We had a plumber come into our last house. He pointed out all of the things that were problematic, jury-rigged, leaking. I cringed, seeing dollar signs dancing around his head, and asked, dreading the answer, what it would take to actually fix all of the problems and bring the thing up to code.
He paused, and then said, “Well, ma’am, there are two things to think about. One is what an IDEAL, PROPER plumbing system would look like. And the other is,” – and here he looked around at our tiny rundown house in the barely-ok neighborhood – “what it would take to make this here house functional and livable.”
And I laughed, ruefully, and agreed with him, and we patched things up and went back to living in the house. We had hot and cold running water and flowing drains, and if the invisible parts were not actually state-of-the-art, that didn’t actually MATTER.
I was reminded of this conversation recently when an adult student asked for advice on crafting the best possible practice routine. We did a little talking about the end goal – what she needed to GET from the practice, where she wanted to GO, and we built out some warmups and some etude ideas – but it was also true that she had a JOB, and people in her life, and dogs, and a house.
Maybe there is an ideal version of practicing – interleaved, externally focused, scientifically proven, the perfect combination of fundamentals and repertoire – but maybe, TODAY, all you have is 25 minutes between meetings.
Maybe there is an optimal system in which you block two hours and start with meditation and centering. But maybe if you just have your instrument accessible to you on a stand, you could play a few scales while you are waiting on hold for the doctor, and maybe if there’s a piece you really like to play, you could use that to tempt you in, and just start from where you are and try to make it a little bit better.
Here’s my point. Whether it’s the oboe, or your email launch sequence, or your book, or the plumbing, it could always be better. You could always give it more time, more research, more editing, more money, and it can always get better.
But these are finite resources. At a certain point, you have to ask yourself, what does good ENOUGH look like? Can I just send this email? Can I just play on this reed? Can I hit publish on this book? Is the hot water running, and can that be good enough? Am I good enough?
And you know what? You are. You are good enough.
Just start. Starting is good enough for today. You have permission to just start.
You can buy my book, The Happiest Musician, RIGHT HERE.