Put WORDS On It!

I came in from my run this morning, and said, out loud, to Steve, “You know? The ONLY thing I hate about winter running is how cold my hands and wrists get.”

I have a pair of gloves that live in the pockets of my running jacket. They are thinly knit, quite threadbare, and SHORT – they don’t actually cover my wrists. They belonged to my father, an avid runner. When he died, nearly 12 years ago, my mother passed all of his gear to me – a couple Boston Marathon finishers shirts, a triathlon bike, a bunch of socks and leggings that I threw out because ICK, and these gloves. They fit nicely in my pockets.  They are convenient for chilly spring and fall mornings, and totally insufficient for winter. 

But I don’t think about running when I’m not running, so they just live in my pockets as the default option. 

I sort of can’t believe that inertia has caused me to be uncomfortable on all of my winter runs for the past twelve years. But it is completely true. When I am outside, my hands feel cold. It’s painful, sometimes.  When I come in, I wrap them around a cup of coffee and make shivery noises with my mouth, and have to soften them back out by showering before I can do anything productive like type or practice. That feels like a NORMAL part of winter running for me.  When it’s TOO cold, I don’t even go out, because I don’t want to risk frostbite. That would be reckless, right? 

But in all of that time, I never said the words, “the bad thing about this situation is these gloves” and so it NEVER OCCURRED TO ME to change them.

Because I had never articulated the problem I was having, I never thought to fix it!  Like most grownups, I have other gloves in my house, and this morning after my revelation I found some warm fleece gloves and put them in the pocket of my running jacket and I expect tomorrow’s run to be awesome.

I know that that is insane.

But it maps RIGHT onto the reedmaking course I am running this month.

I tell my students all the time to put WORDS on their reed struggles.  It’s not enough to say, this reed is BAD, or even, this reed is too HARD. Those are non-specific, and might lead you to start randomly scraping and hoping for results. Which MIGHT work, or might not.

More productive is to say, this reed RESPONDS well but has a lot of RESISTANCE, especially in the low register. This reed has a BUZZY sound and wants to COLLAPSE.  This reed feels CONSTRICTED.  Maybe that tells you exactly what to do, or maybe your next step is forming a hypothesis about what to do – but either way, you have applied your actual intellect and creative brain to the task, and after you DO the thing you theorized you should do you will have DATA.

Maybe you’ll have a reed, but for sure you’ll have INFORMATION about what worked or didn’t work.  

I bet this works for other things too. Do you have annoyances in YOUR life or your projects that you could easily fix if you just brought your attention to them? I bet you do. 

PUT WORDS ON THE PROBLEM. Then you will know how to solve it.


I love you all.  Stay safe out there.