Do you have practice space?
Not just a space where you can practice, but space in your life for practice. Creating space for your practice is perhaps the most important thing you can do if you want to make progress with your music.
“I just can’t practice right now.” Maybe you have said that from time to time; I know I have. There are days that are too hectic and times when I have so many other important things to attend to that I just don’t have the mental energy to practice, even if I could find the time.
This goes beyond setting priorities. We know that practice is important. But so are a lot of other things. And if there were more hours in a day, I would still manage to fill them all. You must create space, in your house, in your time and in your mind, for your practice.
You need to start with the physical space. Your practice space needs to be distraction-free, convenient and personal. Ideally, it needs to be out of the traffic pattern of the rest of the household, with a door you can close. If that’s not possible, it needs to be away from distractions like the television and the family room. Turn your harp so your back is to the door, so you have fewer distractions.
Make your practice space convenient. You should have all your tools – tuner, tuning key, metronome, pencils – within reach. Make it personal. Perhaps you would like space for a glass of water or a cup of tea. Perhaps a favorite photo or a pretty plant near your harp would help personalize your practice space.
Now create the time. What is your ideal practice time? An hour? More or less than that? Each evening, block out your practice time for the next day. But here’s the twist: whatever your ideal time is, plan to practice only 75% of that time. Why? Because life happens. How many times have you looked at the clock and congratulated yourself on having an hour to practice and then something comes up: your husband calls, your child can’t find her socks, the light bulb burns out, anything. Give yourself some grace, and don’t expect to get your full practice session done. If you aren’t interrupted, you can consider it a bonus.
Lastly, you must create mental space. If your practice room and your time are under control, you have the battle half won. But you must develop the habit of turning off the voice in your head that reminds you of everything else you need to do, so that you can concentrate on your practice. I have a pad of sticky notes next to my music stand, so that if I think of something I need to remember to do later, I can write it down immediately and get back to work. Another trick is to start each practice session with something to help you focus, perhaps an etude, or exercises or a favorite piece. Spending those first few minutes reconnecting to the harp feels good and helps you start your work.
And finish your practice by playing something you love. You will look forward to tomorrow’s practice session even more!