Anne Lamott learn practice

Anne Lamott on What to Do When Nothing Works

Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Enjoy!]

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Anne Lamott

In our lives and practice, we sometimes “hit the wall”. We reach the point where nothing seems to work. We wonder if we’ll ever get past the current challenge.

These are the moments that test our resourcefulness. When our usual go-to solutions don’t work, we face the question of what to do next.

Part of practice is learning myriad ways to solve problems and overcome obstacles. If one way doesn’t work, perhaps another one will. But what do we do when nothing seems to work?

There is magic in Anne Lamott’s recommendation: unplug for a few minutes.

Taking a break allows us to revisit the challenge with fresh eyes and ears. We may have new perspectives and ideas. Or our body may have caught up to our mind (or vice versa).

Downtime, such as a walk, nap, or just “zoning out”, gives our mind time to churn on the problem. While we’re otherwise occupied, it’s hard at work on the issue.

This is why we often have clever ideas in the shower, or upon first waking.

Yes, we can beat our heads against the same wall until cracks appear. Or, we can define the problem then unplug. Brute force is not always the best option.

Short, frequent practice sessions take advantage of this. And daily practices are better than marathon weekend ones. The more work-rest cycles we get, the better.

When things feel hopeless, maybe all we need is to step away, then return

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Anne Lamott

allen mathews classical guitar

About Allen Mathews

Allen Mathews learned guitar as an adult, and has been a full-time guitar teacher for almost two decades to students age 4 to 96.  He has taught classical guitar at Reed College and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and has been a guest lecturer and clinician at schools and universities throughout the U.S.  Allen is often praised for his creative teaching abilities, and his dedication to helping adults learn classical guitar.  He has a popular Youtube Channel offering regular classical guitar tutorials, and has gained fans worldwide for his weekly emails and articles at

Hi Allen,
First public performance ever! I am up to Level 1E in The Woodshed program. It is certainly mega helpful.

-Peter Graham

Allen, your website and teaching methods are excellent. You have an easy going yet encouraging way of inspiring people to learn and practice their art. And you are always accessible to your students to personally answer questions. I appreciate ... that personal touch. The course on reading rhythm and playing higher up the neck I found particularly helpful. God bless you and many thanks.

-Joe Bazan

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