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

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s.  Despite a lot of practice and work with teachers, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well.  I struggled with excess tension.  My music sounded forced.  And my hands and body were sore after playing.  I was frequently frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward.  Then I studied with two stellar teachers –  one focused on the technical, and one on the musical.  In time, I came to discover a fundamental set of formulas and movements. These unlocked my playing, and brought new life and enjoyment to my practice. Now I help other guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.

I practised your system for three days, and it solved the I-M alternation problem I had been struggling with since I undertook classical guitar three years ago.  Many thanks!

-Johnny Geudel

I also want to thank you for including more video lessons on the Bridges Guitar Series. I have learned to play Calatayud's Waltz. The most exciting thing about having done this is that I sight read the entire piece as I was learning it. Six months ago looking at a sheet of music was like looking at Egyptian hieroglyphics. Learning to read notation is empowering and I appreciate the sensible way you are teaching us to learn to read music.

-Steve Simpler

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