Friday, January 23, 2015

on setting goals, motivation, and my daily routine

I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. In fact, I just very recently discovered podcasts (I know I'm pretty late to this party). A couple of weeks ago my husband recommended a good app (Overcast) and I've subscribed to several knitting and fiber-related podcasts, a few things from NPR, and Jeff Garlin's show By The Way just because he is so flipping hilarious. I love that while I'm making dinner or folding laundry or driving to a gig or walking up to school to pick up the kids, I can plug in my earbuds and listen to Kai Risdal or Ashley Yousling or Hannah Fetig, depending on my mood. I like Marketplace while I'm cooking, Jeff Garlin while I'm driving, and fiber and craft-related things while I'm getting ready to go to sleep.

One podcast in particular that I just started listening to a few days ago, Elise Gets Crafty, focuses heavily on topics of motivation and goal-setting and finding ways to organize your creative life. In some ways, this approach gets under my skin. Futzing with calendars and setting target dates for accomplishing tasks X, Y and Z is too rigid for me, especially in my creative life. While making stuff (knitting, mostly, but I dabble in sewing and other crafts occasionally) is essential for my personal happiness and emotional stability, I have no aspirations to make a living doing it. I suppose that's why daily projects like posting your breakfast cereal on Instagram every day for a year (she does not suggest this, by the way) or setting monthly creative goals seems like another thing to fail at.

And yet, I find myself listening to all her old episodes anyway and I find there is something compelling about the idea of setting a goal and then just jumping right into action. Who knows? Maybe I have enough creative talent hidden away that if I applied myself I could actually succeed at...something.

Mostly, I've been mulling over the idea of setting some sort of goal for myself in my professional field. The last six months have been good for me in a lot of ways. I started a part time teaching job in September, for one thing. It's not a huge career step, but it's regular work and I truly enjoy it, being the pedagogy geek that I am. I've also had more freelance work come my way, enough that I've actually had to turn people down lately, which is good in a weird sort of way. Again, these gigs aren't raising my profile a lot in the professional community (it's a lot of grad auditions and contest pieces for high school students) but it's helping the cash flow and keeping me in the game. It feels good to be in demand.

But is this what I want to be doing ten years from now? Fighting downtown traffic to play for a few singers at the music school, and spending every Saturday from January through March hacking through audition and contest repertoire? Maybe so. My kids are still young, and it might be best for my family if the teaching and performing gigs I have aren't higher stakes for the next decade or so.

What I'm still trying to work out is where, exactly, my motivation is. Some days I wish I had more fulfilling gigs coming up. (I'm playing about six Telemann flute sonatas next month, and it's NOT the most stimulating rep, let me tell you.) Other days, I'm glad that the tall stack of music I am responsible for performing is all stuff I can learn quickly, if not outright sight read because less practice time per piece means more gigs I can cram into a month as well as more time for knitting and reading and cooking and all those other homebody things I like to do.  Not only that, but my family responsibilities make any potential (hypothetical) high(er) stakes gig doubly stressful; you can't ignore a sick kid, dinner has to be made, no one wants to wear the same underwear three days n a row because the laundry isn't done, etc.

I am awash with ambivalence.

When it comes to routine, though, I'm pretty disciplined. I have to be, or I'd never get hired. Believe it or not, musicians spend a lot of time practicing music they don't really like (see comment above re: Telemann flute sonatas...) I don't wake up every morning excited about the prospect of working through a pile of audition music or whatever it is I have to work on that day. The days I teach, that's pretty much all I do. But on non-teaching days, after I get home from walking the kids to school, I make a cup of tea and I get to work. I run scales, I read through the easier stuff, I pick one or two difficult pieces to work through and write in fingerings and work with the metronome (I'd be lost without my metronome!). After an hour or two, I take a break and find something to eat and head out for a run or to wherever I need to be for rehearsal. If there's time in the afternoon before school is out,  I'll spend another half hour practicing and deal with boring household stuff like laundry before going to pick up the kids.

There are a couple things I'd like to add to my daily routine. One is to spend time every day working through pieces from J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. All the years I studied solo piano, I was always working on music of Bach: the inventions, preludes, fugues, French and English suites...it's wonderful stuff and so good for your brain and your technique. Bach's music is like kale for keyboard players! I miss studying it.

Another thing I'd like to do is take more photos. I signed up for Instagram (I'm Madtown_Mama there) a few weeks ago when the kids were sick and I was going a little stir-crazy at home. I do like the idea of a visual journal, whether it's a lovely snowy landscape from the park or a knitting project or dinner-in-progress. It may seem mundane to everyone else, but these are the things I notice. Maybe looking back through my IG feed someday will inspire a future creative endeavor, who knows.


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