Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Just 15 Minutes

Once upon a time I was an opera singer. I think a part of me still is. I've had many stops and starts. One re-start occurred in the middle of an abusive relationship. I'd stopped because the drama of the relationship had overwhelmed my life. But, my undying creative heart made me start again.

Although I knew I had to sing, it was also daunting. It was going to take a great deal of work to re-build my technique and I had to re-find my game face in order to start hitting the audition scene again. Frankly, it seemed a little impossible. Luckily, I had a very wise teacher at the time. Without even asking the details of my life, he sensed my mental state. He knew I was staring up a very large hill. He told me that although in the past I'd been practicing for 2-3 hours a day, he didn't want me to do that now. He told me I wasn't in shape enough for that yet. "Just 15 minutes of singing. 15 minutes of absolute concentration. I want you to set your timer and only sing for 15 minutes." So, I did. The next day when I arrived home from my boring, soul killing temp job, I just wanted to flop on the couch and veg-out. Then I thought, "Just 15 minutes. All I have to do is practice for 15 and then I'm done." It flew by. Things continued on in this fashion. Whenever I felt the dread and panic of trying to get back into vocal shape I'd remind myself I had permission to only practice for 15 minutes - then the weight lifted. Soon, I'd be so deep into my practice I wouldn't even hear the timer go off. I started to get excited about singing again, pulling out favorite arias, trying new ones, listening to tapes of past lessons and coachings. My singing-heart was healing and soon I was back in the game.

Several years later after I had my daughter and was in a similar position (BUT for a much happier reason!!) I used the same technique again. When it seemed as if my day was escaping from me I say, "Just 15 minutes, all I have to do is sing for 15 minutes." Some days that would be all I could squeeze in before a diaper needed changing or a cry needed answering. But other days I'd sing for 30 minutes, 45 or the unheard of hour.

I use this little trick on myself all the time now. I frequently have a hard time sitting down to learn lines, I still find it hard to make time to sing, all these little things that are a part of my creative spirit but are also a part of my job. So, I tell myself, "Just 15 minutes" and the weight lifts and 9 times out of 10 I play for much longer.


Hybrid J said...

Some creative lesson never change and it works for every art form! Your "15 mins" work like my "200 words per day"! Love the similarity and how they support different creatives.

And I appreciate your comment to my latest post. We all need to know that we're not alone in our creative journey. And we have support from our fellow creatives. THANK YOU! :)

Gretchen Wegner said...

I use this same trick too! I do it with art and writing instead of singing but the results are exactly as you described. Nothing like incrementality!

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