I make a letterpress card that says Practice takes Practice. Anyone who commits to daily exercise, yoga, making or anything involving skill, knows this to be true. A practice takes commitment, regular practice and focused attention on continual skill refinement. The phrase deliberate practice gets thrown around along with 10,000 hours as ways to improve that thing you do everyday.
In the book Grit, Angela Duckworth laments about how she has been running for 10+ years, but has never really improved. When she examines her running practice, it’s clear that she’s not doing the speed work, the drills, the intervals that will help her improve. She runs the same couple of routes over and over. Deliberate practice involves noticing those areas that need improvement, doing the drills, working on the hard stuff. It is then, and only then that one advances to the next challenge.
Lately, very few collages have emerged from my studio. When this happens, my ability to make compositional choices stagnates. I over think and over work. The solution? To make more, and for me, to force myself to make quickly, and have multiple compositions going at once. I also pay attention to focal point, eye movement, balance and the relationship between flat and dimensional images. It is with these last elements that the deliberate practice begins to happen. I make and evaluate, keeping the judge at bay, only evaluating the very formal elements of the composition.
I can apply this to anything in life, from art making to love making and everything in between. When I turn on to the commitment to look for those areas that need attention and focus, in an intentional way, change does come. I must be willing to be uncomfortable, embrace the beginner’s mindset again, and persevere.
As we move into this season of anticipation and preparation, I invite you to look at those areas in your life where you want to improve. To examine how you practice, to consider how you can add a more deliberate action to what and how you do something. And to give yourself all kinds of love as you move through the inevitable ups and downs of this process.
Please join me over the next 25 days as I write and make a collage-a-day. Better yet, make your own collage-a-day too.