Vincent Van Gogh on Inner Doubt and Criticism
Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
Vincent Van Gogh
Perhaps it’s our clannish ancestry that makes us fear failure, as if we’ll be shunned and made to live in a far-off cave all by ourselves.
Or maybe we forget that everyone wakes up groggy and slow, with mussed hair and gummy eyes.
Oddly, we often think we’re different.
But for whatever reason, self-doubt is common. And not just among amateurs and novices.
The great pianist Vladimir Horowitz had to be pushed out onto stage even very late in life, when he was already a legend.
And the game of golf is, at the tournament level, as much a game of inner fortitude as one of skill. The nagging self-doubter is the ultimate adversary.
And so it is in guitar practice. We see how far we have to go and wonder if we’ve got it in us. We do our best and yet know it could be much better. We play because we love the sound, but don’t always love the sound when we play.
Is it hopeless? Is it all just an exercise in futility?
Van Gogh prescribes the hair of the dog. He recommends meeting doubt and self-judgement head-on. And by doing so, the voice will be silenced.
And Maya Angelo hit home the same sentiment with, “Ain’t nothing to it but to do it.”
But there’s a catch. That same voice may be back tomorrow. Or the day after that. It may simmer down for a while, then jump out when we least expect it. And this is all part of the grand game.
With anything that pushes our limits, we question. It’s a universal human experience. And the only way out is through the fire.
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 schooling, 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 often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
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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.
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