What To Do When You Really Don't Feel Like Practicing
There is nothing more challenging than forcing yourself to do something you really don’t want to do. That’s even more true when that particular activity is something you’re supposed to love, something that brings you joy on a daily basis. It’s a challenge that everyone experiences from time to time, one that is by no means unique to musicians. It’s unavoidable. While it doesn’t mean the same thing as burnout, it can certainly be a warning sign.
For me, the symptoms are always the same. Suddenly I have an uncontrollable urge to deep clean my house, re-alphabetize my library, or binge-watch entire seasons of reality tv shows I’ve never seen before. Walking into my studio and putting together my flute takes effort. I’m distracted by my phone, my mind wanders. This is starting to feel like work.
There is good news, however. There are several ways to deal with issues of motivation.
The first thing to do is give yourself a ten-minute trial. Set a timer for ten minutes and get to work. A quick warm-up and some scales are sometimes all you may need to get into the zone. By the time the alarm goes off, you could already be in the "oh, just one more thing” stage of practice.
Maybe you’re in a rut. Call a friend and play some duets (admittedly, much harder these days), or grab an old favourite off your shelf and plow through it, or print off a sonata from IMSLP and do some sight-reading for funsies. Doing something outside your usual routine can do wonders for motivation.
Sometimes that doesn’t work. On those days, the best thing you can do is pack up your instrument and try a different approach. Score study and listening to recordings of the pieces you’re working on still count as practice—not everything requires the instrument!
Maybe you’re in between projects or you don’t know what you need to do to get to that next level. If you don’t have regular lessons, maybe it’s time. Contact your flute teacher and set up a lesson. If you don’t have a teacher, this is probably a good time to look for one. Find a local flute teacher or search for one who offers online music lessons (hi
!), and be sure to describe your current issues. A good teacher will easily light a fire under your butt with a list of things to prepare for your lesson.
If all that fails, take a day off. If you’ve more pressing matters to attend to, get to them. Clean your bathroom, write that paper, bake some cookies, whatever it is you need to do. Sometimes you need a break and there’s no shame in that. If that break lasts longer than two or three days, then maybe what you’re experiencing is burnout, and that’s something that requires a slightly different approach. But for the most part, a day or two is all you need to recharge and get back into the routine.
What do you do when you're not feeling motivated? Leave your tips and tricks in the comments below!