Why is it so hard to begin?
I’ve delayed writing this blog post since last week, breaking every promise to myself that I would bang this one out early. Instead, I found every excuse to not write. I did everything I could to delay that moment of bringing pencil to paper and just working (I like to write my first drafts by hand. It’s a weird way I’ve found of getting over the block I feel whenever I try to write on the computer…but that’s another blog post.)
It’s not just writing I delay either. I procrastinate everything except meals. I especially procrastinate practicing. And it’s not that I don’t want to practice either. The exact opposite is true. I get enthusiastic about whatever piece I decide to work on. I’ve formed a concept in my mind. I know how I want the piece to sound. I know what I want my listeners to hear. I know what emotions I want to incite.
And there lies in the paradox. All these little details that get me excited about playing the piece soon fills me with dread. I have to work on all these little details and I know it’s going to be hard.
Is it frustration? Maybe. I mean, I know the amount of time it will take for me to get a piece sounding the way I want. All the time I’ll spend just repeating a measure (or less) trying to find THE sound. Then, if I’m lucky enough, repeating it again to really ensure that I can find that sound every time. Then all the time I’ll spend maintaining this sound so that I don’t lose it. Except, I have no guarantee that I’ll sound as good in performance as I did in practice (I rarely ever do.) Who wants that level of uncertainty?
But it isn’t just frustration. For me, I think it boils down to good old fashioned fear. The fear that, deep down, no matter what, I’m just not good enough. It feels almost like a curse. I have the desire to communicate an important message, but feel like I lack the talent to actually communicate it.
It’s that freaking lizard in my brain that makes me feel this way. One of my old teachers loved to talk about that lizard part in all our brains. It’s the part of us that tells us we’re not good enough, that we will always fail. We all have to learn to capture this lizard, put it in a cage, and not listen to it in order to get anything done. For some people that’s easy. Their lizards are small, gecko-sized, and almost cute. Mine’s the size of a fucking brontosaurus. It hangs out in my brain, chewin’ its cud, and says, “You suck, Francis,” over and over in a big booming voice that sort of resembles Barney the Dinosaur’s voice.
The thing is, once I begin to practice, once I actually sit down and begin working, that belligerent brontosaurus goes away. I begin to enjoy myself, all the little details that filled me with fear become interesting problems to solve. Working becomes, if not always fun, then immensely satisfying.
Knowing that my brontosaurus is so easily banished once I get started should help. But it doesn’t. I still waste so much time in the beginning of the process wallowing in fear, listening to that stupid bullying brontosaurus in my head.
How do I get rid of it? I don’t know and that’s my question to you. Can you relate to these feelings? Do you have a lizard in your brain telling you you’re a failure? How do you deal with it? Let me know in the comments. It’s a problem that I can’t figure out by myself but maybe it’s a problem that an internet hive mind can solve…