Is there something that you love to do, that you’d like to do better? Maybe it’s your Alexander Technique. Or maybe writing, or singing (my two current obsessions), or running… Maybe you’d like some advice on how to do these things better? Well…
Over the past week I’ve read three separate blogs by three thoroughly different writers, and all three have had the same theme: the importance of doing the work.
The first was by Seth Godin, and was called Talker’s Block. He wrote about the fact that people don’t eveer complain about not being able to talk – they just get on with it, because they don’t necessarily care about the quality of every word they speak. Yet writers can fall into the trap of caring about every word they write, to the point where they can stop writing altogether. What would happen if they just wrote a certain amount every day, and worried about the quality later?
The second article was by Chris Guillebeau. He wrote about the fact that writing a very large number of words, and more importantly, writing them regularly, was the key to his ability to write effective prose fairly quickly. The quality didn’t come first; the word count did.
Finally, author Sarah Duncan told a story about artist JMW Turner, who while out sketching was accosted by an admirer who wished to buy his sketch. When Turner asked for sixty guineas for a sketch that took 10 minutes to produce, the admirer was astonished. ‘Ah yes,’ JMW Turner is supposed to have replied. ’10 minutes, and 40 years of experience.’ In other words,if you do something often enough for long enough, you are going to achieve a level of proficiency. Maybe even mastery.
This is something my singing teacher has been trying to tell me for… well, I am embarrassed to tell you how long. He doesn’t emphasise quantity of practice. He emphasises consistency and regularity.
You need to do the work.
This is something that FM Alexander also emphasised, and was the key to the creation of the work we call the Alexander Technique. If you read the chapter called Evolution of a Technique that describes the process of creation, you will notice all the references to time or consistent practice and experimentation. For example:
“I repeated the act many times…”
“I recited again and again in front of the mirror…”
“…all I could do was to go on patiently experimenting before the mirror. After some months…”
“It is difficult to describe here in detail my various experiences during this long period…” *
And all these references occur within three pages. There are plenty more in the rest of the chapter.
Doing the work
Okay, you say to me. We get it. If we want to be good at this Alexander stuff, or anything else for that matter, we need to work. But how do we do that?
Helpfully, Alexander told us that, too. He is quoted by a number of writers, including his niece Marjory Barlow, as saying this:
You can do what I do, if you do what I did.
So we need to:
- Experiment. Try stuff out. Play. Have fun.
- Do it a lot. By which I mean, do a bit every day.
- Give ourselves the luxury of time. We live in a culture that expects instant results. This is far too great a burden to place on ourselves. If we give ourselves time, we take away a layer of stress and pressure to succeed. And that means, funnily enough, that we’ll be more relaxed and open, and therefore in the best condition to achieve success.
Success, according to Alexander, isn’t rocket science, and it isn’t a mystery. It’s just a matter of doing the work.
And we can all do that. Can’t we?
Image by kristja, stock.xchng