let go of all the other voices in our heads. Whose voices? The voices of what is expected of us. Yes, that means the voices of our parents, teachers, mentors. But it means something more elusive too. It means our own expectations of what we should be doing or ought to be thinking—what is “normal” or “right” or “the way it ought to be.”
"The price of achieving that breakthrough is time. Time and effort. Ten thousand hours if you’re lucky, more if you’re not. The gods are watching for those ten thousand hours, like instructors at Navy SEALs training. They can tell when we’re faking and they can tell when we’re for real. They can pick out those of us who really want it from those who are only pretending.

"In the end those ten thousand hours must be their own reward—which is the way it ought to be, don’t you think?"
Which is the way this blog has and, hopefully will continue, to resonate with both you and me. Despite the occasional scattered times where I'm trying to find my brains and my gut and my legs and the next steps I can take forward even if all aren't quite intact.

Anyway. Getting today's blog entry off my is leaving me the time to focus on work.  Really.


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